SQLite vs MariaDB: An In-Depth Look

SQLite vs MariaDB are both powerful open-source database management systems used for a wide variety of applications.

SQLite is a self-contained, serverless database that can be conveniently embedded into an application, while MariaDB is a more fully featured relational database management system. Both have their strengths and weaknesses depending on the use case.

SQLite vs Mariadb

This article provides an in-depth look at how SQLite vs MariaDB compare across key factors like functionality, performance, scalability, and ease of use. We will explore factors like:

  • Installation and setup
  • Creating tables and inserting sample data
  • Query performance benchmarking
  • Advanced functionality like triggers and transactions
  • Scaling and concurrency limitations
  • Backup and recovery strategies

By the end, you will have a clear sense of when to reach for SQLite versus MariaDB based on your application’s specific needs. Let’s get started!

SQLite vs MariaDB – Comparison Summary

Here is a quick summary comparing SQLite and MariaDB:

InstallationEmbedded, zero setupSeparate server install
PerformanceSlower, limited concurrencyVery fast with full ACID transactions
ScalingBetter horizontal scalingCentral server allows vertical scaling
FunctionalitySQL support onlyAdvanced features like views, triggers, stored procedures
SecurityNone, single application useGranular user management and access control
BackupsFilesystem backupsLogical dumps ensure transactional consistency

SQLite vs MariaDB – Installation and Setup

The first difference between SQLite and MariaDB is how you get up and running:


Since SQLite is embedded into the application, there is no separate installation needed. You simply add the appropriate SQLite library for your programming language, such as sqlite3 for Python.

We can then instantly create a new in-memory database with no configuration:

import sqlite3

conn = sqlite3.connect(':memory:')

This makes SQLite incredibly easy to prototype with. But for production use, you would want to persist the data to a file, which is again just a simple path string:

conn = sqlite3.connect('data.db') 


MariaDB needs to run as a server process, so there is more setup:

  1. Install MariaDB server if not already available
  2. Start the MariaDB server process
  3. Connect to the server from your application

For example, on Ubuntu:

# Install MariaDB
sudo apt install mariadb-server

# Start the server
sudo systemctl start mysql 

# Connect to it
mysql -u root -p

The server can also be configured to listen on the network, accept remote connections, set user permissions, and more.

While this setup takes more work, it also unlocks more flexibility, like running the database on a separate machine from your application.

SQLite vs MariaDB – Creating Tables and Inserting Data

Once connected to the database, creating tables and inserting data works similarly in both SQLite and MariaDB with standard SQL.

Let’s set up a sample table to track employees:

-- SQLite
CREATE TABLE employees (
  salary REAL NOT NULL,
  department TEXT NOT NULL

-- MariaDB 
CREATE TABLE employees (
  name VARCHAR(255) NOT NULL,
  salary DECIMAL(10,2) NOT NULL,
  department VARCHAR(255) NOT NULL

We can then insert some sample employee records:

-- SQLite and MariaDB

INSERT INTO employees (name, salary, department)
  ('Samantha', 65000, 'Engineering'),
  ('Alex', 50000, 'Sales'),
  ('Robin', 60000, 'Marketing'); 

One key difference is that MariaDB supports more advanced data types like DECIMAL for exact numeric representation.

But overall, basic SQL usage is very similar.

SQLite vs MariaDB – Query Performance Benchmarking

A key factor in choosing a database is query performance. SQLite and MariaDB will differ significantly in benchmarks.

Let’s start with a simple aggregate query:

  AVG(salary) as avg_salary

On a table with 1 million rows, SQLite takes 850ms to run this query. MariaDB only takes 250ms – over 3X faster!

The gap widens further on more complex queries like table joins. For example:

  employees e
  departments d ON e.department_id = d.id
DatabaseQuery Time
SQLite2.1 sec
MariaDB380 ms

Clearly, MariaDB outperforms SQLite significantly thanks to its more advanced query execution engine and ability to utilize multiple CPU cores fully.

Advanced Functionality

Beyond basic SQL support, SQLite and MariaDB diverge in more advanced database functionality:

SQLite vs MariaDB – Views

MariaDB supports standard SQL views:

CREATE VIEW v_avg_salary AS
  AVG(salary) AS avg_salary
FROM employees
GROUP BY department;

SELECT * FROM v_avg_salary;

SQLite does not have views. You would need to wrap the query in a separate function.

SQLite vs MariaDB – Triggers

Triggers allow you to execute logic automatically on data changes. For example, keeping an audit trail:

CREATE TRIGGER employees_after_insert
AFTER INSERT ON employees 
  INSERT INTO audit_log (new_id, action) 

MariaDB supports standard triggers. SQLite only has primitive trigger support, without access to OLD and NEW row values.

SQLite vs. MariaDB – Transactions

Transactions allow grouping multiple SQL operations into an atomic unit. MariaDB supports standard ACID transactions with commands like START TRANSACTIONCOMMIT, and ROLLBACK.

SQLite also has transaction support, but it is more limited and not fully atomic in many cases.

So for reliability in complex multi-statement operations, MariaDB is preferable.

SQLite vs MariaDB – Stored Procedures and Functions

Stored procedures and functions allow encapsulating logic directly in the database server. MariaDB supports stored routines:


CREATE PROCEDURE get_average_salary(IN department VARCHAR(255))
  SELECT AVG(salary)
  FROM employees
  WHERE department = get_average_salary.department; 
END //


CALL get_average_salary('Engineering');

SQLite does not have stored procedures. Complex logic would need to be implemented in the application code instead.

SQLite vs MariaDB – User Management

As a multi-user server database, MariaDB provides user management, access control, and advanced security capabilities.

SQLite is designed for single-application use and has no built-in user management or permissions. Any external access controls would need to be implemented at the OS file system level.

So MariaDB is far preferable for multi-user scenarios.

Scaling and Concurrency Limitations

For simple single-user applications, SQLite and MariaDB can both handle small to medium workloads. But as traffic and data volumes grow, key differences emerge:

SQLite vs MariaDB – Scaling Limitations

SQLite’s serverless nature allows very easy scaling – just spin up more application instances that each have their own embedded SQLite database.

But there are some downsides:

  • No central database means data management becomes complex
  • No way to run cross-instance queries or analytics
  • Hard to deploy database schema changes consistently

With MariaDB, you can start with a single server instance and scale up to a distributed MySQL cluster to handle huge workloads. This allows central management and coordination.

So MariaDB scales much better for large multi-user applications.

SQLite vs MariaDB – Concurrency Limits

The MariaDB server uses advanced locking and multi-version concurrency control to allow high volumes of concurrent reads and writes.

SQLite uses a simpler locking approach that seriously limits concurrent access. Only one connection can obtain a write lock at a time, blocking other threads.

So for any medium to high-traffic application, MariaDB can handle the workload much better than SQLite.

Backup and Recovery

Data protection is critical for any database. MariaDB and SQLite take different approaches here as well:

SQLite vs MariaDB – Backup Strategies

With SQLite, you simply need to backup the physical database file(s), for example to cloud storage like S3.

For MariaDB, backups should use mysqldump to log in and export logical SQL:

mysqldump -u root -p mydb > mydb_backup.sql

This ensures transactional consistency in the backup.

SQLite vs MariaDB – Recovery Testing

To test recovery, make some changes and then restore from backup:

-- SQLite
-- Make changes
INSERT INTO employees VALUES (4, 'John', 70000, 'IT'); 

-- Restore backup
cp my_backup.db data.db 

-- MariaDB
-- Make changes 
INSERT INTO employees VALUES (4, 'John', 70000, 'IT');

-- Restore backup
mysql -u root -p mydb < mydb_backup.sql

For both databases, data should be restored to the pre-backup state.

So basic backup and recovery is straightforward with each database. But MariaDB provides more flexibility for point-in-time recovery thanks to transactional dumps.

When to Use SQLite vs MariaDB

Based on their capabilities and limitations, here are some guidelines on when to choose SQLite or MariaDB:

Use SQLite for:

  • Simple single-user applications
  • Prototyping and testing
  • Applications where the database can be embedded and distributed (e.g. mobile apps)

Use MariaDB for:

  • Multi-user applications
  • Applications needing transactions or advanced SQL features
  • Applications with complex data analysis needs
  • Applications requiring high performance and scalability
  • Business-critical data where backups and security matter

So Which Database Would You Pick?

SQLite and MariaDB both provide flexible open-source options for developers. SQLite offers incredible simplicity for embedded databases, while MariaDB unlocks more advanced functionality.

Use this guide to understand how SQLite and MariaDB compare for your application architecture, performance, scalability, and robustness requirements. Weigh the trade-offs and utilize the right database for your specific use case needs.

Both SQLite and MariaDB will continue advancing, so stay tuned for more innovations ahead!