MySQL vs MS SQL Server: Key Similarities and Differences | Dreamfactory

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Today, we're looking at MySQL vs MS SQL Server. Relational database management systems (RDBMS) form the backbone of enterprise IT. The main difference between MySQL and Microsoft SQL Server is that MySQL is an open-source RDBMS known for its cross-platform compatibility and cost-effectiveness, while Microsoft SQL Server is a commercial RDBMS primarily designed for the Windows platform, offering advanced features and tight integration with Microsoft technologies.

The crucial question is then: which RDBMS is right for your business needs and objectives? When comparing relational database solutions, two names seem to come up more than any others: MySQL and Microsoft SQL Server.

The main difference between MySQL and MS SQL are:

  • Licensing and Pricing: MySQL is an open-source database, generally free to use, while MS SQL Server is a commercial product with a variety of licensing options.
  • Platform Support: MySQL is platform-independent and can run on various operating systems, whereas MS SQL Server is primarily designed for the Windows environment.
  • Security Features: MS SQL Server provides more advanced security features, such as row-level security and data encryption, while MySQL offers basic security features with additional third-party extensions.
  • Language and Syntax: MySQL uses a more standard SQL language, while MS SQL Server uses Transact-SQL (T-SQL), which is an extended version of SQL with additional capabilities.
  • Full-Text Search: MS SQL Server has built-in full-text search support, whereas MySQL provides full-text search only for the MyISAM storage engine, with limited support in the InnoDB storage engine.

Intro to Relational Database Management Systems

Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS) are a powerful class of database systems that efficiently store, manage, and manipulate structured data. The foundation of RDBMS lies in the relational model, which was proposed by E.F. Codd in 1970. This model organizes data into tables, or relations, consisting of rows and columns. Each row represents a record or an instance of an entity, while each column represents an attribute or property of that entity.

One of the key strengths of RDBMS is its ability to establish relationships between tables using primary and foreign keys. This feature enables complex data manipulation and retrieval using the Structured Query Language (SQL), a standardized language designed specifically for managing relational databases.

RDBMS offers several benefits, including data integrity, consistency, and efficiency in managing vast amounts of structured data. They are widely used in various industries, from banking and healthcare to e-commerce and content management systems.

MySQL vs. Microsoft SQL Server: What Are They?

MySQL is an open-source RDBMS solution that was purchased by Oracle in 2008. As a component of the popular LAMP web application development stack, MySQL powers some of the world’s most highly visited websites, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Microsoft SQL Server (MSSQL) is an RDBMS solution developed and maintained by Microsoft. First released in 1989, SQL Server is now available in many different versions with different feature sets, including Enterprise, Standard, and Express versions.

The question of MySQL vs. MS SQL Server is a tough one, and there’s no right answer for every organization. Below, we’ll go over the most important factors to consider when choosing between SQL Server and MySQL.

Operating System Both MySQL and Microsoft SQL Server can be used on the most popular operating systems. MySQL offers native support for Microsoft Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. Although it’s a Microsoft product, SQL Server is also compatible with Linux (ever since the release of SQL Server 2016), which means that it can also run on Mac OS X using Docker containers.
Cost The cost of MySQL and SQL Server ranges from “totally free” to “quite high,” depending on your needs and the number of machines you’re running on. Both solutions include a free trial version for limited use cases, as well as multiple paid tiers.
Cloud support All else being equal, both Microsoft SQL Server and MySQL enjoy a comprehensive range of cloud solutions. Each of the “big 3” cloud providers (Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Services) provide support for both MySQL and SQL Server.
Performance Both SQL Server and MySQL can run high-performance workloads, although third-party independent testing suggests that SQL Server is the winner here.
Toolset Both SQL Server and MySQL include feature-rich client applications (SSMS and MySQL Workbench, respectively). However, SSMS comes with more features, including security, reporting, analysis, and a powerful execution plan visualizer to find and fix bottlenecks.
Language support All of the most popular programming languages are supported by MySQL and SQL Server. If you’re using a .NET language such as C# or Visual Basic, it makes more sense to use SQL Server, since both are part of the Microsoft ecosystem.

MySQL vs. Microsoft SQL Server: Operating System

When selecting an enterprise-grade database, most companies have already invested a great deal of time, money, and expertise in their IT infrastructure—including their choice of operating system. This means that whether you go with MySQL or SQL Server, your choice of database solution needs to mesh well with your existing workflow.

Fortunately, both MySQL and SQL Server run on virtually all major operating systems. MySQL is traditionally associated with Linux as part of the famed LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP). However, it also offers full-fledged support for Windows and Mac OS X, as well as other Unix-based operating systems.

SQL Server, meanwhile, is developed by Microsoft and was originally written for Windows. In recent years, however, Microsoft has made strides in embracing the open-source community, which includes providing support for both Linux and Mac OS X. The most recent versions of SQL Server run on Linux natively, and will run on Mac OS X within a Docker container.

The bottom line: The right call here depends on what operating system your company is already using. Both platforms support Windows and Linux, although there are certain “home court advantages” to each one.

Using SQL Server makes a little more sense if you’re already a Windows and .NET shop. On the other hand, if you use Linux and Python/Java/PHP, MySQL is probably the better choice here.

MySQL vs. Microsoft SQL Server: Cost

Cost is always a factor when making software purchasing decisions. An enterprise-grade database might be (and often should be) one of your biggest IT expenses. The good news is that both MySQL and SQL Server offer a free tier for users with less demanding IT requirements.

MySQL Community Edition is the free, open-source version of MySQL, which means that it’s a great start to get your feet wet and start learning the platform. It’s more than capable of running smaller production loads, but you’ll have to pay more for additional support.

SQL Server’s free offering comes in two different flavors:

  • SQL Server Developer includes all of the features of SQL Server, but cannot be used in production. According to Microsoft, SQL Server Developer is a “full-featured version of SQL Server software that allows developers to cost-effectively build, test, and demonstrate applications.”
  • SQL Server Express is a freely available version of SQL Server, including for production use. However, Express comes with some technical restrictions in place that are unsuitable for large-scale deployments. Microsoft describes it as a “free entry-level database that’s ideal for learning, as well as building desktop and small server data-driven applications of up to 10 gigabytes.”

It’s always tempting to save money by trying to make your IT needs fit the limitations of the free tier. Yet if your database is mission-critical, this may actually be costing you money in the long run. For large-scale deployments, paying for advanced features such as monitoring, backup, and fast support is almost certainly worth the cost.

Already bypassed the limitations of the free tier? The cost of MySQL and SQL Server depends on how powerful of a database you need, and what sort of support you’re looking for.

MySQL Cost

For a more complete MySQL feature set (as well as support from Oracle), you’ll need to shell out some bucks. The various MySQL editions will run you anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 per server annually.

MySQL comes in three different tiers: Standard Edition, Enterprise Edition, and Cluster CGE. Choosing between them largely depends on the complexity and scale of your data needs.

All three MySQL tiers include 24x7 Oracle Premier Support, as well as essential features such as MySQL Database Server, MySQL Connectors, and MySQL Replication. However, only Enterprise Edition and Cluster CGE include advanced features such as monitoring, backup, security, and high availability.

Microsoft SQL Server Cost

According to Microsoft’s pricing page for SQL Server 2019, you can pay anywhere from $899 (standard edition, server licensing) to $13,748 (enterprise edition, two cores). There’s a wide discrepancy in pricing here, and your business needs will dictate how much power you need.

The bottom line: Once again, the winner here depends on your business requirements. Both solutions offer a free tier, and both have pricing schemes with multiple tiers. Without more specific information, the best thing to do is to speak with the sales department of each solution to get a final quote based on your specific needs.

Cloud computing has revolutionized the face of enterprise IT. According to RightScale’s 2019 “State of the Cloud” report, 94 percent of companies now use the cloud in some form or fashion.

As it stands today, the “big 3” cloud providers are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. Each provider offers a robust suite of services, including storage and computing—and, of course, SQL databases.

The cloud revolution is so impactful that it’s also affected the first two factors in this article: operating system and cost. Many cloud providers have fully managed database services, in which the provider handles the operating system and server complications for you. Customers can subscribe to a “pay as you go” model, giving them more flexibility and control over plan costs. This shift to cloud computing has somewhat diminished the importance of factors such as operating system and cost, while emphasizing other considerations such as performance and toolset.

Here’s how both offerings stack up in terms of the cloud.

MySQL Cloud Support

All three of the biggest cloud providers support MySQL:

What’s more, all three services claim a rich feature set, including high availability, easy scalability, robust security, and pay-as-you-go pricing.

Like the cost of the database itself, the price of MySQL cloud solutions also depends on your circumstances—there’s no “one size fits all” answer here. The best approach might be to test out a MySQL environment in each of the three clouds and run some tests that are typical of your business operations. This should give you a rough estimate of how the different costs will shake out.

It’s worth mentioning that Oracle (the owner of MySQL) also features a cloud offering for MySQL, Oracle MySQL Cloud Service. This might be worth exploring due to Oracle’s “native” support of MySQL.

However, a SQL database is only one piece of your IT architecture landscape—you still need storage, computing, and security services. Oracle’s not currently a market leader in these domains, which means that the Oracle cloud may be a riskier choice for hosting MySQL.

It’s also worth noting that the “big 3” cloud providers all offer virtual machine services for running your own MySQL instances. This option gives you more control over your database, but requires more expertise (and is also more expensive).

SQL Server Cloud Support

Like MySQL, each of the “big 3” cloud providers has a Microsoft SQL Server offering:

There’s an interesting twist here: Microsoft, one of the major cloud providers, is also the creator of SQL Server. While AWS and Google both offer strong alternatives, there’s a sense that Microsoft has a “home-court advantage” in this respect.

As with MySQL, you can also pay to host Windows virtual machines in the cloud and self-host SQL Server this way. Of course, this also comes with the same expertise requirements and cost concerns.

The bottom line: Although either solution works as a cloud offering, SQL Server is the winner here: the one-two punch of SQL Server and Microsoft Azure is hard to beat. If you’ve already invested in MySQL, or you’re already using another cloud provider, then it’s probably best to stick with what you know. In a greenfield project, however, the SQL Server/Microsoft Azure choice should be highly compelling.

MySQL vs. Microsoft SQL Server: Database Performance

Database performance is crucial for any software application. If your database doesn’t respond quickly and efficiently, the entire system is slowed down, causing unacceptable delays to the end user. Poor database performance directly harms key business metrics such as user experience and revenue.

However, database performance is also heavily dependent on an immense number of variables. Slight differences in workloads can dramatically skew results, while minor tweaks can see major improvements. In other words, a well-designed database is worth its weight in gold.

MySQL and SQL Server both tout extensive performance and scaling capabilities. When it comes down to cold, hard facts, however, SQL Server seems to have the advantage. According to one study, SQL Server consistently beat MySQL in comparison testing involving high volumes of SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE queries.

Also note that MySQL is considered to be Oracle’s “entry-level” database. For top-shelf performance needs, Oracle will likely steer you toward their flagship database offering, Oracle Database. On the other hand, SQL Server is Microsoft’s flagship database offering.

The bottom line: It’s not a slam dunk, but SQL Server’s better numbers and flagship status give it the edge here.

MySQL vs. Microsoft SQL Server: Toolset

No database is an island—whether you choose MySQL or SQL Server, you’ll need a good toolset to work with it. Both solutions offer front-end clients specifically for this purpose.

MySQL’s client application is MySQL Workbench, which runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. MySQL Workbench offers several important database management tools, including:

  • Database connection and management
  • SQL editing and execution
  • Database and schema modeling
  • Performance monitoring and query statistics

SQL Server’s client application is SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS). Note that SSMS is only available on Windows, unlike SQL Server itself. However, Microsoft provides an extension for the Visual Studio Code editor to execute SQL from a Linux machine.

SSMS has a more robust feature set than MySQL Workbench, including:

  • Extensive database management tools
  • A robust set of security, reporting, and analysis services
  • A powerful execution plan visualizer for identifying performance bottlenecks
  • Integrated source control
  • Real-time activity monitoring, including filtering and automatic refresh

The bottom line: Both toolsets offer the basics: the ability to execute SQL, as well as view and manage databases. However, SSMS for SQL Server comes out on top here, with features that please novice users and seasoned DBAs alike. The execution plan visualizer, in particular, can pay for itself many times over.

MySQL vs. Microsoft SQL Server: Language Support

As relational databases, both MySQL and Microsoft SQL Server use SQL to interact with their schema and data. The SQL dialect is slightly different between these two solutions, but not enough to influence your decision one way or another. In particular, SQL Server uses the proprietary T-SQL extension to SQL, which enables concepts such as procedural programming, local variables, and string and data processing functions.

However, MySQL and SQL Server differ when it comes to the runtime languages that interface with the database. Both solutions support connections with the major programming languages: C#, Java, PHP, C++, Python, Ruby, Visual Basic, Delphi, Go, R, and more. As long as your language can make a connection using ODBC (Open Database Connectivity), you should be good to go.

If you’re using a .NET language like C#, F#, or Visual Basic, then SQL Server will have a home-court advantage. Microsoft wrote the ADO.NET library, which facilitates access to databases and data services, specifically for SQL Server.

One final note: SQL Server offers the additional (and controversial) mechanism of invoking .NET code from a stored procedure. This can add all sorts of functionality within your database—but it also makes it easy for you to shoot yourself in the foot. Proceed with caution.

The bottom line: Both MySQL and SQL Server support the most common programming languages, although SQL Server has the advantage for .NET languages.

MySQL vs. Microsoft SQL Server: Differences

Both MySQL and SQL Server are relational database management systems (RDBMS), but they have a variety of differences. Here are the key distinctions:

  1. Vendor:
    • MySQL: Originally developed by a Swedish company, MySQL AB. It's now owned and supported by Oracle Corporation.
    • SQL Server: Developed and marketed by Microsoft.
  2. Platform Support:
    • MySQL: Available on various platforms, including Windows, Linux, macOS, and others.
    • SQL Server: Traditionally, SQL Server was Windows-only, but since SQL Server 2017, it has been available on Linux as well (known as SQL Server on Linux). Microsoft also introduced SQL Server 2019 Big Data Clusters, which supports deployment on Kubernetes.
  3. Licensing and Costs:
    • MySQL: Open-source and has a GPL license, but also offers commercial licenses for enterprise users.
    • SQL Server: Commercial product with several editions ranging from free (Express) to enterprise, with costs escalating for advanced features and scalability.
  4. Performance Tools:
    • MySQL: Offers tools like MySQL Workbench for database design, modeling, and administration.
    • SQL Server: Comes with SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) and has integration with Azure for cloud services and tools.
  5. Programming Language Support:
    • MySQL: Supports procedural language in the form of stored routines using SQL procedural language.
    • SQL Server: Supports T-SQL (Transact-SQL) for procedural programming and also integrates with .NET languages allowing for CLR (Common Language Runtime) stored procedures and functions.
  6. Backup:
    • MySQL: Provides hot backup capability through third-party tools or MySQL Enterprise Backup for paying users.
    • SQL Server: Offers a wide range of backup and recovery tools out of the box.
  7. High Availability & Scalability:
    • MySQL: Supports replication, including master-slave and master-master replication, and also offers the MySQL Cluster solution for high availability.
    • SQL Server: Provides AlwaysOn Availability Groups, database mirroring, log shipping, and failover clustering.
  8. Storage Engines:
    • MySQL: Allows for multiple storage engines, such as InnoDB, MyISAM, and MEMORY, each suited for particular use cases.
    • SQL Server: Uses a single storage engine, but offers table partitioning, data compression, and in-memory optimized tables and procedures.
  9. JSON Support:
    • MySQL: Added JSON support in version 5.7, allowing JSON document storage and related functions.
    • SQL Server: Introduced JSON support in SQL Server 2016, offering JSON functions and storage.

While both RDBMSs are powerful and feature-rich, the choice between them often comes down to specific project requirements, licensing considerations, existing infrastructure, and personal or organizational preferences.

MySQL vs Microsoft SQL Server: Which is Right for You?

Deciding between MySQL and Microsoft SQL Server (MS SQL) depends on a lot of your business requirements, existing infrastructure, and specific use cases. Here are some key considerations to help determine which database is right for you:

Cost and Licensing:

  • If your budget is tight or you prefer open-source solutions, MySQL is generally the better choice. Its free community edition can handle smaller production loads without additional costs.
  • For businesses needing advanced features and willing to invest in robust support and performance, MS SQL’s varied commercial licensing options might be more appropriate. Despite higher costs, it offers comprehensive support and advanced capabilities.

Operating System Compatibility:

  • MySQL is platform-independent, running seamlessly on Windows, Linux, and macOS, making it ideal for organizations with diverse operating systems.
  • MS SQL, traditionally Windows-focused, now also supports Linux and can run on macOS through Docker containers. If your infrastructure is heavily invested in Windows and .NET, MS SQL could be the more seamless integration.

Security Features:

  • MS SQL provides advanced security features like row-level security and built-in data encryption, which are crucial for organizations with stringent security requirements.
  • MySQL offers basic security features but can be extended with third-party tools. If advanced security is a top priority, MS SQL may be the better option.

Performance and Scalability:

  • For high-performance workloads, MS SQL has demonstrated superior performance in various independent tests, making it a strong candidate for large-scale, resource-intensive applications.
  • MySQL, while highly capable, is often considered Oracle’s entry-level database, with Oracle Database being the go-to for top-tier performance needs. For smaller to medium-sized applications, MySQL remains a solid choice.

Development Environment:

  • MySQL’s use of standard SQL and compatibility with various programming languages makes it flexible for diverse development environments, especially those involving Linux, Python, Java, or PHP.
  • MS SQL’s integration with the Microsoft ecosystem, including strong support for .NET languages like C# and Visual Basic, makes it a natural fit for organizations using Microsoft development tools.

Cloud Integration:

  • Both databases are well-supported by major cloud providers, including AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. However, MS SQL’s deep integration with Microsoft Azure can offer a more cohesive experience for businesses already using other Microsoft services.
  • MySQL’s versatility and presence in various cloud environments make it a strong candidate for organizations seeking flexibility and a wide range of deployment options.

Toolset and Usability:

  • MS SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) offers a richer feature set compared to MySQL Workbench, particularly in terms of security, reporting, analysis, and performance optimization tools.
  • MySQL Workbench provides essential database management functionalities and is sufficient for many standard use cases, especially in smaller or less complex environments.

MySQL vs. Microsoft SQL Server: Which Database is Right for You?

After this long, drawn-out MySQL vs. SQL Server comparison, which database is the best for you? There’s a lot of information to unpack here, and the right answer is still “it depends.” Here’s the best summary we can give:

  • If you’re a Linux shop already using parts of the LAMP stack, then MySQL will fit in nicely.
  • If you’re a Windows shop already using .NET and the Microsoft ecosystem, then SQL Server is the obvious choice.
  • If you’re looking to make a clean start, the evidence leans slightly toward SQL Server. Microsoft is building momentum in the cloud with Azure, while also embracing open-source and ecosystems like Linux. What’s more, SQL Server has a better toolset and arguably better performance.

Whether you go with SQL Server or MySQL, your database needs to connect smoothly with the rest of your IT infrastructure. In particular, you’ll need an intermediate API (application programming interface) layer that connects your database to the front-end user interface.

The good news is that DreamFactory has built a system that automatically generates code to connect your back-end database with your front-end GUI. With a bit of configuration and a few clicks of a mouse, DreamFactory turns your database into a production-ready REST API—and even generates the documentation alongside it.

DreamFactory supports all kinds of SQL databases: MySQL, SQL Server, and a long list of others. Want to learn more? Check out this video on how the DreamFactory platform works, and get ready to breathe a big sigh of relief.

Frequently Asked Questions: MySQL vs. Microsoft SQL Server

What are the main factors to consider when choosing between MySQL and MS SQL Server?

When choosing between MySQL and MS SQL Server, consider factors such as licensing and pricing, performance and scalability, platform support, security features, ease of use, and the available tools and utilities.

Is there a clear better choice between MySQL and MS SQL Server?

There isn't a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the choice between MySQL and MS SQL Server depends on your specific needs, requirements, and familiarity with each platform. Both databases have their strengths, and the best choice for your project depends on various factors, including cost, scalability, and the underlying infrastructure.

Which database is more popular, MySQL or MS SQL Server?

Both MySQL and MS SQL Server are popular and widely used database management systems. MySQL is known for its popularity in the open-source community, web development, and content management systems, while MS SQL Server is popular within the Microsoft ecosystem and enterprise-level applications. The popularity of a database doesn't necessarily indicate its superiority but can be an indicator of the community and support resources available.

Are there any limitations to using MySQL compared to MS SQL Server?

MySQL has certain limitations when compared to MS SQL Server, such as a lack of support for full-text search in InnoDB storage engine, limited support for advanced analytics and business intelligence features, and fewer options for high availability and disaster recovery. However, MySQL can still be an excellent choice for many applications, depending on your requirements.

Can I migrate my existing database from MySQL to MS SQL Server or vice versa?

Yes, it is possible to migrate your existing database from one system to another. There are tools and utilities available to assist with this process, such as the SQL Server Migration Assistant for MySQL and the MySQL Workbench migration wizard. However, it's important to thoroughly plan and test the migration to ensure data consistency and compatibility.

How do MySQL and MS SQL Server compare in terms of performance?

Performance is highly dependent on the specific use case, database design, and configuration. Both MySQL and MS SQL Server are capable of delivering excellent performance when properly optimized. MySQL is known for its fast read-heavy workloads, while MS SQL Server is praised for its robust performance in transactional and analytical workloads. Choosing the right database for your project should be based on your specific performance requirements and the nature of your application.

Which database provides better support for cloud deployments, MySQL or MS SQL Server?

Both MySQL and MS SQL Server offer support for cloud deployments, and you can use them with popular cloud providers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. MS SQL Server has a strong integration with Azure, while MySQL is available as a managed service on various cloud platforms. The choice of the database for your cloud deployment depends on your preferred cloud provider, pricing, and the specific features required for your application.

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