Is it easy to move from MySQL to MariaDB, and should you consider it?
When launched MariaDB was a ‘drop in’ replacement for MySQL. It was 99.9% compatible, and essentially a branch of MySQL.
But logically, over time, the two have diverged. That’s understandable and totally expected – why would two different groups of developers create the same RDBMS? Over time, the focus of each group will change, and therefore the database itself.
MariaDB’s documentation now lists hundreds of incompatibilities between MySQL and MariaDB databases, in different versions. The main conclusion from reading through all this documentation is that you can’t rely on an easy migration from one database type to another.
Many database administrators hoped that MariaDB would be kept as a branch of MySQL, so it would be very easy to migrate between the two. However, for the last few versions, that’s simply not the case anymore.
For a while now, MariaDB is actually a fork of MySQL, which means you would need to put some serious thought if you planned to migrate from one to another.
If you are a typical Moodle site, e.g. a few hundred /thousand users, without an SQL specialist in your organisation, there would be no compelling reason to change now. If your Moodle database is MySQL, stick with it. If you started with MariaDB, stick with that.
For large organisations and Moodle sites, with dedicated IT staff including RDBMS specialists, it could be worth considering a move to MariaDB, but only after some testing to benchmark the real-world performance benefits. And this will vary from site to site quite dramatically depending on how the server is setup, and how the Moodle site is actually used.
More reflection about MariaDB, MySQL, and Moodle next month.