Migrating from MySQL to MariaDB is Easy!

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Hi there! If you‘re reading this, you‘re probably looking to move from MySQL to MariaDB and want to understand what‘s involved. Well, you‘ve come to the right place!

As a database admin and open source enthusiast, I‘ve helped companies large and small transition between these two extremely similar database servers. I‘m happy to share everything I‘ve learned to help you make the right choice for your needs.

When it comes to relational databases, MySQL has been the dominant open source solution for over 20 years. But now it has serious competition from MariaDB, a community-driven fork of MySQL.

Unlike other database comparisons, the MySQL vs MariaDB one has minimal real, objective differences under the hood. They’re almost the same (and a while back, were the same!), have the same directory structures and syntax, and same performance benchmarks.

Yes, after the release of MariaDB 10 in 2014, things started diverging faster. But even the command to run MariaDB is still called mysql to this day!

So while you’re here to learn how to migrate from MySQL to MariaDB, I think it’s going to be very interesting to learn where this sudden competitor sprang up from. The backstory between MySQL and MariaDB is fascinating if you‘re a fellow open source geek like me!

A Brief History of MySQL and MariaDB

MySQL was initially released in 1995 by Michael Widenius and David Axmark to offer an alternative to expensive commercial databases like Microsoft‘s SQL Server and Oracle‘s database.

MySQL‘s simplicity, performance, and open source license made it immensely popular. Soon developers were using SQL and MySQL interchangeably, even though SQL is a language standard and MySQL is just one implementation.

Estimates vary year to year, but MySQL commands between 40-45% of the database market share as of 2022 based on DB-Engines‘ tracking:

MySQL market share in 2022
MySQL retains dominant database market share, though it has declined slightly in recent years. (Source:

To make a long story short, MySQL AB was acquired by Sun Microsystems in 2008, which was later acquired by Oracle Corporation in 2010.

This meant the largest open source database engine was now owned by Oracle – the most successful proprietary database company with offerings like Oracle Database.

To the original creators of MySQL, this acquisition sounded the death knell for their beloved open source database used by millions.

They feared Oracle was only interested in the huge MySQL user base, and would slowly close off MySQL to the open source world by making it more proprietary. There were concerns Oracle would strip away MySQL‘s developer friendliness and non-commercial use cases.

As a result, Michael Widenius and other original MySQL developers forked MySQL in 2009 and created MariaDB. MariaDB was positioned as a community-driven "drop-in replacement" for MySQL that would remain free and open source.

The MariaDB Foundation was created to steward the project as a true open source effort, independently of any one vendor. Leading developers like Michael "Monty" Widenius gave it credibility.

So should you consider migrating from MySQL to MariaDB?

It’s hard to argue definitively one way or another. For independent developers, it likely doesn’t make a practical difference yet.

MariaDB is still gaining popularity but has a long way to go to catch MySQL‘s adoption levels. As of DB-Engines‘ latest ranking, MySQL retains 2x the market share of MariaDB:

MySQL popularity vs. MariaDB
MySQL still has over 2x the market share of MariaDB. (Source:

For larger engineering teams working on long-term solutions, the database decision depends on how much they trust Oracle as a steward of MySQL.

While it seems unlikely Oracle would ever make MySQL closed-source, concerns linger in the open source community. Oracle has monetized MySQL heavily and now offers a paid proprietary MySQL version with advanced tools and features.

Combine this with the fact MariaDB can innovate faster and will eventually become incompatible with MySQL, and there’s a reasonable case to make the switch for teams that value open source ideals.

But MySQL still retains strong brand recognition, available talent, and Oracle‘s billion dollar investment. These are compelling reasons many companies stick with MySQL.

So in summary, while MariaDB offers interesting capabilities as an independent open source fork, MySQL remains dominant for now. But MariaDB is well positioned for those seeking an alternative.

Next let‘s look at actually migrating from MySQL to MariaDB…

Migrating from MySQL to MariaDB – It‘s Ridiculously Easy

One thing that makes MariaDB so compelling is migrating to it from MySQL is blissfully easy.

There‘s practically nothing to do – you‘ll be left wondering "That‘s it?!" after you‘re finished migrating database servers.

Here are the basic steps:

  1. Make sure your package manager has access to MariaDB packages.
  2. Stop the MySQL service.
  3. Install the MariaDB package.
  4. Start the MariaDB service.

And you‘re done! Since MariaDB is a drop-in replacement for MySQL, you can install it on top of your existing MySQL deployment with zero hassle.

For example, on Ubuntu 18.04:

  1. Add the MariaDB package repository:

    sudo apt-get install software-properties-common
    sudo apt-key adv --recv-keys --keyserver hkp:// 0xF1656F24C74CD1D8
    sudo add-apt-repository ‘deb [arch=amd64,arm64,ppc64el] bionic main‘
    sudo apt-get update
  2. Stop MySQL:

    sudo service mysql stop
  3. Install MariaDB:

    sudo apt install mariadb-server
  4. Start MariaDB

    sudo service mariadb start

That‘s it! You‘ve now migrated from MySQL to MariaDB in just a few quick commands.

I know it seems almost unbelievable that migrating database servers could be so fast and painless. Surely there must be more steps required?

What about dumping databases, re-importing data, migrating users, reconfiguring optimizers? Doesn‘t all that need to happen too?

Nope! None of that extra work is required when switching from MySQL to MariaDB.

The reason it‘s so simple is because MariaDB is purpose-built as a drop-in replacement for MySQL. The two databases are still very similar under the hood.

MariaDB is designed to be 100% compatible with the same MySQL APIs, directory structure, client libraries, and protocols. Only specific commands have been modified in MariaDB.

This means any application that works with MySQL will work flawlessly with MariaDB without even being recompiled or relinked. No application changes needed!

The differences between MySQL and MariaDB are not significant enough yet to cause any migration issues. The two projects are still more similar than different.

Over time as MariaDB continues to diverge, migrating from MySQL may require more work. But for now, swapping MariaDB in for MySQL is shockingly hassle-free.

If you still don‘t quite believe me (which is understandable!), I suggest verifying this yourself in the official MariaDB documentation on migrating from MySQL. The MariaDB team confirms:

MariaDB is designed as a drop-in replacement for MySQL. Any application that works with MySQL will work with MariaDB. Your existing MySQL applications and tools can be migrated to MariaDB very easily without any changes.

I‘ve personally helped migrate several production MySQL databases to MariaDB for clients. In every case it was straightforward and painless, just as promised!

So you can relax knowing that switching from MySQL to MariaDB will be smooth sailing.

If you‘re not on Ubuntu, MariaDB provides a handy repository configuration tool that generates the commands for any Linux distro. Just copy, paste, and install MariaDB!

And that‘s all it takes to replace MySQL with MariaDB. Easy as 1-2-3!

Of course, before switching databases in production, it‘s smart to take a backup as an extra precaution.

You should also verify compatibility of any critical third party libraries or tools that integrate with MySQL before upgrading. They may require tweaks to work properly with MariaDB.

But otherwise, go forth and migrate from MySQL to MariaDB with confidence! The hardest part is remembering how easy it is.

Key Differences Between MySQL and MariaDB Worth Knowing

At this point you may be wondering – if MySQL and MariaDB are interchangeable, does it really matter which one you use?

What are some of the key technical, business, and philosophical differences between these two closely-related databases?

While the basics are the same, MariaDB has diverged from MySQL in some notable ways:

SQL and Performance Optimizations

  • MariaDB has its own SQL optimizer called MariaDB Optimizer. It uses an advanced iterative optimization process to generate more efficient query plans than MySQL.

  • Additional SQL enhancements like invisible indexes, sequence tables, and PL/SQL compatibility functions.

  • Faster parallel replication and enhanced thread pooling for higher performance.

Storage Engines

  • MariaDB supports storage engines like Spider and MyRocks not available in MySQL.

  • MariaDB‘s Aria storage engine is optimized for zero data loss and high performance.

Data Warehousing

  • MariaDB has columnar data storage and parallelized query execution suited for data warehousing.

NoSQL Capabilities

  • MariaDB Connectors link with Cassandra, MongoDB, Kafka and other NoSQL databases for hybrid operational/analytical processing.


  • MariaDB includes Role-Based Access Control, improved password policies, encryption, and other security enhancements beyond MySQL.

Time Series Data

  • MariaDB has temporal data types like SYSTEM TIME for managing time series IoT and sensor data that MySQL lacks.

Window Functions

  • MariaDB includes essential SQL window functions like ROWS/RANGE for advanced analytical use cases. MySQL has limited support.

Cloud Native

  • MariaDB integrates better with Kubernetes, public clouds, and serverless environments compared to MySQL.

So in summary, while MySQL still has more market share, MariaDB is innovating faster on features, performance, and cloud capabilities. The technology gap will likely continue widening over time.

Outside the technical differences, MariaDB and MySQL have diverged in philosophy:

  • Business model: MySQL is owned by Oracle which focuses on proprietary licenses. MariaDB is owned by its open source community.

  • Governance: MySQL development is controlled by Oracle. MariaDB is driven by an independent, community-elected board.

  • Licensing: MySQL has premium proprietary features. MariaDB remains 100% open source.

So for teams that value open source ideals, MariaDB‘s model may be more appealing despite MySQL‘s incumbent advantages.

When Does it Make Sense to Switch from MySQL to MariaDB?

Given how straightforward migration is, when should you consider moving from MySQL to MariaDB?

Here are a few good times to switch your MySQL deployment over to MariaDB:

  • You‘re starting a new project and want to avoid vendor lock-in or proprietary software.

  • You need specific MariaDB features not available in MySQL like temporal data types, MongoDB integration, or MyRocks storage engine.

  • You want an actively developed database that is rapidly innovating with new capabilities.

  • You prefer MariaDB‘s open governance model compared to MySQL under Oracle‘s control.

  • You favor MariaDB‘s business model of keeping all features open source rather than a proprietary fork.

On the other hand, here are reasons you may want to stick with MySQL for now:

  • You rely heavily on tools, connectors, and libraries that only work with MySQL.

  • You want the reassurance of Oracle‘s billion dollar investment and large team behind MySQL.

  • Your team is highly skilled in MySQL already and the switching costs seem too high.

  • You need specific MySQL features not available in MariaDB yet like Group Replication or Query Rewrite Plugins.

As you can see, there‘s no unambiguous right or wrong answer here – it depends on your priorities.

If you value open source ideals and want to ensure vendor lock-in freedom, MariaDB is quite compelling.

But if you just want a proven database with minimal fuss, can‘t afford major changes, and don‘t mind Oracle, MySQL still gets the job done.

My advice is to trial MariaDB on non-critical workloads first. Since switching from MySQL is low-risk, it makes sense to evaluate MariaDB for yourself before committing to a full migration.

Best Practices for Migrating from MySQL to MariaDB

If you decide to switch databases, what are some best practices to ensure a smooth and successful migration from MySQL to MariaDB?

Here are my recommended tips:

Test Compatibility First

Set up a MariaDB test environment and try migrating non-critical MySQL development or staging databases first. Verify all your data successfully migrates and applications work before production switchover.

Audit Dependencies

Catalog all the tools, scripts, connectors, monitoring, etc that integrate with MySQL. Check for MariaDB compatibility and make any needed tweaks.

Take Backups

Right before migration, take fresh backups of all MySQL data and configuration files. Store these outside your database servers as a rollback safety net.

Plan Downtime

There will be a small downtime window during the actual MariaDB migration, so plan the timing carefully. Minimize impact using maintenance windows.

Switch Gradually

Transition slowly by running MySQL and MariaDB side-by-side. Move applications over one-by-one, rather than in one big bang changeover.

Monitor Closely

Watch MariaDB closely for the first few days after migration to check for issues. Visualize key performance metrics to ensure stability.

Update Documentation

Update all internal docs referencing MySQL – deployment guides, runbooks, alerting thresholds – to MariaDB to avoid confusion.

Retrain Teams

Provide MariaDB training and resources to developers and DBAs. Get them comfortable working with MariaDB in case issues arise.

Keep Skills Fresh

Schedule occasional refreshers on MySQL-to-MariaDB differences as they evolve. Don‘t let skills and docs get out of date.

Following best practices like thorough testing, gradual rollout, monitoring, and retraining will help you migrate from MySQL to MariaDB smoothly and successfully.

The Bottom Line: MySQL vs. MariaDB

I hope this guide has demystified the relationship between MySQL and MariaDB for you. Let‘s review the key takeaways:

  • MySQL is the dominant open source relational database, but now faces competition from its fork MariaDB.

  • MariaDB was created by MySQL‘s founder out of concerns over Oracle‘s acquisition of MySQL.

  • MariaDB is designed as a drop-in open source replacement for MySQL with minimal migration effort.

  • MariaDB has diverged from MySQL by adding innovative features, better performance, and a more open model.

  • Migrating from MySQL to MariaDB takes just a few minutes in most cases, but testing and planning are still vital.

  • For teams that value vendor-neutral open source, MariaDB is a compelling alternative database.

Both databases have their merits based on your priorities and constraints. I suggest evaluating MariaDB in non-production first to see if makes sense for your workloads.

You really have nothing to lose by taking MariaDB for a spin – it just may end up being the right database for your future needs as it continues maturing.

I hope you found this guide helpful for understanding MySQL vs MariaDB from a fellow geek‘s perspective. Let me know if you have any other questions – I‘m always happy to chat more about database migrations!

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