The De Facto Standard Open-Source Relational Database

Modern businesses thrive on data. This has become a given over the past decade. And without data, your company will struggle to compete. You can consider data in 2 basic types: Big Data and everyday data. Big Data is the massive troves of data used by companies for things like marketing, branding, and trend prediction. Data on that level is often powered by NoSQL-type databases, which can handle incredibly large and dynamic datasets. 

But for everyday data, your company will lean heavily on relational databases, which help to power applications like WordPress, Nextcloud, Drupal, and Joomla. In fact, countless web-based applications depend on relational databases to house the required information for those apps to run.


One of the most popular relational databases on the market is the open-source MySQL. MySQL is a relational database that was first released (internally) on May 23, 1995, by Swedish company MySQL AB. Since its inception, ownership of MySQL has changed hands a few times, but eventually, Sun Microsystems landed the database (a company that was eventually acquired by Oracle). 

The acquisition by Oracle (and other factors) has led to a fork of MySQL, called MariaDB. But that fork hasn’t stopped MySQL from holding a vast majority of the relational database market share. As of now, MySQL holds a 98.90% market share with over 13 million sites using the relational database.

Few applications can claim a near 99% market share, which speaks highly of just how popular MySQL is. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a modern business that doesn’t, in some way, rely on this relational database.

MySQL Developers Hiring Guide

  • How to choose the best
  • Interview questions
  • Job Description

What is a Relational Database?

The first thing you should probably understand is the concept of the relational database. The name holds a very important clue—relational. A relational database is a collection of data with predefined relationships that is organized in tables. Each table consists of columns and rows and contains specified values. This data can be accessed in numerous ways without having to reorganize the tables.

The important point here is that the tables can be linked, or related, based on common data. This makes it possible for you to retrieve a new table from stored data in multiple tables with a single SQL query. It’s powerful and it’s efficient.

What is SQL?

This begs another question: What is SQL? SQL (pronounced like “sequel”) is a query language that most relational databases use to extract and/or manipulate data. 

Working knowledge of SQL is absolutely crucial to being able to effectively use MySQL. Although you can certainly install and use any number of powerful GUI tools (such as MySQL Workbench and phpMyAdmin), being able to manage relational databases from the command line is one of the most wide-accepted methods. 

One of the most important reasons why you should learn the SQL language is that there will be many instances where you’re dealing with a MySQL server that doesn’t include a GUI desktop. For those instances, knowing SQL will allow you to get things done.

To be blunt, if you want to get the most out of a relational database, consider SQL a must.

What Platforms Support MySQL?

Although MySQL is most at-home on Linux, you can also install and use this relational database on macOS and Windows. However, if you want to get the most out of it, you’d be best served deploying it on one of the many Linux server distributions (such as Ubuntu Server, AlmaLinux, Rocky Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Fedora Server, or Debian).

What Languages Do You Need to Know to Use MySQL?

The MySQL database works well with a number of languages. To interact with MySQL, you’ll need to know SQL. But if you’re a developer or a company looking to integrate MySQL into an application, you should also be familiar with languages like Perl, C, C++, Java, and PHP. You’ll find that PHP provides several functions to access MySQL databases. Most database administrators would do well to learn those languages along with Python, C#, and R.

Of course, the necessity to learn those languages is only dictated if you’re integrating an application with the database. If you’re simply building a framework, you will only need to understand how to create the database, add a user, and give that user permission to access the newly-created databases. That’s a bare minimum knowledge set for using a relational database.

MySQL in Use

If you’re still not sure if MySQL is the right relational database for your company, consider this shortlist of businesses that employ this tool:

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    US Navy
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    Eli Lilly
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    Verizon Wireless

That’s a pretty impressive list of companies, which should go a long way to prove that MySQL is more than adequate for your relational database needs.

As far as versions are concerned, there are 2:

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    MySQL Community Server - which is freely available to install and use and can power just about any application you need.
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    MySQL Enterprise Edition - a subscription-based version of the database i that includes everything you need to achieve high levels of scalability, security, reliability, and uptime.


If your business depends on data on an application level or requires seamless integration between applications and data, you probably need a relational database. If that’s the case, MySQL should probably be the first database you consider. Of all the relational databases available, you’ll find more support and more documentation for MySQL than nearly all of the competition, which makes this a great platform to start your relational database journey.

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