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MySQL and SQLite are both popular, well-rounded relational database management systems (RDBMS) that are used by database developers and database administrators for a variety of purposes, beyond just data storage and manipulation. Both database systems have their similarities, but they also differ in quite a number of ways, including their architecture, scalability, performance, and set of features. In this tutorial, we compare MySQL and SQLite to help programmers and dbadmins choose the best relational database system.
MySQL is an open-source relational database management system – or RDBMS – that was first released to the public back in 1995. Currently, it is one of – if not the – most widely used relational database systems in the world. It is favored with a massive community of active database developers and administrators. MySQL was written in the high-level programming languages C and C++. It supports most major operating systems, including Linux, Windows, and macOS. It is highly scalable, reliable, and known for its efficient performance. MySQL is used by a number of well-known tech companies, including the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and more.
Meanwhile, SQLite is a smaller, lighter, file-based RDBMS first released to the public in 2000, making it a little younger than its counterpart. SQLite, unlike MySQL, is not technically a client-server database system, but, instead, a self-contained database library that database programmers can embed into database-driven applications and web apps. SQLite was also written in C, and it supports a number of notable programming languages, including C++, Python, and Java. SQLite is known for its ease of use, setup, and configuration, portability, and small size. SQLite is used for many desktop and mobile applications, including notables like Firefox, Android, and even iOS.
Below are some of the main differences between MySQL and SQLite, including:
A big difference between MySQL and SQLite is their architecture as database systems. MySQL is known as a client-server database system; client-server databases require a server process, which runs as a background process, that listens to client requests and responds accordingly. MySQL relies on a multithreaded architecture, allowing database developers and database administrators to handle multiple client connections simultaneously. MySQL also supports a variety of storage engines, including MyISAM, InnoDB, and Memory, each of which has their own set of features and performance characteristics.
SQLite, meanwhile, is file-based, meaning it stores data in a single file on disk. SQLite does not require a separate server process and is a database library, which can be embedded into applications. SQLite’s architecture is single-threaded, and, as such, it can handle only one request at a time. Despite this single-threaded nature, SQLite is optimized for read-heavy workloads, and can scale up to accommodate terabyte-sized databases.
Scalability is another difference between MySQL and SQLite. Scalability, in terms of databases, is the ability of a database system to handle data and traffic, as it increases in volume, without sacrificing performance, security, or stability.
MySQL is highly scalable, meaning it can handle large and complex datasets with no issues. MySQL offers database programmers and db admins various techniques for scaling, including replication, partitioning, and sharding. Replication is the process of creating multiple copies of a database and then distributing the workload between those copies. Partitioning is when you split a larger database into smaller, more manageable pieces. Finally, sharding lets developers distribute workloads across multiple servers, with each server being responsible for a subset of the data.
SQLite, on the other hand, is not known to be as scalable as MySQL. SQLite works best when used for small to medium-sized databases, and tends to struggle with larger, more complex datasets. SQLite has no support for replication, partitioning, or sharding, and is not ideal for distributed environments in general. That being said, SQLite is a good solution for small standalone applications, including things like mobile apps or desktop utilities, where scalability is not a factor.
As with any software or application, performance is a key factor to consider when choosing between MySQL, SQLite, or any other relational database system (RDBMS). Performance, in this case, is the speed and efficiency of a database system when processing queries and retrieving data from tables.
MySQL is pretty well known for being high-performant, with the ability to handle complex queries and large datasets with ease. MySQL features various performance optimizations, including indexing, caching, and query optimization. MySQL supports a variety of storage engines, as discussed above, and each is optimized to accommodate different workloads. For instance, MyISAM is optimized for read-heavy workloads, while InnoDB is better for write-heavy workloads.
SQLite, for its part, is lauded more for its simplicity and speed. SQLite is great for read-heavy workloads, and is capable of retrieving data from the disk more quickly, due to its file-based architecture. SQLite further supports indexing and query optimization, which also improves its performance. Despite these database performance optimizations, however, SQLite can struggle when faced with complex queries or large datasets, because of its use of a single-threaded architecture.
Perhaps the most important thing to look for in a relational database system is its list of features. When comparing MySQL and SQLite, features refer to the functionality and capabilities of both database systems, such as support for different data types, transaction support, and, of course, security.
MySQL has a lot of beneficial features for database developers and admins, including its support for multiple data types, transactions, stored procedures, triggers, and views. MySQL also features advanced security options, like encryption, user authentication, and access control. In addition, MySQL is very customizable, open-source, and supports numerous plugins and extensions that add to its core functionality.
SQLite has a more limited set of features. SQLite supports only basic data types, transactions, and has fewer security features, such as password protection. SQLite does not support more advanced features like stored procedures, triggers, or views. This is because SQLite was designed to be lightweight and easy to use. As such, it is a good database option for smaller, standalone applications that do not really require the advanced features MySQL or other database solutions might offer.
In the database programming realm, support does not always mean a professional from the vendor answering all of your questions over the phone. In particular, support often means the development community at large, which refers to the number of – and activity of – developers and users who contribute to the database system. Support also refers to the availability of documentation, community forums, and learning resources that help developers and admins learn techniques and troubleshoot issues.
With that definition in mind, MySQL boasts a large and active community of programmers and administrators, thanks in part to its popularity and the fact that it is open-source. MySQL also hosts a dedicated website where you can find helpful documentation, forums, and other resources for developers and users. This support is further backed by a huge ecosystem of plugins, extensions, and database tools for customizing and optimizing your database.
SQLite has a dedicated website as well, where you can find documentation and resources. However, SQLite has a smaller community than MySQL, which is still active and supportive. SQLite is pretty well-documented, and there are plenty of learning resources and tutorials available online if you want to grow your knowledge or troubleshoot an issue.
In this database development tutorial, we look at MySQL and SQLite, which are both popular relational database management systems. They each differ in several ways, including their architecture, scalability, performance, and set of features. MySQL is a client-server database system known for its scalability, reliability, and performance, as well as its support for a number of features, optimizations, and plugins. SQLite, meanwhile, is a file-based database system known for being lightweight, portable, efficient, and fast, and a good solution for small, standalone applications.
When choosing between MySQL and SQLite, database programmers and administrators should consider the requirements of their project, such as the size of your dataset, how complex your queries will be, and which features you will need. For instance, if you want a highly scalable and feature-rich database that can work with large and complex datasets, MySQL is the way to go. If you need a database system that is lightweight and fast, and that can be used for smaller applications, SQLite is probably the better fit. Whichever database you choose, both MySQL and SQLite are reliable, powerful, and flexible database systems that you can use to store, manage, and retrieve data efficiently and securely.