Choosing an Open-Source Database

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2004-01-11 Print this article Print

In the end, it doesn't boil down to MySQL or PostgreSQL being "best"—rather, it's a question of which database is best for a given situation, writes Database Center Editor Lisa Vaas.

In terms of media coverage, open-source databases are having their day in the sun. The most recent tidbit: While the 500+ respondents to Evans Data Corp.s recent Database Development Survey report that Microsofts SQL Server and Access still predominate, MySQL usage by the group surveyed is growing as fast as dandelions in the spring. The survey showed that respondents use of the open-source database grew more than 30 percent last year, compared with a much more modest 6 percent growth in the use of the two Microsoft databases. With LinuxWorld just around the corner, theres only going to be more hubbub around open-source databases—particularly given that practically all the big database and database tool vendors will be there, including IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, BMC and Computer Associates. Given all the excitement around open-source databases, now is a good time to take a look at which of the two most popular options—MySQL and PostgreSQL—is a "better" choice. Of course, theres no quicker way to get third-degree burns from a flame war than to imply that one database is "best." Each has their own set of devotees, and both groups are vocal and devoted, and both can give ample reasons why their choice is the right choice.
As pointed out (in a great article thats full of details concerning the relative strengths of the two databases on the basis of features, support, ease of use, stability, speed, existing skills and licensing) by Ian Gilfillan in Database Journal, "best" is a loaded term. "What is best in one situation is not best in another," Gilfillan writes. "Therefore, the correct answer would be neither is best, and both have their place."
Amen, brother. Click here to read about the growing comfort level with open-source databases as faster, cheaper alternatives to their big-bucks brethren. Starting with an objective mind, it can be illustrative to look at what opinionated people have to say both for and against both of the databases. In addition to checking out zines like Database Journal, Ive been haunting Slashdot forums and the blog of MySQL expert Jeremy Zawodny to get a sense of who likes which open-source database for what reasons. Heres a sampling of what Im gleaning: Next page: Whos winning the features war?

Lisa Vaas is News Editor/Operations for and also serves as editor of the Database topic center. Since 1995, she has also been a Webcast news show anchorperson and a reporter covering the IT industry. She has focused on customer relationship management technology, IT salaries and careers, effects of the H1-B visa on the technology workforce, wireless technology, security, and, most recently, databases and the technologies that touch upon them. Her articles have appeared in eWEEK's print edition, on, and in the startup IT magazine PC Connection. Prior to becoming a journalist, Vaas experienced an array of eye-opening careers, including driving a cab in Boston, photographing cranky babies in shopping malls, selling cameras, typography and computer training. She stopped a hair short of finishing an M.A. in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She earned a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College. She runs two open-mic reading series in Boston and currently keeps bees in her home in Mashpee, Mass.

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