PostgreSQL vs MySQL – The ultimate comparision

PostgreSQL vs MySQL – The ultimate comparision

The world of relational databases has witnessed the rise of many giants, but few have stood as tall and prominent as PostgreSQL and MySQL. Selecting the right database for a project often shapes its architecture, performance, and scalability. Let’s delve into the particulars of both databases to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and best-fit scenarios.

I. Introduction

In the vast landscape of RDBMS (Relational Database Management Systems), PostgreSQL and MySQL emerge as top contenders. PostgreSQL, often referred to as “Postgres,” is an open-source object-relational database system with a strong focus on extensibility and standards-compliance. On the other hand, MySQL, owned by Oracle Corporation, has established itself as a go-to choice for web-based applications owing to its reliability and ease of use. The decision to choose one over the other often boils down to the specific needs of a project.

II. Historical Background

Origins and Development

PostgreSQL traces its lineage back to the Ingres project at the University of California, Berkeley. Developed in the 1980s, Postgres aimed to build upon the ideas from Ingres while introducing support for post-relational data models. MySQL, in contrast, started its journey in 1995, developed by a Swedish company, MySQL AB, founded by David Axmark, Allan Larsson, and Michael “Monty” Widenius.

Evolution Over the Years

Over the years, both databases have undergone significant transformations. PostgreSQL has evolved, emphasizing its object-relational nature, extensibility, and compliance with SQL standards. Features like table inheritance and JSON support showcase its adaptive nature. MySQL, post its acquisition by Sun Microsystems and later by Oracle, has focused on enhancing user experience, performance, and integrating seamlessly with other Oracle products.

III. Basic Characteristics

Data Types

PostgreSQL boasts a vast array of built-in data types including arrays, hstore, JSON/JSONB, and even geometric shapes. It also permits the creation of custom data types. MySQL offers a variety of data types too, like ENUM and SET, but its focus remains on more traditional data types.

Default Storage Engines

MySQL’s default storage engine is InnoDB, which provides ACID compliance, foreign key references, and row-level locking. PostgreSQL, rather than having storage engines in the MySQL sense, integrates its storage system, emphasizing concurrency, and multi-version control.


PostgreSQL uses the PostgreSQL License, a liberal open-source license, similar to the MIT License. MySQL, however, is governed by the GNU General Public License, which requires any changes to the source code to be open-sourced, if the software is distributed.

IV. Performance


Performance varies based on workload and configuration. Generally, for read-heavy operations, MySQL tends to be faster, while PostgreSQL shows strength in complex queries and write-heavy tasks. However, it’s always recommended to conduct benchmarks tailored to specific use-cases.


PostgreSQL provides advanced indexing techniques like partial, bitmap, and expression indexes. MySQL also offers a wide range of index types, with the most common being B-tree and hash indexes.

Query Optimization

PostgreSQL is known for its robust query planner and optimizer, making it efficient for complex queries. MySQL, while having a competent optimizer, sometimes requires hints or manual tweaks for best performance.

Concurrency Control

PostgreSQL employs Multi-Version Concurrency Control (MVCC) to allow concurrent reads and writes without locking. MySQL’s InnoDB storage engine uses row-level locking combined with its version of MVCC.

V. Scalability and Flexibility


Both databases support table partitioning. PostgreSQL offers table inheritance and declarative partitioning, making data segmentation efficient. MySQL supports range, list, and hash partitioning.


PostgreSQL and MySQL offer replication features to enhance data availability and load distribution. While PostgreSQL has built-in replication mechanisms like logical and streaming replication, MySQL’s primary replication is binary log-based.


Neither PostgreSQL nor MySQL natively support auto-sharding. However, third-party solutions and forks like Citus for PostgreSQL and Vitess for MySQL exist to offer sharding capabilities.

Backup and Restore

Both systems provide reliable backup and restore functionalities. PostgreSQL offers tools like pg_dump and pg_restore, while MySQL has mysqldump and mysqlimport.

VI. SQL and Extensions

SQL Standard Conformance

Both databases are highly compliant with SQL standards. PostgreSQL often prides itself on its closer adherence to SQL standards, whereas MySQL might occasionally prioritize user convenience.

Proprietary Extensions

PostgreSQL offers PL/pgSQL, its native procedural language, and also supports other languages like Python and Perl for stored procedures. MySQL, on the other hand, uses its stored procedure language, which closely resembles SQL and integrates seamlessly into its ecosystem.

JSON and NoSQL Features

PostgreSQL provides comprehensive JSON and JSONB support. JSONB is a binary format that allows for faster searches compared to traditional JSON. This makes PostgreSQL a viable option for applications requiring NoSQL-like operations. PostgreSQL functions like json_extract_path and json_array_elements make handling JSON data more seamless.

MySQL also supports JSON, offering various functions to create, read, update, and search JSON data. However, unlike PostgreSQL, MySQL does not have a binary JSON type. This might make some operations slower in comparison. Nonetheless, the JSON support is adequate for most applications.

Both databases attempt to merge the benefits of relational and NoSQL databases, providing flexibility for developers.

VII. Security


PostgreSQL provides several authentication methods, including password, GSSAPI, SSPI, LDAP, and certificate-based authentication. Additionally, PostgreSQL supports Peer and Ident-based authentication.

MySQL primarily uses a native password authentication, but it also supports authentication plugins, including Windows-native authentication and LDAP.


Both PostgreSQL and MySQL provide data-at-rest encryption. PostgreSQL’s Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) and MySQL’s InnoDB tablespace encryption are tools to ensure your data is encrypted when stored.

In terms of data-in-transit encryption, both support SSL connections to ensure data is encrypted during transfer.

Role-based Access Control

PostgreSQL has a robust role-based access control system. Users and groups of users are both treated as roles. Privileges can be granted to roles, making it flexible and powerful.

MySQL also supports role-based access, allowing for the creation of roles with specific privileges and then assigning them to one or more user accounts.

Audit and Logging

Both PostgreSQL and MySQL have extensive logging capabilities. PostgreSQL’s pgAudit provides detailed session and object audit logging, whereas MySQL Enterprise Audit captures login and query activities for compliance.

VIII. Ecosystem and Extensibility

Supported Languages and APIs

Both databases support a range of programming languages like Java, C++, Python, PHP, and more. They both have ODBC, JDBC, and .NET APIs available.

Extensions and Plugins

PostgreSQL is known for its extensibility, with numerous built-in extensions like hstore and PostGIS. Developers can also write custom extensions.

MySQL supports plugins, and there’s a myriad of third-party plugins available to cater to various needs.

Third-party Integration

Both PostgreSQL and MySQL integrate well with popular third-party tools and platforms, including cloud platforms, BI tools, and data visualization tools.

Community Support

Both databases boast strong community support. PostgreSQL is often praised for its active and welcoming community. MySQL, being older, has a vast user base and numerous forums and tutorials online.

IX. High Availability and Fault Tolerance

Failover Strategies

Both databases support automatic failover, replication, and clustering for high availability. PostgreSQL relies on tools like RepMgr or Patroni, while MySQL uses Group Replication.


PostgreSQL uses streaming replication, and MySQL uses a built-in master-slave replication. Both methods ensure data redundancy and availability.

Disaster Recovery

Both databases have backup and restore capabilities. Point-in-time recovery is supported, allowing databases to recover data up to a specific transaction.

X. Deployment and Management

Installation and Setup

Both databases provide straightforward installation procedures. Cloud providers also offer managed solutions like Amazon RDS for easier setup and management.

GUI Tools

For PostgreSQL, pgAdmin is the most popular open-source management tool. MySQL Workbench serves a similar purpose for MySQL, offering a visual interface for database design and administration.

Maintenance Operations

PostgreSQL requires routine vacuuming to reclaim storage and maintain performance. MySQL’s InnoDB storage engine has automatic maintenance, but administrators may need to optimize tables manually occasionally.

XI. Special Features and Capabilities

PostgreSQL Special Features

  • Table inheritance
  • Foreign data wrappers
  • Writeable CTEs

MySQL Special Features

  • Memory storage engine
  • Replication types like row-based, statement-based, and mixed.

XII. Use Cases and Case Studies

Company Examples

PostgreSQL is favored by companies like Apple, Cisco, and Fujitsu. MySQL’s popularity can be seen with companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.


PostgreSQL often shines in complex data analysis and systems requiring custom extensions. MySQL is frequently chosen for web applications and platforms requiring high read operations.

XIII. Pricing and Total Cost of Ownership

Licensing Costs

PostgreSQL is open-source and free, though commercial versions like EnterpriseDB are available. MySQL, owned by Oracle, offers both free and commercial editions.

Support and Maintenance

While both databases offer free community support, commercial support is available with different pricing structures, depending on the provider.

Training and Resources

Both databases have extensive documentation, online tutorials, and courses. Official resources like the PostgreSQL Documentation and MySQL Documentation are invaluable.

XIV. Future Roadmap and Development

Upcoming Features

Both databases have active development. Checking their respective official websites and release notes provides insight into upcoming features.

Trends in Adoption

Both databases continue to gain popularity, especially with the rising trend of adopting open-source solutions.


Choosing between PostgreSQL and MySQL depends on specific project needs, existing infrastructure, and personal or team preferences. Both are robust, reliable, and have vast ecosystems. It’s crucial to assess your project requirements and test both databases in a real-world scenario before finalizing a decision.

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