8 Best Open-Source Databases

April 29, 2021

Introduction

With the ever-shifting and evolving nature of the database landscape, it can be difficult to keep up with all the available solutions. Open-source databases are becoming increasingly popular, with around 89% of developers using at least one.

In this tutorial, we will go over 8 of the most popular open-source databases and offer advice on how you can choose the right one for your project’s needs.

8 best open-source databases

8 Open-Source Databases

The sections below list eight open-source database management systems. Each section explains what makes these systems unique and offers pros and cons to using them.

MySQL

Developed by Oracle, MySQL has been one of the leading open-source database management solutions for the past 25 years. It boasts high performance when handling large databases, is easily scalable, and works on most operating systems.

While it still has one of the largest user bases with an impressive level of support and documentation, MySQL has slowly been declining in popularity due to the rise of other viable alternatives on this list.

Pros of using MySQL:

  • Delivers a dependable and secure product with active support.
  • High scalability with a focus on the Web, cloud storage, and big data.

Cons of using MySQL:

  • Lacks the features of some other, more advances, entries on this list.
  • Even though it is open-source, Oracle has been adding more and more closed-source features.

PostgreSQL

PostgreSQL

PostgreSQL (commonly referred to as "Postgres") has had a history almost as long as MySQL. The two systems share many similar features, which has caused a number of users to switch over from MySQL to PostgreSQL.

PostgreSQL is widely customizable, highly secure, and boasts extensive documentation. With more and more users switching to PostgreSQL, many of its shortcomings are quickly being corrected.

Pros of using PostgreSQL:

  • Highly efficient, especially with large databases.
  • Flexible and highly customizable.
  • Large community and easily available support.

Cons of using PostgreSQL:

  • Can be slow when handling smaller databases compared to other tools built for the specific purpose.
  • The open-source nature of PostgreSQL means that documentation can be lackluster at times, and there is no warranty or liability protection.

MongoDB

MongoDB

MongoDB is a NoSQL database manager specifically built for large databases. It allows you to save your data on multiple clouds, and while the powerful query language makes sorting and filtering lightning fast.

MongoDB also features a flexible schema, allowing you to cater to specialized or unpredictable use cases easily. It also supports unique features like geo-based search.

Pros of using MongoDB:

  • Easily scalable and high performance when working with large databases.
  • High flexibility, both for building and searching through a database.

Cons of using MongoDB:

  • The lack of schema can make working with MongoDB difficult for developers not used to NoSQL databases.

MariaDB

MariaDB

After Oracle acquired MySQL, MariaDB started as its completely free and open-source version. MariaDB shares many functions but with a number of improvements and more advanced features.

It also performs faster than MySQL and supports more storage options. This allows you to choose a storage engine that best suits the needs of your database.

Pros of using MariaDB:

  • Improved performance and features compared to MySQL.
  • Supports a wide range of environments and storage engines.

Cons of using MariaDB:

  • Does not work with OS X.
  • Incomplete documentation and no free customer support.

Note: While it is easy to migrate from MySQL to MariaDB due to their shared architecture, it is currently impossible to migrate from MariaDB to MySQL.

Neo4j

Neo4j

Neo4j stands out from the other entries on this list as it supports building graph databases. It provides a comprehensive set of tools for this purpose, allowing you to visually explore a database, convert tabular data into graphs, and perform graph analytics.

An example of a graph database
An example of a graph database

Pros of using Neo4j:

  • Offers versatile database support and high performance.
  • Can easily convert different database types into graph databases.

Cons of using Neo4j:

  • Performance starts to drop at larger scales.
  • The lack of range indexes can make sorting data taxing on system resources.

Cassandra

Cassandra

Built on a Java foundation, Cassandra specializes in handling large databases with write-heavy loads without the risk of downtime. Many large companies adopted it, such as Twitter, Netflix, and Reddit.

Unlike many other database managers, Cassandra abstracts data in columns rather than rows. This allows it to store related data in close physical proximity on the disk to increase performance and minimize search times.

Pros of using Cassandra:

  • Linear scalability coupled with extreme performance allows massive databases.
  • High partition tolerance prevents loss of integrity even if several clusters are lost.

Cons of using Cassandra:

  • High performance and availability come at the cost of consistency.
  • The column-based data model makes aggregation difficult.

SQLite

SQLite

SQLite has the unique feature of holding everything it needs to work in a single .sqlite file. This means that all you need to do is store the file on your system, and you’re good to go without the need to use any server software.

SQLite positions itself as a lightweight alternative to MySQL. This means SQLite performs faster while retaining all the compatibility and features of MySQL while limiting the maximum database size.

Pros of using SQLite:

  • Its integrated nature makes it perfect for use with applications.
  • Supports JSON and has full support for transactions.

Cons of using SQLite:

  • Tables are limited to 32,000 columns. The maximum database size is limited to 140 TB.
  • Occasional security issues with new critical vulnerabilities discovered frequently.

CockroachDB

CockroachDB

CockroachDB was designed to tackle the issues scaling creates for traditional SQL databases. It aims to simplify clustering and sharding to make it easy to scale your database while maintaining high availability.

CockroachDB also comes with its cloud-based service (CockroachCloud) making it easier to implement.

Pros of using CockroachDB:

  • Distributed and highly scalable.

Cons of using CockroachDB:

  • Difficult to integrate with PostgreSQL, preventing you from using some of the latter’s features.

How To Choose?

Choosing the option that works best for you comes down to the specific features your project requires.

For example, if you are using WordPress, you are stuck with MySQL. Other projects may also support only one database management engine, thus choosing for you.

If you do have the option to choose which open-source database you will use, here are some cases where each of the ones listed above may prove useful:

  • MySQL: A wide range of applications, especially when building high-volume websites and packaged software.
  • PostgreSQL: Hybrid data models with partial NoSQL facilities or product-based industries that require scaling.
  • MongoDB: Big data projects, such as e-commerce and social networks, and prototyping.
  • MariaDB: For those who want the features of MySQL without the closed-source features.
  • Neo4j: When you need a graph-based relational database.
  • Cassandra: For working with massive amounts of data, especially for logging and analytics.
  • SQLite: Small-scale testing and application development.
  • CockroachDB: When you need an SQL database that you can scale with minimal issues

Conclusion

Choosing the right database management system for your project can be a daunting task with many available options.

Consider the needs of your project and consult the pros and cons for each of the options we presented above to find a solution that will suit your needs.

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Aleksandar Kovačević
Aleksandar Kovacevic is an aspiring Technical Writer at phoenixNAP. With a background in both design and writing, he aims to bring a fresh perspective to writing for IT, making complicated concepts easy to understand and approach.
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