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DBMS Comparisons: MySQL 5.0 vs.
Microsoft SQL Server 2005


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Database engines are a crucial fixture for businesses today. There is no
shortage of both commercial and open source database engines to choose from.
Microsoft SQL Server 2005 is Microsoft’s next-generation data management
solution that claims to deliver secure and scalable applications while making
them easy to deploy and manage. MySQL has long been the DBMS of choice in the
open source community. The recent release of MySQL 5.0 has seen major changes in
both features and performance to bring the database system into enterprise-level

This paper aims to give the low-down on features most desirable to database
developers and compare both database management systems in light of these

Topics in this Paper:


The Open Source vs. Commercial Database Paradigm







most obvious difference between the two products is in philosophy. SQL server is
essentially a proprietary storage engine. Once you purchase the product, you are
only limited to the Sybase-derived engine. By contrast, MySQL is an open storage
engine offering multiple choices: InnoDb, BerkleyDB, MyISAM and Heap amongst
other supported engines.

second marked difference between the two database systems is in the technical
features and specifications implemented. SQL Server is a fully-fledged database
system developed specifically for large enterprise databases. All advanced
features of a relational database are fully implemented. MySQL, on the other
hand, has only come out of edge in the “relational” front, with recent support
for foreign keys.

latest release of MySQL, the 5.X offering, has rounded up on features that
lagged commercial equivalents such as SQL Server. There is now full support for
cursors, complete views and stored procedures according to the SQL 2003 syntax.
Other features that were a major differentiator between MySQL and SQL Server are
now part of the 5.X release. Triggers, stored procedures and foreign keys are
fully implemented.

is MySQL 5.0 really up to industry-level database standards? The features
outlined above have only been implemented in the latest release and are yet to
fully stabilise. They are yet to be rationalised across the different databases
in the MySQL suite of products – InnoDB, MyISAM, MaxDB and the new data
clusters. MySQL is still carrying four distinct database architectures and it
proves very challenging to fully implement replication, parallel processing,
journaling and recovery across different databases. 

Server continues to have the edge, as the advanced features list has long
stabilised. The latest release of SQL Server 2005 provides the necessary
technological underpinnings to keep it in the higher-end of database systems.
There is now a far greater integration with Microsoft’s .NET Framework, a
development environment that greatly facilitates coding without the need to
learn advanced features of SQL. It is also tightly integrated with Visual Studio
.NET. This will provide better support for XML, querying multi-dimensional data
in the SQL server and a set of advanced reporting controls. Finally, XML is now
a native data type within XML. This enables a DBA to modify an XML document
within the DBMS environment, query the document and validate it against an XML

The Open Source versus Commercial License Paradigm

Another difference between the two database engines is licensing costs. Both
databases have a two-tiered licensing scheme, but have little else in common.

first licensing scheme is essentially free. SQL Server provides a free license
for “development use only”. What this means is that the database system cannot
be deployed in a commercial environment. MySQL, on the other hand, is free to
use under any environment, provided one abides by GPL license rules.

This brings us to the second-tier of licensing. For use in a commercial
environment, one would need to purchase the SQL Standard Edition license. It
costs a whopping $1,400, a substantial investment for a small business. However,
it is a fully-fledged relational database system complete with all features
needed to develop and deploy enterprise databases. This goes a long way towards
justifying the hefty price tag.

MySQL also provides licensing schemes to circumvent some of the restrictions of
the GPL license. This is especially important for companies that deal with
proprietary information. These commercial licenses are piloted by MySQL AB, the
company behind the development of MySQL, and cost a very affordable $400.
Non-profit organisations and educational establishments are exempt from this


terms of performance, MySQL fairs better than SQL on a variety of platforms
thanks to the default table format of its MyISAM database. They are compact on
disk and use less memory and CPU cycles. While the database system performs well
on Windows, it is better suited for UNIX and UNIX-like systems. The performance
can further be tuned on 64-bit processors (such as SPARC stations) because of
the internal use of 64 integers in the database. The latest release of MySQL 5.0
has seen further improvements in engine performance, through compact mode
support. Engines such as InnoDB and NDB Cluster uses 20% less space than it
required in previous versions. 

additional non-default MySQL features, there is an increased demand on resource
usage and this has obviously an effect on performance. For instance, alternative
table formats on MyISAM or transactions on Berkeley DB will require additional
memory usage. These features will, however, offer additional functionality.

SQL Server, the full-set of powerful features that surpasses that of most
competitors has a negative effect on performance. It’s true that many of these
features are geared towards performance tuning, but
overall the system is more complex, places additional requirements on memory and
disk storage. This results in a poorer performance compared with MySQL. The
performance will benefit greatly with RAID and a dedicated hard drive for the
data store.


Both Database systems are scalable and support replication to a different degree
of complexity.

Replication on MYSQL is easy because all SQL statements that change data are
kept in a binary log. Because of the binary nature of the records, data can be
replicated easily and quickly to one or more slave machines. This also means
that data remains intact and replication takes place even when the server goes
down. On the scalability front, MYSQL scales easily into large, query-heavy

Unlike MySQL one-way replication, SQL Server offers replication in a number of
models: snapshot, transactional and merge. A snapshot application is a simple
snapshot of the entire replicated database. It is a time consuming process but
can be useful for databases that rarely change or as a way to establish a
baseline for replication between systems. A transactional replication is a more
flexible solution for databases that regularly change. The database is monitored
for any changes by a replication agent monitor. When changes do take place, they
are transmitted to the subscribers. Finally, merge replication allows
simultaneous changes to the database by both the publisher and subscribers.
Changes can be made without an active network connection, and any conflicting
changes are resolved through a predefined conflict resolution algorithm.

However, increased replication support comes at the expense of a greater degree
of complexity. This is due to SQL’s complex transaction and record locking
mechanism, cursor manipulation and synchronisation of dynamic data replication.
If you’re skilled in these elaborate mechanisms, then replication and migration
shouldn’t be an issue.


Security remains a major concern for most businesses and a compelling
consideration in choosing a database system.

Both DBMS support security at the base level. MySQL is limited to supporting
basic security at the table level, via the SQL command. By contrast, SQL server
fully supports security at the column level.

Another important consideration is security certificates – the verification of
the database security by a third party. SQL Server has been certified as C-2
compliant, which means the database system has adequate security for government
applications. MySQL has no such certification.

Moving on to more advanced features of protecting data on the database, the SQL
Server 2005 have implemented more advanced authentication and authorisation
features. The database supports native encryption capabilities, obfuscating the
DBA from writing user-defined functions using column encryption APIs. The
encryption mechanism is based on a combination of third-party certificates,
symmetric keys and asymmetric keys. You can specify asymmetric keys for
increased security or symmetric keys for better performance. A DBA has also the
choice of specifying his own user-defined security functions through the
encryption facility implemented in the .NET Framework.


Server is more failsafe and less prone to data corruption. SQL has a robust
checkpoint mechanism whereby the data passes from the keyboard to the hard drive
before showing in the monitor. Even if the databases shut down unexpectedly
without warning, the data can be recovered.

features in the SQL 2005 release provide enhanced mechanisms to manage data
protection and rapid restoration. Mirrored backups allow you to create multiple
copies of the backup file. These backups have identical content, so you can
always mix the files in case one of the sets becomes corrupt. 

Copy only backups enable you to make a copy of the database without interrupting
the sequence of other backup files. This copy can be used to restore your
database, instead of going through the full backup and translation log. You can
also save time by using partial backups for all filegroups, except those marked
as read-only. 

MySQL falls short in recovery with its default MyISAM mechanism. The UPS assumes
uninterrupted data, and in the event of an unexpected shutdown your data can be
lost and the data store corrupted.

Concluding Thoughts

From a database developer’s perspective, choosing between a MySQL and SQL Server
DBMS is a matter of the scale of the database application. For enterprise-level
applications, SQL Server wins hands down. It has advanced set of SQL features,
superior replication, clustering, security and management tools.

lower-tier database applications, MySQL can offer the core functionality you
require at a very low cost. Some might argue that the latest offering from MySQL
has made the open source database system enterprise “worthy”, but this remains
to be seen. The advanced functionalities implemented are yet to stabilise and be
rationalised across the database engine. What’s more, Microsoft has upped the
ante with even more advanced features of its own. It’s up to MySQL to rise up to
the challenge, but at this point in time MySQL is nowhere near the competitive
enterprise field of the more established SQL Server 2005.

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This document is for informational purposes only. Tometa Software, Inc. MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS DOCUMENT.

© 2006 Tometa Software, Inc. All rights reserved.

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