by Jeremy H • April 7, 2020
Here we’ll review Azure SQL vs MySQL, and what their differences are. Databases have been around for ages. From ancient paper based records to modern computerized systems, they essentially serve one purpose, which is to enable data storage in a way that is structured, permanent and easily retrievable or referenced, while maintaining its integrity.
Over time, a massive growth in the tech sector has largely banished the use of paper or file based databases, as we exploit computers for this purpose. These “computerized” databases are usually governed by a piece of software called a Database Management System (DBMS) which controls how data is stored, processed and accessed from the database. But the ever growing need to store data was met with constant constraint of space and maintenance. We couldn’t store an infinite amount of data in these databases, and we had to dedicate vast amounts of resources towards the maintenance of these databases … and then came the cloud.
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Over the last decade or two, the advancement in the world of Cloud Computing has been nothing short of mind boggling. Among other things, this advancement introduced the concept of cloud hosted databases. These are are in essence, databases running on the cloud. Among other things, with hosted databases, space and maintenance problems are a thing of the past. These are abstracted and handled by the cloud provider. This allows you to literally store infinite amounts of data without having to bother a lot about database maintenance. This article aims to provide an insight into how one of such databases, the Azure SQL Database, hosted on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, stacks up against MySQL. -The most popular Open Source Database Management System (DBMS) on the market today.
Let’s talk about Architecture. Both the Azure SQL Database and MySQL deal with relational databases, and use SQL as their query language. Yet, their architectures are very different. MySQL is a Database Management System. This means it is a piece of software designed to define, manipulate, retrieve and manage data in a database. It is not a database on its own, it just controls how you store and manipulate data in a database. However, its open source nature allows a vast variety of integration options. Basically MySQL DBMS software can be freely downloaded from the internet. It can then be used as-is or modified to suit your underlying system’s technology without losing much in terms of performance.
As such, MySQL is extremely widely used as it is compatible and easy to set up. It’s compatible with all major Operating System platforms and all major programming languages. This flexibility, though, is governed by the GNU (General Public License). MySQL uses this to control how its software is used. If you wish to use MySQL in an environment which violates this license, you can purchase a commercial license from MySQL for this purpose.
On the other hand, the Azure SQL Database is a database as a service. It is an intelligent, scalable, cloud hosted database, provided as a managed service. Simply put, a database as a service is a service that provides users with some form of access to a database on-demand. You can do this without the need for setting up any physical hardware, installing software or configuring for performance. All of the administrative tasks and maintenance are taken care of by the service provider, In this case, Microsoft. All the application owner or user needs to do is use the database. Being part of the Azure cloud means the Azure SQL database comes with some very powerful features out of the box.
The beauty of having a database as part of a hosted cloud platform is that it easily integrates with all other services running on that platform. Machine learning and data analytics allow you to utilize these out-of-the-box services to perform truly amazing tasks on your data present in the database, without having to carry out any installations or major configurations. All you have to do is place your data in this database, and these services are available to you right off the bat, how cool is that!
As earlier mentioned, MySQL being an open source software opens it up to a vast amount of flexibility. It is possible for anyone to download and install MySQL from the internet for free, with very little hassle. If it suits you better, you can study its source code and customize its functionality to better fit your personal needs, so long as you remain within the constraints described in its governing software license. This alone is extremely powerful, because at very little cost, you can have an effective database solution tailor made for your application.
Also, remaining true to its flexibility, MySQL has Connectors which are essentially drivers and API libraries that you use to connect applications in different programming languages to MySQL database servers either on the same machine, or communicating across the network. Connectors exist for most of the popular programming languages in the world today, with extensive documentation on how to use them.
Furthermore, given its extensive popularity (MySQL ranks 2nd compared to all database engines on the market according to db-engines) and maturity, MySQL has an extremely large user base. As such, there’s a ton of articles on the internet for literally any and every problem you can encounter with MySQL. If the Open Source life is not for you, MySQL also has an Enterprise version and a Cloud variant as well. It’s called MySQL Cloud Service, which is built on the MySQL Enterprise Edition and powered by Oracle Cloud.
The Azure SQL Database is equally an amazing database. As I pointed out earlier, being part of the Azure ecosystem means the SQL Database comes with some really powerful features built in. From built in machine learning and AI optimized query performance to advanced data security by default to automatic and configurable scalability that allows grows your database based on demand, with a pricing system that allows you to only pay for what you use. All these and so much more are available to you as soon as you start using the database, no further installations needed.
The Azure SQL Database also allows you to create on premise databases while still leveraging the power of the Azure cloud. And if your application stack is on the Azure cloud, storing and retrieving data from your applications into the SQL database becomes extremely easy, and leveraging all the niceties of the SQL database to manipulate your data and optimize your queries makes for an even better application performance.
However, due to the infancy of hosted databases compared to established solutions like MySQL, hosted databases like the Azure SQL database don’t get used often as older systems like MySQL, as users are still trying to feel their way into the cloud. The SQL database though, has an extensive documentation, if you find it difficult to find helpful resources online for debugging purposes, with comprehensive training courses available.
Older, more established database systems like MySQL are here to stay, for the foreseeable future at least because of their massive and somewhat loyal user base. Also, considering there will be a learning curve for users who intend to transition from MySQL to a cloud hosted database solution, in my experience, most people prefer to stick to what they know and trust, unless it’s absolutely necessary.
That said, I think cloud is the future of computing. If anything, just because of the fact that it solves so many fundamental business problems by simply abstracting them away from the businesses.
Business leaders no longer have to worry about managing huge data centers. They also don’t have to be spending money on securing and maintaining these data centers. They no longer have to worry about system architecture in great detail, or have to purchase equipment in anticipation of bursts in system usage. All these, and a lot more can simply be abstracted to cloud providers.
They then handle them even more gracefully and cost effectively than the business themselves. In the case of the SQL database, having all those amazing features built in is an added advantage, just waiting to be exploited. Even older systems like MySQL realize the power of the cloud.
As attention shifts to the cloud, and hosted databases, I do think the Azure SQL database is in a better position going forward. It’s able to leverage the entire Azure platform to provide more meaningful ways to interact with data, and doing so very cheaply.
As I said at the start of this article, databases have, and will continue to be around for ages. They are fundamental in how we store data. Data, in this day and age, being more valuable than gold, I can only dream of the prospects of database development in the near future.
Regarding our two subjects, the Azure SQL database vs MySQL, both of them are amazing pieces of software, which are better suited for different scenarios. But as cloud popularity increases, I see these scenarios becoming more and more overlapping. At which point, we would see which one truly comes out on top. Until then, stay tuned, and don’t forget to try a free hosted trial of DreamFactory now!
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