Choosing the right database is a critical choice when building any software application. All databases have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to performance, so deciding which database has the most benefits and the most minor downsides for your specific use case and data model is an important decision. Below you will find an overview of the key concepts, architecture, features, use cases, and pricing models of MySQL and Prometheus so you can quickly see how they compare against each other.
The primary purpose of this article is to compare how MySQL and Prometheus perform for workloads involving time series data, not for all possible use cases. Time series data typically presents a unique challenge in terms of database performance. This is due to the high volume of data being written and the query patterns to access that data. This article doesn’t intend to make the case for which database is better; it simply provides an overview of each database so you can make an informed decision.
MySQL vs Prometheus Breakdown
Time series database
MySQL uses a client-server model with a multi-layered server design. It supports the SQL query language and offers various storage engines, such as InnoDB and MyISAM, for different use cases. MySQL can be deployed on-premises, in the cloud, or as a managed service.
Prometheus uses a pull-based model where it scrapes metrics from configured targets at given intervals. It stores time series data in a custom, efficient, local storage format, and supports multi-dimensional data collection, querying, and alerting. It can be deployed as a single binary on a server or on a container platform like Kubernetes.
GNU General Public License v2 (for the open-source Community Edition)
Web applications, e-commerce, data warehousing, content management systems, business applications
Monitoring, alerting, observability, system metrics, application metrics
Supports vertical scaling by adding more resources to a single node; horizontal scaling can be achieved through replication, sharding, and third-party tools
Prometheus is designed for reliability and can scale vertically (single node with increased resources) or through federation (hierarchical setup where Prometheus servers scrape metrics from other Prometheus servers)
MySQL is an open source relational database management system that was first released in 1995. It is one of the most popular databases worldwide due to its ease of use, reliability, and performance. MySQL is widely used for web applications, online transaction processing, and data warehousing. Oracle Corporation acquired MySQL in 2010, but it remains open source software with an active community of contributors.
Prometheus is an open-source monitoring and alerting toolkit initially developed at SoundCloud in 2012. It has since become a widely adopted monitoring solution and a part of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) project. Prometheus focuses on providing real-time insights and alerts for containerized and microservices-based environments. Its primary use case is monitoring infrastructure and applications, with an emphasis on reliability and scalability.
MySQL for Time Series Data
MySQL can be used for storing and analyzing time series data, but it will not be as efficient as a dedicated time series databases. MySQL’s flexibility and support for various indexing techniques can make it a suitable choice for small to medium sized time series datasets. For large-scale time series data workloads, with high write throughput or use cases where low latency queries are required, MySQL will tend to struggle unless highly customized.
Prometheus for Time Series Data
Prometheus is specifically designed for time series data, as its primary focus is on monitoring and alerting based on the state of infrastructure and applications. It uses a pull-based model, where the Prometheus server scrapes metrics from the target systems at regular intervals. This model is suitable for monitoring dynamic environments, as it allows for automatic discovery and monitoring of new instances. However, Prometheus is not intended as a general-purpose time series database and might not be the best choice for high cardinality or long-term data storage.
MySQL Key Concepts
- Table: A collection of related data organized in rows and columns, which is the primary structure for storing data in MySQL.
- Primary Key: A unique identifier for each row in a table, used to enforce data integrity and enable efficient querying.
- Foreign Key: A column or set of columns in a table that refers to the primary key in another table, used to establish relationships between tables.
Prometheus Key Concepts
- Metric: A numeric representation of a particular aspect of a system, such as CPU usage or memory consumption.
- Time Series: A collection of data points for a metric, indexed by timestamp.
- Label: A key-value pair that provides metadata and context for a metric, enabling more granular querying and aggregation.
- PromQL: Prometheus uses its own query language called PromQL (Prometheus Query Language) for querying time series data and generating alerts.
MySQL is a relational database management system that uses SQL for defining and manipulating data. It follows the client-server model, where a MySQL server accepts connections from multiple clients and processes their queries. MySQL’s architecture includes a storage engine framework that allows users to choose from different storage engines, such as InnoDB, MyISAM, or Memory, to optimize the database for specific use cases.
Prometheus is a single-server, standalone monitoring system that uses a pull-based approach to collect metrics from target systems. It stores time series data in a custom, highly compressed, on-disk format, optimized for fast querying and low resource usage. The architecture of Prometheus is modular and extensible, with components like exporters, service discovery mechanisms, and integrations with other monitoring systems. As a non-distributed system, it lacks built-in clustering or horizontal scalability, but it supports federation, allowing multiple Prometheus servers to share and aggregate data.
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MySQL supports transactions and adheres to the ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability) properties, ensuring data integrity and consistency.
MySQL can scale both vertically and horizontally, depending on the storage engine and configuration.
Replication and high availability
MySQL supports various replication techniques, including master-slave and master-master replication, to provide high availability and fault tolerance.
Prometheus collects metrics by actively scraping targets, enabling automatic discovery and monitoring of dynamic environments.
The powerful Prometheus Query Language allows for expressive and flexible querying of time series data.
Prometheus supports alerting based on user-defined rules and integrates with various alert management and notification systems.
MySQL Use Cases
MySQL is a popular choice for powering web applications, content management systems, and e-commerce platforms due to its flexibility, ease of use, and performance.
Online transaction processing (OLTP)
MySQL is suitable for OLTP systems that require high concurrency, fast response times, and support for transactions.
While not specifically designed for data warehousing, MySQL can be used for small to medium-sized data warehouses, leveraging its support for indexing, partitioning, and other optimization techniques.
Prometheus Use Cases
Prometheus is widely used for monitoring the health and performance of containerized and microservices-based infrastructure, including Kubernetes and Docker environments.
Application Performance Monitoring (APM)
Prometheus can collect custom application metrics using client libraries and monitor application performance in real-time.
Alerting and Anomaly Detection
Prometheus enables organizations to set up alerts based on specific thresholds or conditions, helping them identify and respond to potential issues or anomalies quickly.
MySQL Pricing Model
MySQL is available in multiple editions with different feature sets and pricing models. The MySQL Community Edition is open source and free to use, while the MySQL Enterprise Edition includes additional features, such as advanced security, monitoring, and management tools, and requires a subscription. Pricing for the Enterprise Edition depends on the number of server instances and the level of support required.
Prometheus Pricing Model
Prometheus is an open-source project, and there are no licensing fees associated with its use. However, costs can arise from hardware, hosting, and operational expenses when deploying a self-managed Prometheus server. Additionally, several cloud-based managed Prometheus services, such as Grafana Cloud and Weave Cloud, offer different pricing models based on factors like data retention, query rate, and support.
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