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MySQL Community Server vs. Oracle MySQL databases

With various open source and commercial options available from Oracle, selecting a MySQL database can be confusing. Here's a comparison to help you decide which one makes sense for you.

In January 2010, Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems for $7.4 billion -- a deal that included the MySQL database management system among the software and hardware components brought under Oracle's control. Since then, Oracle has continued to offer MySQL as a free, open source product and has added several MySQL commercial editions as possible alternatives to that -- and to its flagship Oracle Database software.

Those not familiar with Oracle MySQL databases might find the differences between the products confusing, especially when trying to choose between the open source and commercial editions. Here we look at the various Oracle MySQL products to give you a better idea of how they compare to and differ from one another, so you can more easily choose the one that is right for your organization.

MySQL Community Server (or Community Edition) is what many have in mind when they think of MySQL. It offers the basic features you expect with a database management system, including the ability to create tables, views, triggers and stored procedures. It also includes partitioning and replication capabilities, as well as connectors for multiple languages, including Open Database Connectivity, Java Database Connectivity and .NET.

Open source MySQL benefits, limitations

Oracle offers the MySQL Community Server as an open source product that is freely available for over 20 platforms, including Windows, Linux, Unix and Mac. The Community Edition includes multiple storage engines, such as InnoDB and MyISAM, memory and Network Database (NDB). In addition, the Oracle MySQL Workbench Community tool models, develops and administers databases in the Community Edition.

Oracle also offers the MySQL Cluster edition, a variation of the Community Edition. MySQL Cluster includes the same basic features as the Community Edition, but adds a distributed, multi-master architecture to scale MySQL across multiple commodity systems and to ensure fault tolerance.

MySQL Cluster, like the Community Edition, is freely available for download and is based on the General Public License (GPL). The license permits you to access and modify the source code and distribute the updated code as part of your tool.

If using either of these editions, however, you must adhere to the terms of the GPL. For example, if you embed the Community Edition in your application, you must make all of the application's source code available under the GPL. Before distributing a version that uses the Community Edition or MySQL Cluster, be sure you fully understand the GPL terms.

Commercial vs. open source MySQL

When you can't make an open source edition work, but still want to implement MySQL, you can select one of Oracle's three commercial products: MySQL Standard Edition, MySQL Enterprise Edition or MySQL Cluster Carrier Grade Edition (CGE).

The Standard Edition offers many of the basics you get with the MySQL Community Edition, including language connectors, Replication capabilities, and the MyISAM and InnoDB database engines. You also get MySQL Workbench Standard Edition, which supports more features than MySQL Workbench Community, such as being able to automate database documentation.

The Enterprise Edition builds on the Standard Edition with features specific to the enterprise. For example, you get router services, partitioning capabilities and the NDB storage engine all standard in the Community Edition, but not in the Standard Edition. Plus, Oracle makes the MySQL Workbench Enterprise Edition tool available in the Enterprise Edition. This edition of the tool offers more features than either MySQL Workbench Community or MySQL Workbench Standard Edition.

The Enterprise Edition also provides a number of advanced components not available in the Community Edition or Standard Edition. For example, it includes tools to monitor MySQL servers, back up data and implement enterprise security, as well as tools related to scalability and high availability.

MySQL Editions --Comparison Chart

Cluster CGE expands on the Enterprise Edition by providing support for greater data set sizes. It also includes MySQL Cluster Manager, which automates management tasks such as performing upgrades, backups, reconfigurations, database tuning and online scaling. Plus, this edition supports active geographical replication, which makes it possible to distribute clusters geographically for scalability and disaster recovery.

All three commercial products, when licensed with an annual subscription, also offer Oracle Premier Support at no extra cost. Premier Support provides users with access to product updates, support resources and, of course, technical assistance, which you don't get with the Community Edition.

Along with the three commercial editions, Oracle also offers MySQL Cloud Service, which is built on MySQL Enterprise Edition and, according to Oracle, provides all the benefits of that edition. You also get self-service provisioning and integration with Oracle platform as a service and infrastructure as a service.

Embedded MySQL database options

Oracle also offers its three commercial MySQL editions to independent software vendors (ISVs), value-added resellers (VARs) and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for embedding MySQL databases into their software. The embedded product offerings are similar to the regular commercial offerings, except that Premier Support is not included. If you want Premier Support, you must pay extra.

In addition to the three commercial editions, the embedded program also includes a fourth edition: MySQL Classic Edition. The Classic Edition is available only to ISVs, VARs and OEMs that license MySQL as an embedded database. This edition is similar to the Standard Edition, except that it does not support the InnoDB storage engine, nor does Oracle provide MySQL Workbench for this edition.

Oracle also doesn't publish the price of embedded licenses, unlike its regular commercial products and cloud service. For example, Oracle clearly lists the annual subscription rates for the Standard Edition, which run from $2,000 for a server with up to four sockets to $4,000 for a server with five or more sockets. However, to get the price of the embedded license for the Standard Edition, you must contact MySQL Embedded Sales directly.

Choosing between MySQL editions

Clearly, there is more to MySQL than only the free, open source editions (Community and Cluster). You can also choose from the three commercial editions (Standard, Enterprise and Cluster CGE), as well as the Classic Edition if you're embedding MySQL. Plus, you have the MySQL Cloud Service as another option.

If you plan to distribute your tool under the terms of the GPL, you should at least consider one of the open source editions, unless you require the extra features that come with the Enterprise Edition or MySQL Cloud Service. The open source editions have been widely implemented and are supported by a large user community. That said, be sure you fully understand how the GPL works and how the Oracle MySQL databases differ from one another before making any final decisions on open source vs. commercial MySQL.

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