What Is MySQL?

Chapter 2 - What is MySQL?
byGareth Downes-Powellet al.
Wrox Press 2003

MySQL is an SQL Database Server. Let's analyze each of these terms to help us define what exactly MySQL is.


A server is a piece of software that runs in the background on a computer. It is built to keep running and executing specific tasks. All the way through this book, you will deal with two different servers: HTTP servers and MySQL servers.


A database is a structured collection of data. It may be anything from the task list you use everyday, to information about the global population. A database is structured in a way that allows you to retrieve information easily and quickly depending on the kind of data it stores. You would not store a list of recipes the same way a big company will store its customer information. But the point these two databases have in common is that the information is easy to find and use.

MySQL is a relational database management system. An RDBMS defines relations between data structures. A relation between two data structures is a way to construct new virtual structures in a way that will enforce some constraints or conditions. This will help the user to construct a robust application. Most of the operations we will describe in this book are relational operations.


SQL stands for "Structured Query Language". The SQL language, which is commonly used on database software, will let you talk in a human-friendly way to the server to retrieve information from your database and manipulate the data in it. You may find many other flavors of SQL database server, for example Oracle, IBM DB2, Microsoft SQL Server, but they will all speak the same basic language: SQL.

Advantages of MySQL

MySQL has some advantages and disadvantages when compared to other databases. Let's take a look at some of them:

  • MySQL is fast, very reliable, and easy to use. Other SQL servers are often fast and very reliable, but not very easy to use or configure. Some others are very easy to use, but neither fast nor reliable. MySQL has all these three qualities. It is also lightweight. The binary package of MySQL for Windows is only 12 MB. For comparison, Microsoft SQL Server weighs in at around 300 MB.

  • MySQL is the server of choice when used with the PHP language. PHP provides a very strong support for MySQL, and due to its huge user base has been widely and thoroughly tested. Many web-hosting companies provide MySQL and PHP as a standard package.

  • MySQL is open source. This means that you can have the sourcecode of MySQL and you are free to change it according to your needs. Hopefully, you won't need to, but the power of having MySQL open source is that if you did need to, it is very helpful to have the sourcecode to fit the server to your specific needs.

  • There is a very large user base for MySQL and there are a lot of online communities focused on development and help. This means that if you have problems, there are plenty of people to ask for advice. This community has also created a number of third-party tools to help you get the job done. You will find some links to these tools at the end of this chapter.

  • The biggest advantage of MySQL is that it is free. There are some cases where MySQL is not free, but for our goal, which is web application development, it is. For a free program, MySQL has a lot of advanced features like replication and a transactional system. It also runs on many platforms; you can run MySQL on Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, and many others.

Disadvantages of MySQL

MySQL is not perfect. Its main disadvantage is that it lacks some of the more advanced features found on commercial database systems, which are also found on some of the other free database systems, like PostgreSQL. However, we won't need those features for the type of application that we're considering in this book.

Where To Get MySQL

MySQL can be obtained from many web sites and FTP servers. However, the official homepage for MySQL is http://www.mysql.com. Here you will be able to choose your operating system, choose the closest mirror to you, and choose between an HTTP or FTP transfer when you download.

On MySQL.com you will find a number of files available for download:

  • MySQL is the most commonly used version of MySQL. It has no transaction system. All others features are included.

  • MySQL Max is almost the same as the MySQL package, except that this one supports transactions.

  • MySQL 4.0 is a development version of MySQL. It is not intended for a production environment, but is at your disposal for testing the new features.

  • MySQL GUI and MyCC are graphical clients for administering a MySQL server.

There are many good products available to download for use with MySQL, we will review some of them at the end of the chapter.

Dreamweaver MX PHP Web Development
Dreamweaver Mx: Advanced Php Web Development
ISBN: 1904151191
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2001
Pages: 88

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