How to choose the right distributed SQL database: Evaluating YugabyteDB VS CockroachDB

By Team Srijan May 10, 2023
How to choose the right distributed SQL database: Evaluating YugabyteDB VS CockroachDB
How to choose the right distributed SQL database: Evaluating YugabyteDB VS CockroachDB

Enterprises have been transitioning to the cloud to leverage the technology advantage of speed, scale, innovation, and productivity benefits.  However, the technology leaders are facing challenges because the legacy relational databases powering some critical applications are difficult to scale, limiting the organization's ability to leverage cloud computing to support new business use cases.

As the scalability of databases became critical for the organization in the Internet era, NoSQL emerged as an option; however, the functionality was compromised with elusive relational guarantees. Enterprises needed the reliability of a proven relational database with the benefit of scale and global coverage. The next phase of database evolution led to the emergence of a new category of databases called Distributed SQL. The new database category emerged following the publication of a Spanner paper by Google Research that introduced the Google Spanner, a database architected to distribute data at a global scale and support transaction consistency.

Distributed SQL is a single relational database relocating database across multiple servers or physical nodes, which allows it to deliver scalability and resilience. It offers the relational database advantages of SQL and the high-performance scaling of NoSQL. 

What are the key features of a distributed SQL database?

Scalability, high availability, and performance are key features of a distributed SQL database. The features of a distributed SQL database can be summarized as follows.

  • Distributed architecture

Data is designed to be stored across nodes, to avoid a single node becoming a bottleneck for accessing the data. This ensures that the database can handle large volumes of data and provide efficient and reliable access to the data for users and applications.

  • Scale

Distributed SQL databases can scale horizontally by adding more nodes, complementing businesses evolving data requirements. 

  • Resiliency

Distributed SQL databases provide built-in fault tolerance, ensuring data is available and applications continue to operate even in the face of failures. The distributed database reduces the time it takes to recover from a failure and facilitates data replications without external configuration.

  • Consistency 

In a distributed database, consistency means that every read returns the most recent write, irrespective of the node from which it comes. In a distributed cloud environment with many applications working on the data simultaneously, achieving transactional consistency is challenging. Distributed SQL must provide a similar level of isolation of transactions as in a single instance database to guarantee transactional consistency. 

  • Performance 

Distributed SQL databases can process data in parallel across multiple nodes, providing higher performance than traditional databases that operate on a single node.

  • Geo-replication

Geo-replication feature refers to creating a secondary or replica database in a different region from the primary database. It facilitates moving data to end users' locations and ensures low-latency access for a better customer experience. It is a critical need for consumer-facing applications in banking and financial services, retail, and others where users across the globe expect always-on highly-responsive services.

  • Query language support

A distributed SQL database supports SQL, which enables businesses to integrate it easily with existing applications and tools.

  • Flexibility 

Distributed SQL databases can work with various data sources, making them flexible and adaptable to changing business needs.

Additionally, the distributed SQL database automates several aspects of database management, including scaling, replication, and failover, leading to a simplified operations model. 

How to choose the right distributed SQL database?

As distributed SQL databases become essential, enterprises must choose the right database that meets their requirements. Some factors that must be considered when selecting the distributed SQL database are. 

  • Scalability

The ability to scale horizontally is a vital requirement for implementing a distributed SQL database. Ensure that the database you select can manage the expected data volume growth and scale without compromising performance.

  • Fault tolerance 

Fault tolerance refers to the system's capability to function uninterruptedly in the event of failure of one or more components. Distributed systems are prone to failure, so you must select a database with robust fault tolerance capabilities, such as automatic failover and replication, to prevent data loss.

  • Consistency model

The consistency model in distributed systems refers to a set of rules that govern the system's behavior. The consistency model plays an important role in ensuring system consistency and dependability in the event of distributed system disruption. There are different types of consistency models, such as strong consistency, eventual consistency, and causal consistency. When choosing a database, you need to consider the consistency model supported by a distributed SQL database and the trade-offs between consistency and availability.

  • Data distribution

Some databases use sharding, while others use replication or partitioning, which must be considered when choosing the database. The database distribution method that best suits your application requirements should be selected.

  • Query capabilities

The distributed SQL database must support the query language and features required by your application, including the ability to handle complex queries and support for secondary indexes. 

  • Implementation partners

You may not have the internal capabilities and will need an external vendor's expertise to implement distributed SQL databases. Consider the availability of experienced implementation providers to help with the implementation and issue resolution.

Evaluating YugabyteDB VS CockroachDB

YugabyteDB and CockroachDB are both distributed SQL databases offering similar features such as scalability, fault-tolerance, and resiliency, but they also have differences that require careful consideration while choosing one of them. A comprehensive evaluation of distinguishing factors of the two distributed SQL databases will help enterprises decide which database to select for their specific business and technology requirements.





 It uses a two-layer storage architecture.

 It uses a shared-nothing architecture.

 Consistency model

 It uses Raft consensus algorithms for its leader election and data replication.

 It also uses a Raft consensus protocol to ensure data is safely stored on multiple nodes and the nodes agree on the current state.

 Query Language Support

 It reuses the open-source PostgreSQL query layer and is wire-compatible with PostgreSQL dialect and client drivers. It is based on PostgreSQL v11.2.

 It is compatible with the PostgreSQL_v3.0 wire protocol and works with most PostgreSQL drivers and ORMs(Object Relational Mapping).

 Data Sharding

 It supports both range and hash-sharding methods.

 It supports a hash- sharding method. 


 It is offered only in the open-source version under Apache 2.0 license from 2019 incorporating the previously closed-source, commercial, enterprise features.

 It is offered in two versions. The open-source version under Apache 2.0 license comes with limited basic features while the paid enterprise version includes additional features and support.


 Relatively faster for read-heavy workloads.

 Relatively faster for write-heavy workloads.

 Community support

 The community is comparatively smaller but is growing rapidly.

 It has a larger and more established community since it started earlier than YugaByte.


 It supports many third-party integrations out of the box.

 It supports many third-party integrations and has comparatively more extensive integrations.


With applications emerging as key competitive differentiators, selecting the right distributed SQL database is a critical technology and an equally important business decision with long-term ramifications. YugabyteDB and CockroachDB offer compelling features and benefits but have different architectures, consistency models, query language support, licensing models, and community support. In addition to technical criteria, you must consider business factors while choosing one of the distributed SQL databases between YugabyteDB and CockroachDB. It's also essential to remember that choosing the right database is not a one-time decision but an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring, optimization, and adaptation to changing business needs and technology trends.

Our consultative approach, combined with expertise in digital experience, cloud and data technologies, can help you select the most appropriate distributed SQL database after a detailed evaluation. Additionally, our strategic partnership with the database vendor can help you realize maximum value from implementation. For more information, get in touch with us right away.


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