When it comes to running an application smoothly, you need a server and a database. Back in the day, Oracle and SQL Server ruled the database world, but now, it’s like choosing between countless options on Black Friday. Proprietary and open source, relational and NoSQL, on-premise and cloud-based – it’s a lot to take in.
This ultimate guide contains the best open-source databases, according to the insights provided by DB-Engines. The list has cool dbs of different types to help users find a suitable solution for their needs. Here is the list of databases that we’ll review:
- MySQL – relational
- PostgreSQL – object-relational
- Redis – key-value, in-memory
- MongoDB – document-oriented
- Neo4j – graph
Without any hesitation, let’s get to the point.
Open source database: What is it?
Let’s start with the basics. An open source database is a database that is free to view, download, modify, distribute, and reuse.
The primary distinction of an open-source database lies in the accessibility of its source code. The merits of open-source code are manifold.
The main focus is building a strong community that can make timely improvements and changes to the database. This collaborative approach means significantly greater flexibility compared to the proprietary counterparts, thereby contributing to the resilience and adaptability of the database. Open source code lets you use database features to make a customized and efficient management system for business.
Many believe that open source is not reliable because of its collaborative nature with multiple contributors. However, it is worth remembering that open source solutions are backed by a dedicated community of professionals who continuously enhance the code. Regular updates help open source solutions stay “afloat” enabling faster innovation, while maintaining high security standards.
Besides classifying databases as commercial or open source, it’s crucial to take into account other important factors, like data storage and retrieval functionalities. To properly handle these factors, it’s important to know a key classification in all database management systems. Let us briefly examine the main types:
– Relational (RDBMS) databases are those that store data in the form of tables that consist of columns and rows. This is the most common type of database, which includes such popular databases as PostgreSQL and MySQL.
– No-SQL databases have a completely different type of data storage. The way data is stored determines how it is organized. It can be stored as key-value pairs, JSON documents, or a graph with edges and vertices. The most popular examples of such databases are MongoDB and Cassandra.
Recommended video: MySQL 8.0: an hybrid SQL+NoSQL database for micro services – Marco Carlessi
Open Source Databases: Use Cases
Open source databases have a wide range of applications in business. Here are the main ones:
- Financial services. Using software in banks is usually seen as a mark of quality, right? Banks, investment firms, and other financial companies often favor open source databases because they enable the creation of highly adaptable fintech solutions that can meet the needs of even the most demanding users. When paired with databases like PostgreSQL or MySQL, banking services can handle heavy user traffic, process transactions in real-time, and comply with the highest security regulations.
- Healthcare. Another area where the main criterion is safety is the healthcare sector. Here it is extremely important to maintain the confidentiality of information and completely eliminate the possibility of patient data leakage. Well, almost all databases are created keeping in mind the high customer requirements for the security of such software. However, most often organizations choose SQL databases because of the convenience of storing information.
- E-commerce. It’s a nightmare for any eCommerce app owner to hear the phrase “ladies and gentlemen, the prod is down”. To prevent this from happening, the application must process a large number of transactions and user actions at peak times. And of course, databases play an important role here.
- Non-profit organizations. Educational institutions, churches, and other organizations need flexible data storage, monitoring, and retrieval capabilities. And the main factor that determines the choice of open source databases is, of course, their cost.
- Government. Government organizations prioritize the aforementioned factors as critical considerations. For governmental agencies, the paramount requirements encompass user-friendly interfaces, robust capabilities for handling extensive datasets, cost-effectiveness, and, notably, stringent security standards. The combination of these factors directs governmental entities towards such database solutions as MySQL and MariaDB.
Advantages of open source databases for organizations
Open source databases certainly have many advantages for all organizations. Let’s look at them:
- Cost-efficient. The primary and frequently decisive factor of open-source software lies in its cost. The majority of these databases are freely accessible, a characteristic that undoubtedly positions them as superior to their commercial counterparts. So you do not always have to pay the piper.
- Customization. Open source databases are usually backed by a large and vibrant community of developers, who contribute to documentation, bug fixes, and improvements. Owing to such database flexibility, the community is free to create new databases according to various needs. Thus, for example, the Greenplum database emerged from PostgreSQL.
- Security. The community helps update the databases regularly, keeping them up-to-date and in line with security standards. By taking such a collaborative approach, we can quickly discover and address security issues. When the community identifies a security vulnerability, they can collaborate to create and distribute patches rapidly. This quick response time can minimize the window of opportunity for attackers to exploit vulnerabilities.
Now let’s move on and examine the best and most popular open source databases.
MySQL was the most popular open source database in 2023. The database boasts a simple and user-friendly interface, effectiveness and, of course, cost-efficiency. Moreover, its versatility extends to command-line usage and compatibility across various operating systems.
Noteworthy is MySQL’s inclusive administration, design, and development system, known as MySQL Workbench, providing a user-friendly interface for customization and simplicity.
Being ACID compliant, MySQL stands out as a preferred choice for web applications and OLTP processes. Content management systems notably favor this database, contributing to its widespread adoption.
A popular fork of MySQL is MariaDB. The database supports a wide range of environments and storage engines. Notably, MariaDB supports some storage engines that MySQL doesn’t, such as XtraDB, Aria, InnoDB, MariaDB ColumnStore, Memory, Cassandra, and Connect.
PostgreSQL, often referred to as “Postgres,” stands out as one of the premier object-relational database management systems. Postgres is fully compliant with SQL standards, ensuring seamless integration with existing systems and applications.
This database is different from others because it has many features. It can do complex searches, handle large amounts of data, and work with different types of information. Postgres is a flexible and strong solution, favored by businesses and developers for efficiently managing and manipulating data.
Many organizations often prefer MySQL for its ease of use. For this reason, this database is an excellent option for small projects and simple tasks. Conversely, PostgreSQL is appropriate for substantial projects that handle large amounts of data and workloads. Therefore, if you now have a startup that expects a rapid increase in loads, migration from MySQL to PostgreSQL will be the best option.
Redis is an open-source, No-SQL, key-value, in-memory database that serves as a data store. The main feature of Redis is the ability to read and write at high speeds.
The database supports more than 50 programming languages and hosts a module API that developers can use to build custom extensions that extend its capabilities. As a rule, Redis is perfect for caching, messaging, event processing, queuing, and more.
It’s worth noting that Redis can be a great option for caching and distributed data. However, it is important to stress that Redis is not the best option for complex applications. To handle more difficult tasks, it is recommended to combine Redis with another database. This way, the second database can assist with the remaining workloads of the application.
MongoDB is a database with a different design. Its document-based nature means it stores data in clusters, not in tables.
Mongo uses MongoDB query language (MQL) instead of the structured query language to operate with data. This database is a great help for real-time analytics and high-speed logging. Using Mongo, it is very convenient to store data in various formats, unlike with relational databases.
MongoDB is a preferred system for analyzing data because documents are easily shared across multiple nodes, and because of its indexing, query-on-demand, and real-time aggregation capabilities. Documents contain different types of information, which is important when working with big data that have a different structure and come from different sources.
Neo4j is a NoSQL graph database for managing, querying, and storing real-time graph data. It provides an efficient way to analyze, browse, and store the graph data components (nodes and relationships).
Because of this, Neo4j is a unique database for almost any application it can handle, and it offers many benefits:
- It is fantastic how Neo4j can turn tabular data into graphs and support the resulting analytics.
- This db is stellar for transactional applications
- Cypher is a specialized query language for data pattern detection and complex graph manipulation.
Performance can be an issue, though, due to how the database is structured. For instance, you can only use “hash indexes” to sort data, not the range indexes of other solutions. This can tax your system resources and impact performance.
The final word
Open source databases are a good option for developers and companies seeking flexible and affordable solutions.
Which database should you choose? Well, when it comes to picking the right database, consider a few things like how much data you have, what you’re using it for, how important security is to you, and don’t forget about the cost!