MariaDB vs MySQL: Which Relational Database Should You Use?

MariaDB and MySQL are both popular relational databases, and they are both similar in how they function. However, they are different at the end of the day and one may not be ideal for everyone.

So which should you use? The answer will depend on your requirements.

Afterward, if you still find yourself with questions, we offer both MariaDB support and MySQL support and would be happy to assist you with any questions and issues you may have.


Both MySQL and MariaDB are relational database management systems (RDBMS). MySQL was one of the first open-source databases on the market, first being released in the mid 1990’s. MariaDB wasn’t released until 2009 and exists as a commercially supported fork of MySQL. Therefore, they share some similarities, including:

  • SQL is utilized to query and manipulate data
  • MySQL and MariaDB databases can connect with each other
  • As they’re both RDBMS, relationships between tables and other entities is understood by the database
  • Data is contained in fixed tables

Though MariaDB started off very similar to MySQL, they’ve changed quite a bit over the years, not simply in features, but also in their mission. So, let’s get into where exactly they differ.

Storage Engines

MariaDB comes out on top when comparing storage engines. They both give you the ability to choose from data storage engines on a table-by-table basis. However, MariaDB takes it a step further. They offer 12 additional storage engines (such as Aria and XtraDB) that MySQL does not offer.

If one so desires, they can add some of these MariaDB storage engines to MySQL. Unfortunately, it’s not a simple process and most users would not want to go through the trouble.


One of MariaDB’s goals when it was created was to provide better speed/performance than MySQL. Generally speaking, they seem to be succeeding at this.

In testing environments, MariaDB has shown to have lower latency times and higher throughput than MySQL. Testing environment can be quite variable, but MariaDB shows encouraging numbers for people that are worried about having optimal performance.

Operating Systems

MySQL supports:

  • Oracle 8 / Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 / CentOS 8 – x86_64, ARM 64
  • Oracle 7 / Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 / CentOS 7 – x86_64, ARM 64
  • Oracle 6 / Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 / CentOS 6 – x86/32, x86_64
  • Solaris 11
  • Ubuntu 20.04 LTS
  • Ubuntu 18.04 LTS
  • SUSE Enterprise Linux 15 / OpenSUSE 15
  • SUSE Enterprise Linux 12
  • Debian GNU / Linux 11
  • Debian GNU / Linux 10
  • Microsoft Windows 2012, 2016, 2019, 2022
  • Microsoft Windows 11
  • Microsoft Windows 10
  • macOS 12
  • macOS 11

As well as some other Linux configurations.

MariaDB supports:

  • CentOS
  • Debian 9
  • Debian 10
  • Debian 11
  • Microsoft windows
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 15
  • Ubuntu 18.04 LTS
  • Ubuntu 20.04 LTS

Additionally, MariaDB can be installed on macOS.


MariaDB lets you to replicate an entire database, or select a specific set of data from your database. It utilizes a primary-replica configuration (formerly characterized as master-slave) and enables the binary log on the primary server.

With MySQL, the source database writes down either every transaction or change made to the data in one or more databases in the binlog. It then creates a two-threaded process after the replica instance has been initialized.

Both support primary-primary (formerly master-master) replication modes, though they are approached very differently.


Both MariaDB and MySQL are open source, however, they handle licenses differently. MariaDB uses a GPL license, version 2. This allows for the code to be entirely open and free usage under three servers.

MySQL has a dual-license model. Their community edition is available for free and utilizes a GPL license. If you plan to distribute MySQL with a non-open-source project, then you’ll have to pay for the commercial edition. You can make and distribute a non-open-source project using the community edition of MySQL. BUT, you cannot actually distribute it WITH the community edition of MySQL. You’d have to remove it before distribution.

Data Masking

If you have sensitive data, then data masking likely interests you. MariaDB offers MaxScale with MariaDB TX and MariaDB AX subscriptions, this allows for enhanced security with data in flight and sensitive end user data.

MySQL includes fixed-function style solutions that allow for data masking with specialized or generic data.

Connection Pool

Connection pools hold open connections and handle threads when providing connections. MariaDB can support over 200,000 connections, while MySQL cannot. Therefore, MariaDB has an edge in this department.


MariaDB utilizes their community for improvements and support. MySQL has a large corporation supporting it with money and talent. Therefore, MySQL is able to accommodate new features and fixes quickly. MariaDB does have a passionate, talented community, but you may be left waiting longer than if you utilize MySQL.

Additionally, you may have to pay extra for MariaDB support, while you should be able to receive support included in your commercial edition of MySQL (which you do have to pay for yearly.

Is MariaDB the same as MySQL?

No, MariaDB is not the same as MySQL. MariaDB was created as a fork of MySQL, but their features and mission have changed considerably over the years. They offer storage engines that MySQL does not offer, as well as improved performance. Additionally, MariaDB features a GPL license, while MySQL has a dual-license with a community edition and a commercial edition.

Is MariaDB faster than MySQL?

Testing environments suggest that MariaDB is faster than MySQL. They are able to show lower latency times and higher throughput. Testers utilized a 90% read and 10% write workload with Sysbench to determine performance.

Is MariaDB replacing MySQL?

From a literal sense, no. MariaDB is its own separate fork of MySQL that has its own goals and mission. From a metaphorical sense, not really, but kind of. MariaDB has increased in popularity with every year, while MySQL has decreased in usage. However, it is still the #2 most popular database.

Which is more popular?

Both are popular in their own right, but MySQL is certainly more popular than MariaDB. With relational databases, MySQL is ranked #2 and MariaDB is ranked #8. However, some of this can be chalked up to the fact that MySQL is older and therefore has greater brand recognition. Both are behind when compared to Oracle, which takes the #1 spot.

Which is Right for You?

MariaDB and MySQL both are competent and effective relational database management systems. The one that you choose is going to be based on the size of your organization and the features that matter to you.

On the whole, MySQL has a proven track record and a vibrant user-base. It has the infrastructure to stick around and improve for years to come. However, MariaDB is steadily increasing in popularity year after year. Its improved performance, connection pool, and storage options give it a slight edge on functionality. Although its future is less clear, many users feel that it’s the RDBMS of the future.

If you can handle potential issues yourself, it may make sense to take advantage of MariaDB’s improved technical specs.

Call us 24/7 at 828-376-0458 for Database support from open source experts that really understand MariaDB, MySQL, and Redis.

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