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.
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!
What's in this article
SQLite vs MariaDB – Comparison Summary
Here is a quick summary comparing SQLite and MariaDB:
|Installation||Embedded, zero setup||Separate server install|
|Performance||Slower, limited concurrency||Very fast with full ACID transactions|
|Scaling||Better horizontal scaling||Central server allows vertical scaling|
|Functionality||SQL support only||Advanced features like views, triggers, stored procedures|
|Security||None, single application use||Granular user management and access control|
|Backups||Filesystem backups||Logical 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:
- Install MariaDB server if not already available
- Start the MariaDB server process
- 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 ( id INTEGER PRIMARY KEY, name TEXT NOT NULL, salary REAL NOT NULL, department TEXT NOT NULL ); -- MariaDB CREATE TABLE employees ( id INT AUTO_INCREMENT PRIMARY KEY, 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) VALUES ('Samantha', 65000, 'Engineering'), ('Alex', 50000, 'Sales'), ('Robin', 60000, 'Marketing');
One key difference is that MariaDB supports more advanced data types like
DECIMALfor 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:
SELECT department, AVG(salary) as avg_salary FROM employees GROUP BY department;
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:
SELECT e.name, e.salary, d.department_name FROM employees e JOIN departments d ON e.department_id = d.id
Clearly, MariaDB outperforms SQLite significantly thanks to its more advanced query execution engine and ability to utilize multiple CPU cores fully.
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 SELECT department, 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 FOR EACH ROW BEGIN INSERT INTO audit_log (new_id, action) VALUES (NEW.id, 'INSERT'); END;
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
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:
DELIMITER // CREATE PROCEDURE get_average_salary(IN department VARCHAR(255)) BEGIN SELECT AVG(salary) FROM employees WHERE department = get_average_salary.department; END // DELIMITER ; 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!