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MySQL Considerations

  • May 14, 2003
  • By John W. Horn PhD
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What is MySQL?

The MySQL database is an extremely fast, stable open source database with over 4 million installations around the world. In fact it is the most popular open source database in the world. One major point makes it unlike other open source databases, MySQL has a corporate side (MySQL AB). MySQL AB is a working corporation founded in 1995 it continues to develop upgrades to the software along with the open source community. Through its corporate structure and partner network, MySQL offers training, consulting and support for its users. Major corporations such as Yahoo!, Cisco, NASA, Lucent Technologies, Motorola, Google, Silicon Graphics, HP, Xerox and Sony Pictures rely on MySQL for heavy-duty, mission-critical applications. You will find MySQL predominantly used in the L.A.M.P. (Linux Apache MySQL PHP Perl) model.

Why use MySQL?

Many people look to MySQL as a low cost alternative to other databases. There are literally hundreds of tools and applications that work with MySQL many of them at low or no cost to the consumer. A commercial license of the MySQL server costs $440 (at the time of this article), while other databases can cost as much as $50,000 for a single processor server. There are many situations when purchasing a license is not required. If you never distribute (internally or externally) the MySQL Software in any way, you are free to use it for powering your application, whether your application is under GPL or other OSI. After using the product most users continue to use it over the long term. Now more than ever we are seeing large applications ported to MySQL from other databases. The most popular reason cited is to save money on licensing fees.

How good is it?

Usually you rate a database on size, speed and stability. How large a MySQL database can be is hard to say. I have dealt with several applications that ran < 100 GB. Mytrix Inc. for example, is maybe the largest MySQL database site in the world, storing more than a terabyte of data. As for speed and stability I must defer to a February 2002 database benchmark test performed by Ziff Davis Media Inc. Ziff Davis is the company behind PC Magazine, eWeek and other well-known publications. They said "the MySQL database server stood out as a winner. The MySQL server is presented as having the overall best performance and scalability along with Oracle9i." The article also had a couple of good quotes about MySQL:

"Of the five databases we tested, only Oracle9i and MySQL were able to run our Nile application as originally written for 8 hours without problems."

"The Oracle and MySQL drivers had the best combination of a complete JDBC feature set and stability."

"SQL Server and MySQL were the easiest to tune, and Oracle9i was the most difficult because it has so many separate memory caches that can be adjusted."

You can find out more at: http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,3959,293,00.asp

Will it work with my project?

The database itself supports a broad subset of the ANSI SQL 99 syntax, along with extra extensions such as the REPLACE statement and the LIMIT clause for SELECT and DELETE. In other words, it adheres to a standard and has other additonal functions to help the programmer. LIMIT is one of these functions. It has the ability to only pull a number of results that you specify. For example:

mysql> SELECT * FROM City LIMIT 10;
will only pull 10 rows from City as opposed to pulling all records without the limit function. Alternative syntaxes from other database systems are also supported, to make porting applications easier.



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