PostgreSQL vs MySQL: 8 Critical Differences

on Data Aggregation, Data Integration, Database Management Systems • December 1st, 2021 • Write for Hevo

PostgreSQL vs MySQL | Hevo Data

The critical PostgreSQL vs MySQL decision comes from the different use cases where one might trump the other. To put this in perspective, PostgreSQL is a feature-rich Database that can handle complex queries, while MySQL is a far simpler Database that is relatively simpler to set up, manage and is fast, reliable, and easy to understand. Developers would tell you that MySQL is light on features so it can focus on high speed and reliability which makes it better for websites and online transactions, while PostgreSQL is generally better for analytical processes that are more complicated.

All these perspectives and more are correct. Even as new releases keep shortening the gap between PostgreSQL and MySQL, this article talks about a few differences between the two which can then allow you to make an informed decision while choosing one of the two based on their requirements.

Table of Contents

What is PostgreSQL?

PostgreSQL logo
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PostgreSQL is known in the market for performing complicated, high-volume data operations. PostgreSQL has a few more features compared to other Database Management Systems and is extensible. What it means is that it allows you to define index types, data types, and functional languages on top of storing information in the form of tables and columns.

PostgreSQL stands out because it is Object-Relational, ACID-compliant, offers NoSQL support and is highly concurrent. Let’s look at a few more features that make PostgreSQL a viable Database Management System for your needs. 

Key Features of PostgreSQL

  • Customizable: PostgreSQL can be customized by developing plugins to make the Database Management System fit your requirements. PostgreSQL also allows you to incorporate custom functions that are made with other programming languages like Java, C, C++, etc.
  • Long History: PostgreSQL has been around for more than 30 years, having been initially released in 1988.
  • Frequent Updates: The most recent PostgreSQL update was Version 13.1 on 12 November 2020.  
  • MVCC Features: PostgreSQL happens to be the first Database Management System to implement Multi-Version Concurrency Control (MVCC) features.
  • A Supportive Community: A dedicated community is always at your disposal. Private, third-party support services are available as well. The community updates the PostgreSQL platform via the PostgreSQL Global Development Group.
  • Open-Source: This is an Object-Relational Database Management System(ORDBMS). This allows PostgreSQL to provide Object-Oriented and Relational Database functionality. PostgreSQL is a free and Open-Source ORDBMS.
  • Users: PostgreSQL users include Apple, Cisco, Etsy, Facebook, Instagram, Red Hat, Skype, Spotify, Yahoo to name a few.

Key Advantages of Using PostgreSQL

PostgreSQL supports modern application features like JSON, XML etc. It also supports Materialized Views. PostgreSQL offers a wide range of features as seen before. Let’s take a look at the advantages of leveraging PostgreSQL as your Relational Database Management System:

  • Useful features offered like Table Partitioning, Transactional DDL, Point in Time Recovery, etc.
  • Ability to utilize 3rd party Key Stores in a full KPI Infrastructure.
  • Open-Source code can be modified by developers as it is licensed under BSD without the need to contribute back enhancements.
  • PostgreSQL can be redistributed by independent software vendors without having to worry about infection from an Open-Source license.
  • Different users and roles can be assigned Object-Level privileges.
  • Data Encryption algorithms like AES, 3DES are supported by PostgreSQL.   

What is MySQL?

MySQL logo
Image Source

MySQL was used by more than 39% of developers in the world back in 2019, making it the world’s most popular Database. It certainly lacks the extensive features that are provided by PostgreSQL, but it is still useful for a large number of applications like web applications. 

Since it comes standard in the LAMP stack, where LAMP stack is an Open-Source suite of web applications that consists of Linux, Apache HTTP Server, MySQL, PHP; MySQL is the go-to choice for scalable web applications. Let’s talk about a few salient features that make MySQL such a great catch.  Also, see how you can integrate from MySQL to PostgreSQL.

Key Features of MySQL

  • Maintained by Oracle: Oracle owns and maintains MySQL. It also offers premium versions of MySQL with additional services, proprietary plugins, user support, and extensions. 
  • Long History: MySQL has been around for over 20 years since its first release in 1995.
  • Frequent Updates: MySQL is made more robust with frequent updates with new features and security improvements. The latest release is Version 8.0.23 released on 18 January 2021.
  • MVCC Features: MySQL recently started offering MVCC (Multi-Version Concurrency Control) features. 
  • A Supportive Community: A devoted community of developers is available to help with troubleshooting as and when needed.
  • Open-Source: MySQL is also a free and Open-Source Relational Database Management System (RDBMS).
  • Users: MySQL is used widely by Google, NASA, Flickr, GitHub, Netflix, Tesla, Twitter, Uber, Wikipedia, YouTube, Zendesk to name a few.

Key Advantages of Using MySQL

MySQL is a lightweight Database that can be installed and used by developers on production application servers with large multi-tier applications. Leveraging MySQL as a part of your workflow has several advantages:  

  • Features like Master-Slave Replication, Scale-Out are supported by MySQL.
  • Offload Reporting, Geographic Data Distribution is also supported by MySQL.
  • There’s very low overhead with the MyISAM storage engine when used for read-only applications.
  • For frequently used tables support is provided for the Memory Storage Engine.
  • For repeatedly used statements there exists a Query Cache. 
  • MySQL is easy to learn and troubleshoot given a wide number of helpful sources like blogs, white papers, and books on the subject. 
  • MySQL is a highly flexible and scalable Database Management System.

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PostgreSQL vs MySQL: Why Do Developers Choose One Over the Other?

Google Trends Chart for PostgreSQL vs MySQL
Source: Google Trends

Now that you have an idea about the two, let’s delve deeper into PostgreSQL vs MySQL, allowing you to make an informed decision. The decision will vary depending on the use cases. The following are the key attributes that drive the PostgreSQL vs MySQL Decision:

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PostgreSQL vs MySQL: Database History

Michael Stonebraker, a computer science professor at UCB, designed PostgreSQL. Postgres was the initial name of the database. Professor Stonebreaker started it in 1986 as a follow-up effort and a post-Ingres project to address the difficulties of existing database systems. Although the name was changed to PostgreSQL to capitalize on the allusion to Structured Query Language, the project continues to utilize both names. PostgreSQL is now the world’s most advanced open-source database.

MySQL was founded in 1995 by MySQL AB, a Swedish business. Michael Widenius (Monty), David Axmark, and Allan Larsson were the database’s creators. MySQL is named after daughter “My” of MySQL co-founder Monty Widenius. The MySQL Dolphin’s name is “Sakila,” which was chosen from a long range of suggestions in the “Name the Dolphin” competition. The primary goal was to offer users efficient and reliable data management solutions, both at home and at work. By the year 2000, over a half-dozen alpha and beta versions of the platform had been launched. Almost all of the major platforms were supported by these versions.

PostgreSQL vs MySQL: User Support

MySQL has a large volunteer community that’s ready to help you out with free support and recommendations. The best way to seek this support would be through MySQL and Percona websites. On top of this Oracle offers 24*7 paid support for the commercial versions of MySQL that can cost you from $2000-$10,000 depending on the level of the support package that you might want to purchase.

PostgreSQL too has an enthusiastic community that volunteers to provide free advice to users on IRC and via mailing lists. You can also purchase paid support through third-party providers. In case you would like to take matters into your own hands, PostgreSQL has a bunch of useful resources in the form of manuals and books.  

Therefore support for PostgreSQL can be a little challenging because the DBMS requires technical expertise to set-up and use.

PostgreSQL vs MySQL: Speed

It’s easy to find benchmarks that place one Database over the other when it comes to speed, depending on the hardware, the configuration, and the test. But speed tests can offer contradictory results according to TechTarget. Windows Skills for instance says that MySQL tends to be faster, while Benchw leans towards PostgreSQL.  

Speed however is a benchmark that will be decided based on how the Database is being utilized. PostgreSQL is faster when dealing with massive datasets, complicated queries, and read-write operations. On the other hand, MySQL is known to be faster for read-only commands.

PostgreSQL vs MySQL: Scalability

When you add additional connections to MySQL, each one is a thread, whereas a connection in Postgres is a process. Postgres employs Multi-Version Concurrency Control when it comes to concurrency. This is designed to support numerous users with a lower risk of locking. This is due to the fact that it uses parallel query strategies.

There is a modest amount of RAM (about 10 MB) required for each connection in Postgres due to the additional processes. However,  Postgres does not have a database size restriction, making it a viable choice for massive database management. Postgres is more sophisticated in terms of complexity since it supports functions, inheritance, and other features. MySQL is designed to be fast and reliable.

PostgreSQL vs MySQL: Programming Languages Supported

The languages supported by MySQL include Delphi, Erlang, Go, Java, Lisp, Perl, PHP, R, etc while the languages supported by PostgreSQL are slightly larger in number and include the likes of Java, JavaScript, Python, R, Tcl, Lisp, Erlang, and other programming languages.  

PostgreSQL vs MySQL: Operating Systems

MySQL offers Cloud-based support, On-premise installations and is compatible with Windows, Linux, macOS, Oracle Solaris, Fedora, Open-Source Build, etc, while PostgreSQL offers PostgREST REST API on top of the support offered by MySQL and is compatible with macOS, Oracle Solaris, Windows, FreeBSD, Linux, etc.  

PostgreSQL vs MySQL: Data Indexing

Indexes are primarily used to improve Database performance by speeding up SQL queries when dealing with large tables of data. MySQL and PostgreSQL offer different indexing options.

MySQL index types include:

  • Indexes stored on R-Trees, like indexes found on spatial data types.
  • Hash indexes and inverted lists when using FULLTEXT indexes.
  • Indexes stored on B-Trees, such as INDEX, FULLTEXT, PRIMARY KEY, and UNIQUE.

PostgreSQL index types on the other hand include:

  • Hash indexes and B-Tree indexes.
  • Partial indexes that only organize information from part of the table.
  • Expression indexes create an index resulting from expression functions instead of column values. 

PostgreSQL vs MySQL: Pricing

While PostgreSQL and MySQL are both open-source software available free of cost, MySQL has a few paid plans as well which are as follows:

  • MySQL Cluster Carrier Grade Edition: $10000.
  • MySQL Enterprise Edition: $5000.
  • MySQL Standard Edition: $2000.

PostgreSQL vs MySQL: Coding Differences

There are three areas of difference between coding with MySQL and PostgreSQL which are as follows:

  1. Case Sensitivity
  2. Default Character Sets and Strings
  3. IF and IFNULL vs CASE Statements

1) Case Sensitivity

MySQL is not case-sensitive while PostgreSQL is case-sensitive. In MySQL you don’t need to capitalize strings as they appear in the Database however for PostgreSQL you will have to capitalize strings exactly as they appear in the Database or the query will end up failing. 

2) Default Character Sets and Strings

With certain versions of MySQL, you need to convert character sets and strings to UTF-8. With PostgreSQL, there is no such compulsion to convert character sets and strings to UTF-8. Moreover, UTF-8 syntax isn’t allowed in PostgreSQL.

3) IF and IFNULL vs CASE Statements

In MySQL, it’s perfectly fine to use IF and IFNULL statements. In PostgreSQL, you need to use a CASE statement since IF and IFNULL statements don’t work.

PostgreSQL vs MySQL: Key Disadvantages

Disadvantages of Using PostgreSQL

You have seen a bit about what PostgreSQL is, its features, and a few advantages that establish it as a very handy tool. PostgreSQL does have a few chinks in its armour as well. Here’s a list of a few disadvantages of using PostgreSQL:

  • The current external solutions demand a high learning curve.
  • The data will have to be exported or replicated to the new version when it is released.
  • There is a need for double storage during the upgrade process.
  • Indexes in PostgreSQL cannot be used to directly return the results of a query.
  • The query execution plans are not cached.
  • Bulk loading operations may become bound by the CPU.
  • Independent software vendor support is pretty sparse.

Disadvantages of Using MySQL

MySQL lags behind PostgreSQL in several areas. As discussed before it does not provide the extensive features provided by PostgreSQL. Let’s look at a few disadvantages of MySQL in this section:    

  • The transactions related to the system catalog are not ACID compliant.
  • The server catalog can be corrupted by a single server crash at times.
  • The stored procedures cannot be cached.
  • The tables that are used for the procedure or trigger are always pre-locked.
  • Maintaining privileges for many users is difficult since there is no support for the roles.

Conclusion

The PostgreSQL vs MySQL decision is difficult to make since there are points in favor of both in a lot of the cases. There are several areas where these two perform remarkably well thus increasing the difficulty of the decision. This article gives you a brief overview of the two Database Management Systems in question, factoring in their features, advantages, disadvantages, speed, the difference in coding, OS compatibility to name a few. 

Based on the above comparisons you can make an educated guess regarding the PostgreSQL vs MySQL decision, and opt for a Database Management System based on your requirements.   

Here’s a table to elicit the differences between the two tools.

ParametersPostgreSQLMySQL
GovernanceIt is open-source, hence free and is released under PostgreSQL license.The source code for MySQL is available but Microsoft Corporation provides paid versions for commercial use.
SQL CompliancePostgreSQL meets almost all core features of the SQL enviroment.MySQL is partially SQL compliant and does not meet the full SQL standard
Supported PlatformsIt supports Solaris, Windows OS, Linux, OS X, Unix OS and Hp-UX OSIt supports Soalris, Windows OS, Linux, OS X, and FreeBSD OS
Programming LanguagesIt supports C/C++, Java, Perl, .Net, R, Python, JavaScript, and othersIt supports C/C++, Erlang, Perl, PHP, GO, Lisp, and others
SecurityIt offers native SLL support for connections for encryptionsMySQL is highly secure with a lot of many inbuilt security features
ReplicationIt can perform master-slave replication and other types of implementation can be put into practice using third party extensionsIt can perform master-master replicationas well as master-slave replication
Performance It is widely used in large systems where read and write speed is crucial and requires execution of complex queriesWidely chosen for web-based projects that require a database simply for data transactions

MySQL is better for websites & online transactions, whereas PostgreSQL is better for huge complex analytical operations. PostgreSQL has a boatload of outstanding features, such as extensibility and native NoSQL capabilities, that can help you deal with difficult database situations. On the other hand, MySQL is feature-light that helps in high speeds and reliability.

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