Category: Technologies
DBMS Comparison: MySQL, SQL Server, Oracle

Overview of the SQL Database Management Systems

SQL DBMS are relational database management systems that represent data in a standard predefined table form and have become the standard data storage format in many industries. As implied by the name, these databases use structured query language (SQL) to define and manipulate the data. They provide stable support for the complex query-intensive environment”, making them the “best fit for heavy-duty transactional type applications. SQL databases are vertically scalable, which means that the databases are scaled by “adding more CPU and RAM resources to existing machines” on a single server. As the major SQL databases were introduced two decades ago, they have been used extensively both as open-source solutions and in commercial large-scale deployments since then. The implementations are backed up with a good level of vendor support as well as with rich resources and the best practices from developer communities.

Sample database structures in the entity-relationship notation are provided in Appendices A, B, and C for Oracle, MySQL, and SQL Server DBMSs respectively.

In the sections that follow, these three most popular SQL DBMSs will be examined in more detail. Illustrated with customer success stories, the most important factors that differentiate the solution from the others will be presented.

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MySQL History and Product Overview

MySQL was developed in 1994-1997 by Swedish company MySQL AB, subsequently acquired by Sun Microsystems in 2008. In 2010, the Sun Microsystems company was in turn acquired by Oracle Corporation. The first MySQL version for the Microsoft Windows operating system was released in 1998. It is an open-source DBMS, supporting many different platforms, including Windows, Linux, UNIX, and Mac OS X and having connectors to many programming languages such as Node.js, Ruby, C#, C++, C, Java, Perl, PHP, Python. MySQL provides a very fast, multi-threaded, multi-user, and robust SQL database server. The solution is reliable, scalable, flexible, and easy to manage, as well as provides strong data protection and robust transactional support.

MySQL Market Position and Customer Base

MySQL is used by thousands of customers worldwide. Whereas it is commonly viewed as the number one choice for individual customers who prefer its effectiveness and low cost, there are also many users of MySQL Enterprise Edition in the world’s leading companies from many different industries. These are web/end-user customers such as Amazon, Bank of America, Disney, Google, Youtube, Facebook, NASA, Lufthansa, Puma, Walmart, Twitter, and Zappos. “Embedded” solutions from independent software vendors are represented by such prominent customers as Adobe, Hewlett Packard, Intel, McAffee, and Motorola. MySQL is used by a number of largest telecommunication companies, including Alcatel, Cisco, AT&T Wireless, Comcast, France Telecom, Ericsson, Siemens, Motorola, and Telenor. The main reason for the overwhelming popularity of MySQL is that it is an established mature solution providing very effective and stable performance for free: This database has been around for a long time and tremendous community input and testing have gone into this database making it very stable.

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Remarks on Potential Hazards to the MySQL Open Source Model

It should be noted that the acquisition of Sun Microsystems by Oracle in 2010 raised a number of concerns from customers regarding MySQL's future price and maintenance. As a reaction to these concerns and in order to facilitate the deal, refuting potential harms to market competition, Oracle made several commitments in 2009 valid for the next five years after the acquisition deal was closed. Although viewed by some analysts as “cosmetic and ineffectual” or as “political PR exercise of the time” (“Oracle’s ten commitments to MySQL – a five-year review,” 2015), having limited binding power, these commitments have been held to a major extent. Namely, Oracle promised to “enhance MySQL in the future under the same license conditions and to increase the R&D spending for MySQL developments” (“Oracle’s ten commitments to MySQL – a five-year review,” 2015). The company has committed not to require customers to pay for the MySQL support as well as to maintain MySQL documentation and provide it to users for free (ibidem). Despite continuous controversial discussions among developers about the future of the product, the MySQL segment remains an important part of Oracle’s portfolio. So far, there are no valid reasons to expect that there will be any dramatic changes in the MySQL business model in 2015.

SQL Server

SQL Server History and Product Overview

SQL Server is a relational DBMS released by Sybase for UNIX in 1987 and developed for the Windows operating systems by Microsoft, Sybase, and Aston-Tate, while the latter subsequently “dropped out of the development project”. The first version of SQL Server for Windows was released in 1990. There was a continuing conflict between Sybase and Microsoft in the following years and the release of SQL Server 2000 was a significant milestone” for Microsoft because “it marked the first release of the product where the original Sybase code was completely replaced.

SQL Server is based primarily on T-SQL and ANSI-SQL query languages. It is a “powerful and user-friendly database which has good stability, reliability and scalability”, providing efficient disaster recovery mechanisms as well as an effectively integrated development environment and cloud storage capabilities from Microsoft. The cost of ownership is rather high due to significant license and support fee costs.

SQL Server Customer Success Stories

Microsoft reports numerous success stories in deployments aimed to solve different goals. These include “mission-critical implementations” and other cases. BWin, an online gambling company working with huge amounts of transactional data, has achieved table reduction by 80% after the transition to SQL Server 2008. EasyJet enhanced customer experience with the website using geospatial functions of MS SQL Server 2008 combined with other Microsoft products. The Nationwide Building Society has used SQL Server 2005 to support its Faster Payments Service and reduce payment times to near-real-time. Other types of deployments have served to solve business intelligence or data warehousing tasks. A number of projects whereby customers moved from legacy Oracle platform to SQL Server have provided the needed functionality at a lower cost.


Oracle DBMS History and Product Overview

Oracle is the first commercial relational database and the first SQL database: the development was launched as early as in 1977 and the first commercial version was released in 1979. Oracle supports all major operating systems and fits especially for large implementations with multiple users who perform numerous client-server operations of requesting and sending data in the network. For years of operation, Oracle has continued to release regular updates to its flagship database, reacting to changes in the market environment and latest customer demands, which is one of the reasons the Oracle RDBMS has managed to remain at the top of mighty RDBMS.

The currently last version of the Oracle database, 12c, comes in three types of solutions for different scopes and budgets. It provides clients with efficient “in-database computing” services, cloud-based database consolidation capabilities, advanced analytics, high level of data, security, as well as extreme performance and scalability. There is also a limited Oracle Express Edition, which is available for free and can be upgraded easily to a commercial version. It shares essential benefits of Oracle commercial versions such as support of multiple platforms and scalability and in general provides a very reliable, secure, easily manageable and productive solution. Oracle DBMS solution has historically won over the competition in its analytics capabilities, which are still one of the major strong features of the Oracle DBMS augmented by the latest big data trend coverage and innovative computational technologies.

Oracle DBMS Customer Base

Oracle has the largest customer base in a wide range of industries. The 2013 success stories booklet contains references from over 70 different customers from aerospace, automotive, natural resources, oil and gas, engineering and construction industries; financial institutions, insurance companies, retailers, companies from the public, education, media, and entertainment sectors; providers of utilities; communication and other service industries.

Criteria to Select a Specific Database

The following sections summarize the discussed features of MySQL, SQL Server, and Oracle and present evaluation of these three DBMS vendors in an industrial benchmark report from the Gartner research company.

Product Comparison Table

Table 1 based in part on the comparison analysis provided in the Udemy blog consolidates the most important features of the products such as licensing policy, functionality, overall evaluation of the product performance, and support. Whereas all solutions provide reliable functionality, Oracle and SQL Server are often viewed as lower value due to the high cost. Microsoft SQL Server lags in the provided functionality and platform/language support. Overall, MySQL is the most flexible and easy to use DBMS product.

Table 1

Comparison of MySQL, SQL Server, and Oracle DBMS

Feature MySQL SQL Server Oracle
Licensing Open-source Proprietary Proprietary
Language support Many, including C, C#, C++, D, Java, Ruby, and Objective C Java, Ruby, Python, VB, .Net, and PHP Many, including C, C#, C++, Java, Ruby, and Objective C
Operating System Linux, Windows, Solaris, OS X, FreeBSD Windows Windows, Linux, Solaris, HP-UX, OS X, z/OS, AIX
Performance and Overall reliability ++ ++ +++
Easiness to manage +++ + +
Vendor/Community Support +++ +++ ++

The Gartner’s 2014 Magic Quadrant for DBMS Vendors

The Gartner’s DBMS Magic Quadrant Methodology Overview

The Magic Quadrant for Datawarehouse Database Management Systems is prepared by Gartner analysts annually. This research presents both relational and non-relational DBMS that are “suitable for a broad range of enterprise-level transactional applications” (such as purchased ERP and CRM systems, as well as customized transactional in-house systems), support multiple structures and data types, include internal mechanisms, or provide “interfaces to independent programs and tools” to manage workload and user access parameters. The research also includes commercially supported open-source DBMS products if the vendor has “substantial control over the source code” and the solution is “offered with a full General Public License or an alternative” (ibidem).

The specific feature of the report is that all DBMS products from a specific vendor are estimated in a single set with all delivery options combined as well. This provision serves to the MySQL inclusion as a part of Oracle’s product portfolio.

The vendor DBMS product portfolios are evaluated based on customer references and questionnaires against the standard set of Gartner’s criteria, which are put on two axes: the ability to execute and the completeness of vision. The ability to execute measures include product features and capabilities, pricing models, market record, customer experience, marketing execution, operational efficiency, as well as the overall viability of the vendor solutions. The completeness of vision includes strategic measures such as market understanding, industry and geographic strategy, business model, the vendor’s strategy in sales, marketing, product development, and innovations. The resulting scores divide all vendors into four quadrants: leaders, visionaries, challengers, and niche players.

Evaluation of the Vendors in the Gartner 2014 DBMS Report

Figure 1 presents an evaluation of the operational DBMS according to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant research. As can be seen from the chart, Microsoft and Oracle take leading positions in the upper rightmost quadrant. Microsoft moved right on the ‘visionaries’ axis as compared to 2013 (see chart in SQL Server Team, 2013), otherwise, the leaders kept their stable positions with a significant gap from competitors.

Positions of BMS vendors

Figure 1. Positions of BMS vendors in Gartner’s 2014 Magic Quadrant (Feinberg et al., 2014).

Microsoft was evaluated with its SQL Server DBMS, Microsoft Azure SQL Database (DBMS as a service), and Microsoft Azure Tables. The positive change in ‘market vision’ was performed in part thanks to the introduction of “in-memory computing” in SQL Server 2014. Microsoft SQL Server was recognized as an “enterprise-wide, mission-critical DBMS”, with Microsoft taking “second place in terms of total DBMS revenue” after IBM (ibidem). Despite some issues with the Microsoft perception in the market, the product is characterized by strong vendor support and consistent documentation, which caused overall positive scores from reference customers. A gap in the otherwise comprehensive product offering was present: Microsoft, unlike all major competitors, still had not introduced a “special appliance for transactions” (ibidem). Another issue was the change of the pricing model in 2012, which contributed to revenue growth, but caused customer dissatisfaction.

Oracle is a confident long-time leader in the DBMS market, having the broadest product portfolio and covering different DBMSs for multiple purposes. By Gartner’s estimates, Oracle takes the first place for total DBMS revenue market share, having surpassed the 50% market share already in 2011. Oracle’s superior performance and availability, as well as compatibility with existing Oracle-based applications, make Oracle’s DBMS products a number one choice for reference customers. However, there is a negative perception of the communication strategy and overall ‘ease of doing business’, including vendor flexibility and speed of reaction to detected bugs. Finally, excluding the MySQL segment, cost remains the most important consideration for prospect customers: reference customers consider Oracle's products to be expensive and therefore that they have the lowest value proposition.


Our Benefits

MySQL, SQL Server, and Oracle DBMS represent the three most popular database management systems worldwide. Besides its free open-source model, MySQL provides highly reliable performance, as well as a set of efficient functionality features. Having won initially the small customer segment, MySQL has grown to cover a wide range of business and IT needs and is currently used in MySQL Enterprise Edition by many leading companies worldwide. Oracle is a traditional leader in the DBMS industry and the best fit for highly complex environments with a large number of clients performing extensive queries in the database. It also provides the best functionality for transactional databases. Oracle was the first to introduce the in-database calculation capability; there are no other vendors providing such level of embedded analytics. SQL Server has followed with a similar in-memory computing feature; however, the Microsoft solution still lacks a dedicated transactional functionality. SQL Server provides unique integration advantages with other Microsoft products, as well as efficient customer support and documentation. Both SQL Server and Oracle DBMS products involve high costs of implementation and maintenance, with Oracle typically being the most expensive option among the leading DBMS solutions.

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