Six free/open source databases with commercial-quality features

Microsoft, Oracle offer impressive free versions of their commercial offerings, but MariaDB wins our test

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Microsoft SQL Server Express 2012


A free version of Microsoft’s popular SQL Server, SQL Server Express is targeted at smaller-scale applications, but it’s a feature-rich product that delivers many of the core functionality of the commercial version. It might not have high availability and clustering, but it does have an excellent management interface and performance was top notch. Inserting 1-million-plus records took just over one minute, while the commercial version took 45 seconds. Retrieving 100,000 records took 10 seconds, compared to 3 seconds for the commercial version.

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