This page provides you with instructions on how to extract data from MySQL and load it into PostgreSQL. (If this manual process sounds onerous, check out Stitch, which can do all the heavy lifting for you in just a few clicks.)
What is MySQL?
MySQL is the world's most popular open source relational database management system (RDBMS). It's the data store for countless websites and applications; chances are you interact with MySQL-powered technology every day. MySQL is largely used as a transactional or operational database, and not as much for analytics.
What is PostgreSQL?
PostgreSQL, also known as Postgres, calls itself "the world's most advanced open source database." The popular object-relational database management system (ORDBMS) offers enterprise-grade features with a strong emphasis on extensibility and standards compliance.
PostgreSQL runs on all major operating systems, including Linux, Unix, and Windows. It's open source, fully ACID-compliant, and has full support for foreign keys, joins, views, triggers, and stored procedures in multiple languages. PostgreSQL is often the best back-end database for web systems and software tools. It's available in cloud-based deployments by most major cloud vendors. And since its syntax forms the basis for querying Amazon Redshift, which makes migration between the two systems relatively painless, Postgres a good stepping-stone for developers who may later use Redshift's data warehouse platform.
Getting data out of MySQL
MySQL provides several methods for extracting data; the one you use may depend upon your needs and skill set.
The most common way to get data out of any database is simply to write queries. SELECT queries allow you to pull the data you want. You can specifying filters and ordering, and limit results.
If you're looking to export data in bulk, there's an easier alternative. Most MySQL installs include a handy command-line tool called mysqldump that allows you to export entire tables and databases in a format you specify, including delimited text, CSV, or an SQL query that would restore the database if run.
Loading data into Postgres
Once you have identified all of the columns you will want to insert, you can use the
CREATE TABLE statement in Postgres to create a table that can receive all of this data. Then, Postgres offers a number of methods for loading in data, and the best method varies depending on the quantity of data you have and the regularity with which you plan to load it.
For simple, day-to-day data insertion, running
INSERT queries against the database directly are the standard SQL method for getting data added. Documentation on INSERT queries and their bretheren can be found in the Postgres documentation here.
For bulk insertions of data, which you will likely want to conduct if you have a high volume of data to load, other tools exist as well. This is where the
COPY command becomes quite useful, as it allows you to load large sets of data into Postgres without needing to run a series of INSERT statements. Documentation can be found here.
The Postgres documentation also provides a helpful overall guide for conducting fast data inserts, populating your database, and avoiding common pitfalls in the process. You can find it here.
Keeping MySQL data up to date
The script you have now should satisfy all your data needs for MySQL – right? Not yet. How do you load new or updated data? It's not a good idea to replicate all of your data each time you have updated records. That process would be painfully slow; if latency is important to you, it's not a viable option.
Instead, you can identify some key fields that your script can use to bookmark its progression through the data, and pick up where it left off as it looks for updated data. Auto-incrementing fields such as updated_at or created_at work best for this. When you've built in this functionality, you can set up your script as a cron job or continuous loop to get new data as it appears in MySQL.
Other data warehouse options
PostgreSQL is great, but sometimes you need to optimize for different things when you're choosing a data warehouse. Some folks choose to go with Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery, or Snowflake, which are RDBMSes that use similar SQL syntax, or Panoply, which works with Redshift instances. If you're interested in seeing the relevant steps for loading data into one of these platforms, check out To Redshift, To BigQuery, To Snowflake, and To Panoply.
Easier and faster alternatives
If all this sounds a bit overwhelming, don’t be alarmed. If you have all the skills necessary to go through this process, chances are building and maintaining a script like this isn’t a very high-leverage use of your time.
Thankfully, products like Stitch were built to solve this problem automatically. With just a few clicks, Stitch starts extracting your MySQL data via the API, structuring it in a way that is optimized for analysis, and inserting that data into your PostgreSQL data warehouse.