Question: How does Redis performance compare to SQL databases?


Redis and SQL databases, such as MySQL or PostgreSQL, serve different purposes and demonstrate varying performances under different scenarios.


Redis is an in-memory data store that can function as a database, cache, and message broker. Since it operates entirely in memory, Redis typically performs very fast, executing operations in microseconds. It supports simple data types such as strings, lists, sets, sorted sets with range queries, bitmaps, hyperloglogs, and geospatial indexes.

However, despite its speed, Redis may not always outperform disk-based databases, especially for certain operations. For example, the HSCAN command in Redis, which incrementally iterates over hash elements, can be slower than expected for larger datasets (e.g., thousands of entries). This can occur due to several reasons:

  • Single-Threaded Nature: Redis uses a single-threaded model, so large scans can block other operations.
  • Complexity of HSCAN: Even though HSCAN avoids returning all elements at once (which would consume more memory), it still needs to process many elements internally, affecting performance.
  • Improper Usage: Misconfigured scan parameters, such as a poorly chosen cursor or large COUNT values, could degrade performance.

Here's an example of using Redis with Python:

import redis # Create a Redis client r = redis.Redis(host='localhost', port=6379, db=0) # Set a key r.set('foo', 'bar') # Get a key value = r.get('foo')

SQL Databases

On the flip side, disk-based relational databases like MySQL or PostgreSQL provide strong ACID compliance and support complex queries with joins. These systems are designed for handling complex relationships between entities and multi-step transactions, where they excel in performance due to advanced optimizations and caching techniques.

For instance, retrieving data from a structured table through a well-indexed query can sometimes be faster than performing equivalent operations in Redis, particularly for complex data retrieval:

CREATE TABLE Users ( UserID int, Name varchar(255), Email varchar(255) ); INSERT INTO Users (UserID, Name, Email) VALUES (1, 'John Doe', ''); SELECT * FROM Users WHERE UserID = 1;


Choosing between Redis and a SQL database largely depends on your specific requirements. If you need rapid access to simple data types and structures, Redis usually offers better performance. However, for operations involving complex queries and relationships, or when ACID compliance is required, a traditional SQL database might be more appropriate. In practice, many applications benefit from using both technologies in tandem—leveraging Redis for its speed in caching scenarios while relying on SQL databases for data integrity and complex querying capabilities.

Was this content helpful?

White Paper

Free System Design on AWS E-Book

Download this early release of O'Reilly's latest cloud infrastructure e-book: System Design on AWS.

Free System Design on AWS E-Book

Start building today

Dragonfly is fully compatible with the Redis ecosystem and requires no code changes to implement.