PostgreSQL vs. MySQL: How to Select the Right Open-Source Database

To properly evaluate the strengths of PostgreSQL and MySQL, the two leading open-source databases, one must look at the history and pedigree of each, and their feature functionality and performance. By comparing and contrasting PostgreSQL and MySQL here, Knowledge Center contributor Jim Mlodgenski guides you to a more informed decision about which open-source database is right for your enterprise deployment.


Traditionally, the comparison between PostgreSQL and MySQL gets heated from both sides of the religious camps. They are both technically strong, open-source databases with a large install base. However, in reality, rarely do the strengths of each database overlap to an extent where it is a toss-up of which solution to use.

Once people understand the strengths of each product, the choice is typically fairly clear. In order to properly evaluate the strengths of PostgreSQL and MySQL, let's look at the history and pedigree of each. Let's also look at their feature functionality and performance, as well as the requirements for a successful enterprise database deployment.

A historical perspective

The PostgreSQL community is the oldest, largest and fastest-growing community of its kind. PostgreSQL started in 1985 at the University of California, Berkley as an evolution of the Ingres project. After several years in academia, the PostgreSQL project was released into the open-source world. The community began to flourish to the point where, today, there are more than 1,000 contributors and over 30,000 members.

The key advantage to the large community is the interaction between users and developers, which allows users to become directly involved in the design of new features. This diverse community is the model that many other open-source communities strive for.

The MySQL community, on the other hand, started in the commercial world. MySQL was started in Sweden in 1994 out of a need to have a high-speed database behind Websites. It was released in the open-source world a few years later under the control of MySQL AB. This commercial control helped MySQL become one of the most widely-used databases in the world (which led to Sun acquiring MySQL AB in 2008). The popularity of MySQL also became a major factor in the EU acceptance of the Oracle acquisition of Sun, which finalized earlier this year.