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What is MySQL? Everything explained.

What is MySQL?

MySQL is an open source, Relational Database Management System (RDBMS) that is effective for storing, arranging, and retrieving information. Developed by Oracle and based on Structured Query Language (SQL), it is popular for use in web applications, shopping portals, and big data applications.


What are the key features of MySQL?

MySQL is a scalable, full-featured database management system. The key features include:

  • Open-source: MySQL is open-source software that allows users to download MySQL and start using it without any cost. It has a GNU General Public License (GPL). It gives freedom to open-source projects and makes MySQL interesting for budget-conscious businesses.
  • Supported platforms: MySQL supports all major operating system platforms including Oracle Linux, Solaris, Ubuntu, SUSE, Debian, Windows, and macOS. It also supports popular languages and drivers such as Perl, Ruby, Go, Rust, C, C++, C#, and ODBC.
  • Relational database: Data in MySQL is arranged according to the relational model and stored in tables, each row being associated with a related record. Structured approaches guarantee that this data is uniform, thus making for easy retrieval and processing of information.
  • Structured Query Language (SQL): The core language used by MySQL for database communication is SQL. Users can create, read, update, or delete data using SQL commands for performing development work and database administration.
  • Scalability: MySQL is suitable for small-to-scale database applications. You can scale vertically (adding more resources such as CPU, Memory, Disks, and I/O) and configure clusters for scaling horizontally for your application requirements. Organizations like Facebook and X (Twitter) use MySQL database systems to handle massive-scale user workloads.
  • Flexibility: MySQL allows developers to use traditional SQL or NoSQL (schema-free) databases. It also supports relational data and JSON documents in the same database as well as the same application.
  • Performance: Database performance is essential when choosing a database management system. MySQL includes data storage optimization, increased scalability, higher ROI, enhanced data retrieval, and cost optimization. It provides various mechanisms for database professionals to ensure optimized performance for maximizing system performance.
  • Community and support: MySQL has a large active user base and database developers community. You can use MySQL forums to discuss the topics and issues to help you troubleshoot or improve things.
  • MySQL versions: MySQL development teams continuously work on developing new features and fixing the issues or bugs encountered in the previous versions. Each version has its end-of-life support. Refer to the table below (Ref: MySQL)  for release versions, dates, and end-of-life support.

    All releases


    Release date

    End of life

    MySQL 8.0

    April 19, 2018

    April 2026

    MySQL 5.7

    October 21, 2015

    October 21, 2023

    MySQL 5.6

    February 5, 2013

    February 5, 2021

    MySQL 5.5

    December 3, 2010

    December 3, 2018

    MySQL 5.1

    November 14, 2008

    December 31, 2013

    MySQL 5.0


    January 9, 2012

  • Industry regulatory requirements and data privacy mandates: Organizations can use MySQL to meet industry regulatory requirements such as GDPR, PCI DSS, HIPAA, HITECH, Data Protection Act, SOX, and FERPA for protecting the PII (personally identifiable information) and confidential data using mechanisms such as data masking, encryption, firewall, and audit.
  • Different products for your requirements: MySQL includes several editions, such as Standard edition, Enterprise edition, MySQL Heatwave, and Community edition, based on specific business and technical requirements. Refer to to compare the editions and their features.
What are the key features of MySQL

SQL vs. MySQL: What's the difference?

MySQL is a database management system to store, retrieve, manipulate, and access application data. It is a bundled software package that includes database management software, databases, keys, indexes, functions, stored procedures, security, and many more. In comparison, SQL is a standard language for a relational database. For data retrieval and manipulation, you can use SQL statements such as SELECT, INSERT, DELETE, and UPDATE.

Here's a table summarizing the key differences between SQL and MySQL:



It is a query language used to work with relational databases.

It is a relational database management system that uses SQL for querying.

Its purpose is to interact with relational databases such as creating tables, inserting records, deleting or updating records, and creating indexes.

MySQL's purpose is to store, organize, and manage application data.

SQL contains fixed, declarative commands to call and provide supported parameter inputs to interact with RDBMS.

MySQL RDBMS understands the SQL commands, validates them, and does the tasks as specified in the commands.

SQL itself is a programming language for database systems.

MySQL supports programming languages like C, C++, PHP, Python, and Ruby.


Is MySQL suitable for beginners?

MySQL is an excellent choice for professionals to explore and learn database management and write SQL codes. There are several reasons why MySQL is recommended for beginners:

  • Well-documented: As a popular open-source database management system, MySQL contains lots of documentation available for free. A beginner can follow the documentation to set up and start learning. Beginners can explore various online tutorial books and start participating in forums and communities to ask their questions.
  • Free to use: Users can download MySQL and start interacting without any budget constraints.
  • Flexible: MySQL is a versatile database management system. It can be used for OLTP, OLAP, and data analysis, giving you skills for various careers.
  • Ease of use: MySQL Workbench is a unified graphical tool enabling professionals to graphically design, model, generate, and manage databases. Users can create, execute, and optimize SQL queries with rich integrated development environments, including color syntax highlighting, SQL snippers, execution plans, database connections, and error handling.
  • Well-supported: It is supported by many different programming languages like C, C++, PHP, Python, and SQL that provide beginners to explore in a single DBMS.
  • Multipurpose: Beginners can do various tasks in a single DBMS, such as data warehousing, OLTP, and OLAP.
  • Expandable: Users can expand their databases as per their requirements and application data. Therefore, it is suitable for beginners starting with a small amount of data in their projects.
  • Secure: It includes security mechanisms, encryption, and data masking, essential in an enterprise-level DBMS.
  • Compatible: MySQL compatibility with multiple operating systems - Windows, Linux, and macOS adds a reason for beginners to work with MySQL as an interacting cross-platform database.


Best use cases for MySQL

MySQL database is suitable for various applications and industry use cases. A few examples are as follows.

Online Transaction Processing (OLTP) applications: OLTP applications require a database management system to support their critical and heavy workload applications. They require the following capabilities:

  • ACID properties (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation and Durability)
  • SQL language
  • Security mechanisms such as users, logins, roles, encryption, data masking, and certificates
  • Support for high availability and disaster recovery (HADR) mechanisms
  • Support from small to large-scale databases

A few examples of OLTP applications are as follows:

  • Financial transactions systems such as banking applications
  • Ticket and reservation systems
  • Sales or purchase order systems
  • eCommerce applications
  • Online forums
  • Social media sites
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems
  • Education and research projects

Other applications: MySQL can also be used for:

  • Data warehouse solutions for storing and retrieving historical data
  • Applications running in the cloud as it supports all popular cloud environments such as Azure, AWS, and GCP


When not to use MySQL?

MySQL is a well-known RDBMS, but its limitations impede its usage for specific applications and workloads. A few of the limitations are as follows:

  • Limited support for unstructured data: MySQL requires a rigid schema structure similar to the traditional RDBMS systems and has limited support for unstructured data. Therefore, unstructured, or semi-structured data applications prefer NoSQL databases such as MongoDB Couchbase.
  • Horizontal scaling comes with added operational complexity: Traditionally, MySQL servers can scale vertically by increasing resources such as CPU, RAM, and disk capacity. It supports horizontal scaling, but it adds operational complexity. Databases like DynamoDB provide consistent performance with automatic data distribution over multiple partitions.
  • No support for eventual consistency updates in distributed systems: MySQL is an ACID-compliant database with strong data consistency. If a distributed system requires an eventual consistency model of replication, for example, when a record in a database is updated in one data center but there may be a delay in updating the other data centers, MySQL is unsuitable.
  • Not suitable for complex queries on vast amounts of data: MySQL executes one query at a time through a single thread and is not the preferred solution for Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) applications for complex analytics queries.
  • A paid version is required for advanced features: MySQL advanced features for enterprise security, scalability, backup and more are only available only in the enterprise edition. Therefore, if your application relies on those advanced features, MySQL is not preferred.


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