4 keys to understanding MySQL

Because MySQL enjoys the most widespread use in many industries, business users from new webmasters to experienced managers should strive to understand its main characteristics. Deciding whether to use this technology, and communicating about it effectively, starts with a review of MySQL’s basic availability, structure, philosophy, and usability.

  • MySQL is widely compatible
    Though often associated with internet applications or web services, MySQL was designed to be extensively compatible with other technologies and architectures. The RDBMS runs on all major computing platforms, including Unix-based operating systems, such as the myriad Linux distributions or Mac OS, and Windows.
    Established Oracle and third-party migration tools further allow MySQL to move data to and from a vast set of general storage systems, whether these are designed to be on-premises or cloud-based. MySQL can be deployed in virtualized environments, distributed or centralized, and even exists as portable standalone libraries for learning purposes, testing, or small applications.
    MySQL’s wide compatibility with all these other systems and software makes it a particularly practical choice of RDBMS in most situations.

  • MySQL databases are relational
    The primary factor differentiating relational databases from other digital storage lies in how data is organized at a high level. Databases like MySQL contain records in multiple, separate, and highly codified tables, as opposed to a single all-encompassing repository, or collections of semi- or unstructured documents.
    This allows RDBMSs to better optimize actions like data retrieval, updating information, or more complex actions like aggregations. A logical model is defined over all of the contents of the database, describing for example the values allowed in individual columns, characteristics of tables and views, or how indices from two tables are related.
    Relational models have remained popular for several reasons. They empower users with intuitive, declarative programming languages

  • MySQL is open-source
    Any individual or enterprise may freely use, modify, publish, and expand on Oracle’s open-source MySQL code base. The software is released under the GNU General Public License (GPL).
    For MySQL code needing to be integrated or included in a commercial application (or if open-source software is not a priority), enterprises can purchase a commercially licensed version from Oracle.
    Again, these options provide organizations with additional flexibility if deciding to work with MySQL. The public and community-based nature of open-source releases enriches MySQL’s documentation and online support culture, while also ensuring that sustained or newly-developed capabilities never stray too far from current user needs.

  • MySQL is easy to use
    Though MySQL’s relational nature and the ensuing rigid storage structures might seem restrictive, the tabular paradigm is perhaps the most intuitive, and ultimately allows for greater usability.
    In fact, MySQL makes many concessions to supporting the widest possible variety of data structures, from the standard but rich logical, numeric, alphanumeric, date, and time types, to more advanced JSON or geospatial data. Beyond mere data types and an expansive built-in feature set, the MySQL ecosystem also includes a variety of tools, easing everything from server management to reporting and data analysis.