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Features - MySQL

Today, Vikram shows us the basics of a database and are introduced to concepts like Database Management Systems and Relational Database Management Systems. We are also given a thorough overview of MySQL and its features. This excerpt comes from chapter one of MySQL: The Complete Reference, by Vikram Vaswani (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, ISBN 0-07-222477-0, 2004).

  1. Introduction to Databases
  2. The Big Picture
  3. Database Management Systems
  4. The Challenge
  5. ...And the Little Database that Could
  6. History and Evolution
  7. Features
  8. More Features
  9. Even More Features
  10. Applications
  11. Summary
By: McGraw-Hill/Osborne
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February 23, 2004

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MySQL has always been designed around three fundamental principles: performance, reliability, and ease of use. Strict adherence to these principles has resulted in an RDBMS that is inexpensive yet feature-rich, standards-compliant yet easily extensible, and fast yet efficient—making MySQL the perfect tool for developers and administrators looking to build, maintain, and deploy complex software applications.

Following are discussions of MySQL’s most compelling features.


In an RDBMS, speed—the time it takes to execute a query and return the results to the caller—is everything. Even MySQL’s most ardent critics will admit that MySQL is zippy, sometimes orders of magnitude faster than its competition. Benchmarks available on the MySQL web site show that MySQL outperforms almost every other database currently available, including commercial counterparts like Microsoft SQL Server 2000 and IBM DB2. See “The Need For Speed” sidebar in this chapter for more on how MySQL achieves this high level of performance.

NOTE You can read the full results of the benchmark tests at http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,3959,293,00.asp.

The Need for Speed

Part of the reason for MySQL’s blazing performance is its fully multi-threaded architecture, which allows multiple concurrent accesses to the database. This multi-threaded architecture is the core of the MySQL engine, allowing multiple clients to read the same database simultaneously and providing a substantial performance gain. The MySQL code tree is also structured in a modular, multi-layered manner, with minimum redundancies and special optimizers for such complex tasks as joins and indexing.

MySQL’s designers also initially left out many of the features that cause performance degradation on competing systems, including transactions, referential integrity, and stored procedures. (These features typically add complexity to the server and result in a performance hit.) User requests for these features, however, have resulted in a creative compromise: versions of MySQL later than 3.23.34a do include support for transactions but allow users to make the choice of whether to enable them (and lose some measure of performance) or exclude them (and continue to operate at peak efficiency). This choice may even be made on a table-by-table basis, making it possible to perform fine-grained optimization for maximum performance.

Finally, MySQL 4.0 also includes a unique new feature, a query cache, which can substantially improve performance by caching the results of common queries and returning this cached data to the caller without having to reexecute the query each time. (This is different from competing systems, such as Oracle, in that those systems merely cache the execution plan, not the results. However, they still need to execute the query, including all joins, and re-retrieve the query results on every run.) MySQL benchmarks claim that this feature improves performance by more than 200 percent, with no special programming required on the part of the user.

Remember: this is chapter one of MySQL: The Complete Reference, by Vikram Vaswani (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, ISBN 0-07-222477-0, 2004). Vikram is the founder of Melonfire, and has had numerous articles featured on Dev Shed.
Buy this book now.

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