5 open source databases in comparison

To ensure smooth operations, careful and structured storage and warehousing of all data, and the assignment and control of access rights, a good database is essential for most companies. This has been the case for a long time, as has the fact that maintaining these databases has been associated with high costs. In the meantime, there are more and more open source databases that not only function reliably, but also offer great saving potential. Which open source databases are available, their advantages and disadvantages, and which provider is the right one for your purposes can be discovered in our database comparison.

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Overview of the individual providers

When deciding which open source database is the right one for your purposes, many factors play a role. For example, is your focus on speed, the processing of large data sets, or is the exchange with the community particularly important to you? In the following table, you can see our open source database systems comparison. You can easily decide which is the right option for you.

  PostgreSQL Apache Cassandra MongoDB MariaDB MySQL Redis
Compatible with a cloud
Suitable for large amounts of data
High speed
Relational/NoSQL SQL NoSQL NoSQL SQL SQL NoSQL
Easy administration
Community-based Yes✔
Compatible with many operating systems
Paid features

Reasons for an open source database

The main argument for switching to one of the numerous open source databases is, of course, the cost factor. Depending on the company, structure, and provider, a classic database system can cost a relatively large amount of money, while the open source options often result in considerable savings. This is a weighty reason for many users, but not the only one. Independence can also be a deciding factor. Most open source databases are compatible with common operating systems and are also open to further development. So if a company grows, in most cases the database system can grow with it.

In addition, when it comes to open source code, the exchange with the community is interesting for many. Errors and security gaps are usually quickly discovered and corrected. This reason is one of the many that make companies want to switch to the open variant. Of course, this does not automatically mean that free is necessarily better. It makes sense to compare the free databases.

Open source database systems comparison

There is a huge number of different open source databases in comparison to the few large providers that have long divided the market among themselves. On the one hand, there are associations of motivated developers who are looking for innovative and reliable solutions, thus creating new options for companies. On the other hand, there are also those providers who pursue a commercial approach, but draw on the input of an interested community. These databases are often divided into free basic models on the one hand and paid deluxe versions on the other. In the following, we present five recommendable open source databases.

PostgreSQL

PostgreSQL is an oldie in the field of open source databases. After all, the origins of the object-relational database management system go back to the 1980s. However, it is by no means outdated. Rather, the software under BSD license has been able to grow and improve steadily over the years and is largely compatible with the SQL standard. The open source database can be used platform-independently, whereby client and server can run on different systems. PostgreSQL can be easily and unproblematically expanded and adapted, which is why numerous large companies also rely on the database.

Advantages Disadvantages
✔ High compatibility with SQL standards ✘ Administration is comparatively demanding
✔ Can be used platform-independently ✘ Lower reading speed compared to other open source databases
✔ Numerous features ✘ Difficult implementation into some frameworks
✔ Many customizations and extensions possible  
✔ JSON Support  
✔ Can handle complex data types  
✔ Large community and therefore good monitoring  

Apache Cassandra

Especially with particularly large data volumes, open source databases can quickly reach their limits. An explicit exception in that regard is Apache Cassandra. The database management system is based on Java and impresses with its zero tolerance for downtimes. In 2008, the system was released by Facebook, today it has its own query language. Apache Cassandra is a column-oriented NoSQL database and distributes the huge amounts of data to different clusters. Apache Cassandra also scores high in analytics and logging compared to other open source databases.

Advantages Disadvantages
✔ Ideal for large data volumes ✘ Lower read accuracy
✔ High error tolerance ✘ No ACID properties
✔ Good analysis and logging results  
✔ Strong performance  
✔ High scalability  

MongoDB

MongoDB is another NoSQL database. It excels in handling mobile apps, product catalogs, and content management, among other things. The document-based database runs on various operating systems, whereby the data is stored with MongoDB in the BSON format in so-called collections. Because these are distributed across different servers, availability is increased, and the data load is spread across several shoulders. Since its initial release in 2009, MongoDB has been steadily developed further and is now one of the most popular and most widely used NoSQL database systems in the world. In addition to the free open source variant, there is also a commercial version with additional features for companies.

Advantages Disadvantages
✔ Easy modification of the data structure ✘ No support for JOIN
✔ High scalability ✘ Higher memory requirements
✔ High flexibility and easy management of large unstructured data sets  
✔ Good usability when dealing with mobile apps  

MySQL and MariaDB

However, if it is to be an SQL database after all, many companies swear by MySQL. The database management system, which has been available since 1995, impresses with its very simple and intuitive administration and quick installation on various operating systems. Maintaining the system is also easy. Unfortunately, many additional features, some of which are indispensable for ideal use at the highest level, are only available in the paid version. When it comes to data security and monitoring, the free database reveals its weaknesses.

The database server MariaDB comes from the same developers as MySQL and also includes all security patches of the older database. MariaDB functions similarly in terms of use and can also offer MySQL functions. The mentioned paid features can still be found here for free use. Due to the large community in the background, MariaDB is constantly advancing and thus comes up with new features. An engine for distributed transactions, a higher speed compared to MySQL, dynamic columns, and much more ensure that the database does not hold back in comparison to other database systems.

Advantages Disadvantages
✔ Standard for many companies ✘ Many features subject to a charge (MySQL)
✔ Intuitive administration ✘ No migration from MariaDB to MySQL
✔ Compatible with many operating systems  
✔ High storage volume  
✔ Easy switch from MySQL to MariaDB  

Redis

The in-memory database Redis also works non-relationally and thus belongs to the NoSQL family. The database is particularly impressive due to its speed (with response times of less than one millisecond) and its particularly simple use. Many companies swear by Redis, particularly in the domain of caching. On the other hand, there are deductions in the handling of more complex data structures. Since the data is stored directly in the main memory, the Remote Dictionary Server requires significantly more main memory compared to other databases.

Advantages Disadvantages
✔ Extremely high response times ✘ High memory requirements
✔ Intuitive use ✘ Expandable when dealing with complex data structures
✔ Good horizontal and vertical scaling  
✔ Clients for almost any programming language  
✔ Distribution to different servers  

Are open source databases also suitable for use in the cloud?

Instead of maintaining stationary databases, more and more companies are switching to cloud solutions. The advantages are obvious: instead of a cost-intensive and power-hungry server on site, the company’s own data is outsourced.

In addition to complete relocation to the private or public cloud, there are also hybrid models that leave part of the data in-house in addition to the cloud. This can be a smart approach, especially for particularly large data sets. The costs incurred can usually be estimated well and are not subject to strong fluctuations. There is no need to purchase or update expensive hardware or software. Linking different sites is also easier with a cloud model.

All of these open source databases are also suitable for full or hybrid cloud deployment. If you opt for a cloud solution, you are probably also interested in highly scalable databases. At the same time, you want fast response times, since the connection to the cloud can cause slight latencies anyway. This is where Apache Cassandra and Redis come into play, as these two database systems are both highly scalable and impress with their great performance.

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