What’s MariaDB?

MariaDB is an open source fork of the MySQL database system. It’s designed to be a ‘drop-in’ replacement for MySQL, and is being developed by Michael “Monty” Wideniusby – the original lead author of MySQL. The first release was in January 2009, and it’s grown in popularity as an alternative database system to MySQL since then.

But, why would you want an alternative to MySQL?

While MariaDB has been shown to provide significant performance advantages over MySQL, one of the main reasons doesn’t involve the technical aspects of either solution at all. Both MySQL and MariaDB are currently available free under GPL, but since Sun’s acquisition by Oracle, there was been concern in the open source community about the future status of the licensing and costing of MySQL under this new ownership.

The MariaDB project was started largely as a response to this, forked from MySQL 5.1, to ensure there remains a free and open database system available, that retains compatibility with the Oracle released versions of MySQL.

There have been some high profile users switching to MariaDB, which have helped to raise it’s profile – Wikipedia and Mozilla, and future versions of Red Hat Fedora (version 19) and openSUSE (version 12.3) will be switching to it as their default database.

It will be a while before Enterprise platforms offer MariaDB as a default options (e.g. Red Hat and CentOS), as their main concern is stability and continuity of service. And while it’s officially supported by phpMyAdmin and WordPress, it’s not officially supported by any control panel systems yet (e.g. cPanel, Plesk, etc), so it’s currently best deployed on a vanilla Linux installation, without any third-party control panel systems.

The future of MySQL, and it’s free status, remains to be seen. But by providing a compatible alternative, the original developers of MySQL have assured a future where a free and familiar database system is available.

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