MySQL vs Cassandra: Everything You Need to Know

MySQL vs Cassandra: Everything You Need to Know

When it comes to choosing a database for your project, two popular options often come to mind: MySQL and Cassandra. Both databases have significant traction in the developer community, but they cater to different use cases.

MySQL has been a go-to choice for a long time when it comes to storing and managing data. It's a relational database, which means it's great at handling data that fits into tables and rows. MySQL is known for being ACID compliant, which is just a fancy way of saying it keeps your data consistent and reliable. If you need to run complex queries with joins and transactions, MySQL is great. That's why a lot of popular web applications, content management systems, and e-commerce platforms use MySQL.

But what if you're dealing with a massive amount of data that needs to be spread across multiple systems? That's where Cassandra comes in. Cassandra is a NoSQL database, specifically a wide-column one. It's designed to handle large volumes of data and can easily scale horizontally. Cassandra is also great at ensuring high availability, so even if one part of your system goes down, your data is still accessible. That's why big organizations (Uber, Facebook, and Netflix) who deal with lots of data and real-time analytics use Cassandra in their tech stack.

In this article, we'll further explore the key differences of MySQL vs Cassandra, looking into their data models, performance, and ideal use cases.

Should You Use MySQL When Building a Web Application?

If you're considering building a data-driven application and evaluating MySQL and Cassandra, it's worth exploring Five as a complementary tool, especially if you prefer using MySQL. Five is a rapid application development environment for creating data-driven software. Each application developed in Five comes with its own MySQL database and an auto-generated admin panel front-end.

One of the key advantages of using Five with MySQL is its visual database builder. Five allows you to create tables, fields, and relationships easily, saving you time and effort in setting up your database schema. Even if you have an existing MySQL database, Five can connect to it, enabling you to focus on building your application's front-end and business logic.

An example application developed in Five with its own MySQL database

Five provides a comprehensive set of tools for implementing business logic, such as events, processes, jobs, and notifications. You can write custom JavaScript or TypeScript functions to extend your application's functionality, giving you the flexibility to tackle even the most complex requirements.

Deploying your MySQL-based application to the cloud is easy with Five. With just a single click, you can deploy your application to a scalable and secure cloud infrastructure. This allows you to focus on building your application rather than worrying about deployment complexities.

To get started read this tutorial on How to Create a Front End for a MySQL Database in 4 Steps

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MySQL vs Cassandra: A Comparative Overview

Structured Data Models: MySQL's Strength

When it comes to storing and managing data, MySQL and Cassandra have their own strengths. MySQL is a tried-and-true choice for dealing with structured data that fits into tables. It uses SQL, which is the go-to language for working with databases. MySQL is great if you need to run complex queries and ensure everything stays consistent. It's perfect for applications that require ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability) compliance, meaning your data will be reliable and accurate.

Flexible Data Models: Cassandra's Strength

Cassandra, on the other hand, is more flexible when it comes to the types of data it can handle. It's great for dealing with unstructured or semi-structured data that doesn't always fit into a rigid schema. Cassandra is built to handle large amounts of data and spread it across multiple servers, making it easy to scale horizontally by adding more nodes to the cluster. So, if you're dealing with a lots of data and need to prioritize fast writes, Cassandra might be the way to go.

Replication and Fault Tolerance: MySQL vs Cassandra

When it comes to keeping your data safe and available, MySQL and Cassandra have different approaches. MySQL uses a master-slave replication setup, where data is copied from a main node to one or more backup nodes. If something goes wrong, you'll need to manually switch over to a backup. Cassandra, on the other hand, has replication and automatic failover built right in. It copies data across multiple nodes in a cluster, so if one node goes down, the others can keep things running smoothly without any manual intervention.

Query Languages: SQL vs CQL

Lastly, there's the matter of how you actually interact with your data. MySQL uses SQL, which is a standard language that's widely used and has a lot of features for querying, joining, and aggregating data. Cassandra uses its own language called CQL, which is similar to SQL but has some limitations. It trades off some of the advanced querying capabilities for simplicity and performance.

What Users and Developers Say About MySQL vs. Cassandra

Here are some perspectives based on community feedback and real-world testing:

Performance Comparisons: Simple Operations

One common observation is that Cassandra tends to be slower than MySQL for simple operations. For instance, a user reported the following performance metrics when executing basic write operations:

  • MySQL:

    • Single insert: 0.0002 seconds

    • 1000 inserts: 0.1106 seconds

  • Cassandra:

    • Single insert: 0.005 seconds

    • 1000 inserts: 1.047 seconds

  • These results show that for simple, single-node write operations, MySQL significantly outperforms Cassandra. This observation aligns with the general consensus that Cassandra's strengths lie in handling large-scale data and high-volume write operations across distributed systems, rather than excelling in single-node performance.

    Scaling and Distributed Systems

    Developers often highlight Cassandra's advantages in scenarios requiring high availability and horizontal scalability. While MySQL performs exceptionally well on a single node with structured data and complex queries, it faces challenges when scaling across multiple nodes. Cassandra, on the other hand, is designed to scale out easily by adding more nodes to the cluster, distributing data without compromising performance.

    Detailed Developer Insights

    It’s important to recognize that performance testing with minimal data and a single node can be misleading. Cassandra's architecture is optimized for distributed, large-scale deployments. Simple, single-node benchmarks often do not reflect the system's capabilities in a real-world, multi-node setup where its distributed nature and high availability shine.

    Use Cases for MySQL and Cassandra

    MySQL Use Cases (You can build any of these faster with Five):

    1. Content Management Systems (CMS)

    2. E-commerce Applications

    3. Financial Applications

    4. Business Applications

Cassandra Use Cases:

  1. Time-Series Data (e.g., Logs and Sensor Data)

  2. Real-Time Big Data Analytics

  3. IoT (Internet of Things) Applications

  4. Applications Requiring Constant Availability and Low-Latency Access

FAQ's: MySQL vs Cassandra

Is Cassandra Still Being Used?

Cassandra is still a go-to choice for a lot of companies, especially those dealing with big data and real-time applications. It's particularly popular in industries where high availability, scalability, and fault tolerance are essential.

Take Netflix, for example. They rely on Cassandra to handle data across multiple data centers. With the sheer volume of users streaming content around the clock, they need a database that can keep up. Cassandra's ability to distribute data efficiently across nodes and maintain high availability makes it fit for their needs.

When To Use Cassandra Over SQL?

If you're building an application that needs to handle a lots of writes really quickly, keep latency low, and scale out easily, Cassandra might be a better choice than traditional SQL databases. Cassandra is designed to shine in distributed systems where you're dealing with huge amounts of data that doesn't necessarily fit neatly into a structured format.

One of the big advantages of Cassandra is its ability to maintain high availability and fault tolerance. If one of the nodes in your cluster goes down, Cassandra can keep going along without missing a beat. And when your data starts to grow, you can just add more nodes to the cluster to handle the increased load without sacrificing performance.

So, if you're working on an application that needs to be always-on, can handle a lot of writes, and might need to scale out quickly as your data grows, Cassandra is definitely worth considering.

Is MySQL Better Than NoSQL?

If you're dealing with structured data and need to run complex queries while ensuring strong consistency and ACID compliance, MySQL is probably the way to go. It's been around for a long time and is well-suited for these types of scenarios.

On the other hand, if you're working with huge amounts of unstructured data and your main priority is high write performance, scalability, and fault tolerance across multiple servers, then NoSQL databases like Cassandra might be a better fit. They're designed to handle these kinds of distributed environments and can scale horizontally pretty easily.

When Should You Not Use Cassandra?

Cassandra may not be suitable for applications that require complex querying, strong consistency, or transactions adhering to ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability) properties. If your application relies heavily on complex joins, aggregations, and requires immediate consistency in all operations, a traditional SQL database like MySQL would be a better fit.

Quick Answer to MySQL vs Cassandra

MySQL is a relational database management system best suited for applications requiring structured data, complex queries, and strong consistency with ACID compliance. It's ideal for applications with predefined schemas and transaction-intensive operations.

Cassandra, on the other hand, is a NoSQL database designed for high write throughput, low latency, and seamless horizontal scalability. It's perfect for applications handling massive amounts of unstructured data, requiring high availability and fault tolerance across distributed systems.

Choose MySQL for traditional, structured data applications and Cassandra for scalable, high-performance, distributed data environments.