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High Performance MySQL, 3rd Edition by Vadim Tkachenko, Peter Zaitsev, Baron Schwartz

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We wrote this book to serve the needs of not just the MySQL application developer but also the MySQL database administrator. We assume that you are already relatively experienced with MySQL. We also assume some experience with general system administration, networking, and Unix-like operating systems.

The second edition of this book presented a lot of information to readers, but no book can provide complete coverage of a topic. Between the second and third editions, we took notes on literally thousands of interesting problems we’d solved or seen others solve. When we started to outline the third edition, it became clear that not only would full coverage of these topics require three to five thousand pages, but the book still wouldn’t be complete. After reflecting on this problem, we realized that the second edition’s emphasis on deep coverage was actually self-limiting, in the sense that it often didn’t teach readers how to think about MySQL.

As a result, this third edition has a different focus from the second edition. We still convey a lot of information, and we still emphasize the same goals, such as reliability and correctness. But we’ve also tried to imbue the book with a deeper purpose: we want to teach the principles of why MySQL works as it does, not just the facts about how it works. We’ve included more illustrative stories and case studies, which demonstrate the principles in action. We build on these to try to answer questions such as “Given MySQL’s internal architecture and operation, what practical effects arise in real usage? Why do those effects matter? How do they make MySQL well suited (or not well suited) for particular needs?”

Ultimately, we hope that your knowledge of MySQL’s internals will help you in situations beyond the scope of this book. And we hope that your newfound insight will help you to learn and practice a methodical approach to designing, maintaining, and troubleshooting systems that are built on MySQL.

How This Book Is Organized

We fit a lot of complicated topics into this book. Here, we explain how we put them together in an order that makes them easier to learn.

A Broad Overview

Chapter 1, MySQL Architecture and History is dedicated to the basics—things you’ll need to be familiar with before you dig in deeply. You need to understand how MySQL is organized before you’ll be able to use it effectively. This chapter explains MySQL’s architecture and key facts about its storage engines. It helps you get up to speed if you aren’t familiar with some of the fundamentals of a relational database, including transactions. This chapter will also be useful if this book is your introduction to MySQL but you’re already familiar with another database, such as Oracle. We also include a bit of historical context: the changes to MySQL over time, recent ownership changes, and where we think it’s headed.

Building a Solid Foundation

The early chapters cover material we hope you’ll reference over and over as you use MySQL.

Chapter 2, Benchmarking MySQL discusses the basics of benchmarking—that is, determining what sort of workload your server can handle, how fast it can perform certain tasks, and so on. Benchmarking is an essential skill for evaluating how the server behaves under load, but it’s also important to know when it’s not useful.

Chapter 3, Profiling Server Performance introduces you to the response time–oriented approach we take to troubleshooting and diagnosing server performance problems. This framework has proven essential to solving some of the most puzzling cases we’ve seen. Although you might choose to modify our approach (we developed it by modifying Cary Millsap’s approach, after all), we hope you’ll avoid the pitfalls of not having any method at all.

In Chapters 4 through 6, we introduce three topics that together form the foundation for a good logical and physical database design. In Chapter 4, Optimizing Schema and Data Types, we cover the various nuances of data types and table design. Chapter 5, Indexing for High Performance extends the discussion to indexes—that is, physical database design. A firm understanding of indexes and how to use them well is essential for using MySQL effectively, so you’ll probably find yourself returning to this chapter repeatedly. And Chapter 6, Query Performance Optimization wraps the topics together by explaining how MySQL executes queries and how you can take advantage of its query optimizer’s strengths. This chapter also presents specific examples of many common classes of queries, illustrating where MySQL does a good job and how to transform queries into forms that use its strengths.

Up to this point, we’ve covered the basic topics that apply to any database: tables, indexes, data, and queries. Chapter 7, Advanced MySQL Features goes beyond the basics and shows you how MySQL’s advanced features work. We examine topics such as partitioning, stored procedures, triggers, and character sets. MySQL’s implementation of these features is different from other databases, and a good understanding of them can open up new opportunities for performance gains that you might not have thought about otherwise.

Configuring Your Application

The next two chapters discuss how to make MySQL, your application, and your hardware work well together. In Chapter 8, Optimizing Server Settings, we discuss how you can configure MySQL to make the most of your hardware and to be reliable and robust. Chapter 9, Operating System and Hardware Optimization explains how to get the most out of your operating system and hardware. We discuss solid-state storage in depth, and we suggest hardware configurations that might provide better performance for larger-scale applications.

Both chapters explore MySQL internals to some degree. This is a recurring theme that continues all the way through the appendixes: learn how it works internally, and you’ll be empowered to understand and reason about the consequences.

MySQL as an Infrastructure Component

MySQL doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s part of an overall application stack, and you’ll need to build a robust overall architecture for your application. The next set of chapters is about how to do that.

In Chapter 10, Replication, we discuss MySQL’s killer feature: the ability to set up multiple servers that all stay in sync with a master server’s changes. Unfortunately, replication is perhaps MySQL’s most troublesome feature for some people. This doesn’t have to be the case, and we show you how to ensure that it keeps running well.

Chapter 11, Scaling MySQL discusses what scalability is (it’s not the same thing as performance), why applications and systems don’t scale, and what to do about it. If you do it right, you can scale MySQL to suit nearly any purpose. Chapter 12, High Availability delves into a related-but-distinct topic: how to ensure that MySQL stays up and functions smoothly. In Chapter 13, MySQL in the Cloud, you’ll learn about what’s different when you run MySQL in cloud computing environments.

In Chapter 14, Application-Level Optimization, we explain what we call full-stack optimization—optimization from the frontend to the backend, all the way from the user’s experience to the database.

The best-designed, most scalable architecture in the world is no good if it can’t survive power outages, malicious attacks, application bugs or programmer mistakes, and other disasters. That’s why Chapter 15, Backup and Recovery discusses various backup and recovery strategies for your MySQL databases. These strategies will help minimize your downtime in the event of inevitable hardware failure and ensure that your data survives such catastrophes.

Miscellaneous Useful Topics

In the last chapter and the book’s appendixes, we delve into several topics that either don’t fit well into any of the earlier chapters, or are referenced often enough in multiple chapters that they deserve a bit of special attention.

Chapter 16, Tools for MySQL Users explores some of the open source and commercial tools that can help you manage and monitor your MySQL servers more efficiently.

Appendix A introduces the three major unofficial versions of MySQL that have arisen over the last few years, including the one that our company maintains. It’s worth knowing what else is available; many problems that are difficult or intractable with MySQL are solved elegantly by one of the variants. Two of the three (Percona Server and MariaDB) are drop-in replacements, so the effort involved in trying them out is not large. However, we hasten to add that we think most users are well served by sticking with the official MySQL distribution from Oracle.

Appendix B shows you how to inspect your MySQL server. Knowing how to get status information from the server is important; knowing what that information means is even more important. We cover SHOW INNODB STATUS in particular detail, because it provides deep insight into the operations of the InnoDB transactional storage engine. There is a lot of discussion of InnoDB’s internals in this appendix.

Appendix C shows you how to copy very large files from place to place efficiently—a must if you are going to manage large volumes of data. Appendix D shows you how to really use and understand the all-important EXPLAIN command. Appendix E shows you how to decipher what’s going on when queries are requesting locks that interfere with each other. And finally, Appendix F is an introduction to Sphinx, a high-performance, full-text indexing system that can complement MySQL’s own abilities.

Software Versions and Availability

MySQL is a moving target. In the years since Jeremy wrote the outline for the first edition of this book, numerous releases of MySQL have appeared. MySQL 4.1 and 5.0 were available only as alpha versions when the first edition went to press, but today MySQL 5.1 and 5.5 are the backbone of many large online applications. As we completed this third edition, MySQL 5.6 was the unreleased bleeding edge.

We didn’t rely on a single version of MySQL for this book. Instead, we drew on our extensive collective knowledge of MySQL in the real world. The core of the book is focused on MySQL 5.1 and MySQL 5.5, because those are what we consider the “current” versions. Most of our examples assume you’re running some reasonably mature version of MySQL 5.1, such as MySQL 5.1.50 or newer or newer. We have made an effort to note features or functionalities that might not exist in older releases or that might exist only in the upcoming 5.6 series. However, the definitive reference for mapping features to specific versions is the MySQL documentation itself. We expect that you’ll find yourself visiting the annotated online documentation (http://dev.mysql.com/doc/) from time to time as you read this book.

Another great aspect of MySQL is that it runs on all of today’s popular platforms: Mac OS X, Windows, GNU/Linux, Solaris, FreeBSD, you name it! However, we are biased toward GNU/Linux[1] and other Unix-like operating systems. Windows users are likely to encounter some differences. For example, file paths are completely different on Windows. We also refer to standard Unix command-line utilities; we assume you know the corresponding commands in Windows.[2]

Perl is the other rough spot when dealing with MySQL on Windows. MySQL comes with several useful utilities that are written in Perl, and certain chapters in this book present example Perl scripts that form the basis of more complex tools you’ll build. Percona Toolkit—which is indispensable for administering MySQL—is also written in Perl. However, Perl isn’t included with Windows. In order to use these scripts, you’ll need to download a Windows version of Perl from ActiveState and install the necessary add-on modules (DBI and DBD::mysql) for MySQL access.

Conventions Used in This Book

The following typographical conventions are used in this book:


Used for new terms, URLs, email addresses, usernames, hostnames, filenames, file extensions, pathnames, directories, and Unix commands and utilities.

Constant width

Indicates elements of code, configuration options, database and table names, variables and their values, functions, modules, the contents of files, or the output from commands.

Constant width bold

Shows commands or other text that should be typed literally by the user. Also used for emphasis in command output.

Constant width italic

Shows text that should be replaced with user-supplied values.


This icon signifies a tip, suggestion, or general note.


This icon indicates a warning or caution.

Using Code Examples

This book is here to help you get your job done. In general, you may use the code in this book in your programs and documentation. You don’t need to contact us for permission unless you’re reproducing a significant portion of the code. For example, writing a program that uses several chunks of code from this book doesn’t require permission. Selling or distributing a CD-ROM of examples from O’Reilly books does require permission. Answering a question by citing this book and quoting example code doesn’t require permission. Incorporating a significant amount of example code from this book into your product’s documentation does require permission.

Examples are maintained on the site http://www.highperfmysql.com and will be updated there from time to time. We cannot commit, however, to updating and testing the code for every minor release of MySQL.

We appreciate, but don’t require, attribution. An attribution usually includes the title, author, publisher, and ISBN. For example: “High Performance MySQL, Third Edition, by Baron Schwartz et al. (O’Reilly). Copyright 2012 Baron Schwartz, Peter Zaitsev, and Vadim Tkachenko, 978-1-449-31428-6.”

If you feel your use of code examples falls outside fair use or the permission given above, feel free to contact us at .

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Acknowledgments for the Third Edition

Thanks to the following people who helped in various ways: Brian Aker, Johan Andersson, Espen Braekken, Mark Callaghan, James Day, Maciej Dobrzanski, Ewen Fortune, Dave Hildebrandt, Fernando Ipar, Haidong Ji, Giuseppe Maxia, Aurimas Mikalauskas, Istvan Podor, Yves Trudeau, Matt Yonkovit, and Alex Yurchenko. Thanks to everyone at Percona for helping in dozens of ways over the years. Thanks to the many great bloggers[3] and speakers who gave us a great deal of food for thought, especially Yoshinori Matsunobu. Thanks also to the authors of the previous editions: Jeremy D. Zawodny, Derek J. Balling, and Arjen Lentz. Thanks to Andy Oram, Rachel Head, and the whole O’Reilly staff who do such a classy job of publishing books and running conferences. And much gratitude to the brilliant and dedicated MySQL team inside Oracle, as well as all of the ex-MySQLers, wherever you are, and especially to SkySQL and Monty Program.

Baron thanks his wife Lynn, his mother, Connie, and his parents-in-law, Jane and Roger, for helping and supporting this project in many ways, but most especially for their encouragement and help with chores and taking care of the family. Thanks also to Peter and Vadim for being such great teachers and colleagues. Baron dedicates this edition to the memory of Alan Rimm-Kaufman, whose great love and encouragement are never forgotten.

Acknowledgments for the Second Edition

Sphinx developer Andrew Aksyonoff wrote Appendix F. We’d like to thank him first for his in-depth discussion.

We have received invaluable help from many people while writing this book. It’s impossible to list everyone who gave us help—we really owe thanks to the entire MySQL community and everyone at MySQL AB. However, here’s a list of people who contributed directly, with apologies if we’ve missed anyone: Tobias Asplund, Igor Babaev, Pascal Borghino, Roland Bouman, Ronald Bradford, Mark Callaghan, Jeremy Cole, Britt Crawford and the HiveDB Project, Vasil Dimov, Harrison Fisk, Florian Haas, Dmitri Joukovski and Zmanda (thanks for the diagram explaining LVM snapshots), Alan Kasindorf, Sheeri Kritzer Cabral, Marko Makela, Giuseppe Maxia, Paul McCullagh, B. Keith Murphy, Dhiren Patel, Sergey Petrunia, Alexander Rubin, Paul Tuckfield, Heikki Tuuri, and Michael “Monty” Widenius.

A special thanks to Andy Oram and Isabel Kunkle, our editor and assistant editor at O’Reilly, and to Rachel Wheeler, the copyeditor. Thanks also to the rest of the O’Reilly staff.

From Baron

I would like to thank my wife, Lynn Rainville, and our dog, Carbon. If you’ve written a book, I’m sure you know how grateful I am to them. I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to Alan Rimm-Kaufman and my colleagues at the Rimm-Kaufman Group for their support and encouragement during this project. Thanks to Peter, Vadim, and Arjen for giving me the opportunity to make this dream come true. And thanks to Jeremy and Derek for breaking the trail for us.

From Peter

I’ve been doing MySQL performance and scaling presentations, training, and consulting for years, and I’ve always wanted to reach a wider audience, so I was very excited when Andy Oram approached me to work on this book. I have not written a book before, so I wasn’t prepared for how much time and effort it required. We first started talking about updating the first edition to cover recent versions of MySQL, but we wanted to add so much material that we ended up rewriting most of the book.

This book is truly a team effort. Because I was very busy bootstrapping Percona, Vadim’s and my consulting company, and because English is not my first language, we all had different roles. I provided the outline and technical content, then I reviewed the material, revising and extending it as we wrote. When Arjen (the former head of the MySQL documentation team) joined the project, we began to fill out the outline. Things really started to roll once we brought in Baron, who can write high-quality book content at insane speeds. Vadim was a great help with in-depth MySQL source code checks and when we needed to back our claims with benchmarks and other research.

As we worked on the book, we found more and more areas we wanted to explore in more detail. Many of the book’s topics, such as replication, query optimization, InnoDB, architecture, and design could easily fill their own books, so we had to stop somewhere and leave some material for a possible future edition or for our blogs, presentations, and articles.

We got great help from our reviewers, who are the top MySQL experts in the world, from both inside and outside of MySQL AB. These include MySQL’s founder, Michael Widenius; InnoDB’s founder, Heikki Tuuri; Igor Babaev, the head of the MySQL optimizer team; and many others.

I would also like to thank my wife, Katya Zaytseva, and my children, Ivan and Nadezhda, for allowing me to spend time on the book that should have been Family Time. I’m also grateful to Percona’s employees for handling things when I disappeared to work on the book, and of course to Andy Oram and O’Reilly for making things happen.

From Vadim

I would like to thank Peter, who I am excited to have worked with on this book and look forward to working with on other projects; Baron, who was instrumental in getting this book done; and Arjen, who was a lot of fun to work with. Thanks also to our editor Andy Oram, who had enough patience to work with us; the MySQL team that created great software; and our clients who provide me the opportunities to fine-tune my MySQL understanding. And finally a special thank you to my wife, Valerie, and our sons, Myroslav and Timur, who always support me and help me to move forward.

From Arjen

I would like to thank Andy for his wisdom, guidance, and patience. Thanks to Baron for hopping on the second edition train while it was already in motion, and to Peter and Vadim for solid background information and benchmarks. Thanks also to Jeremy and Derek for the foundation with the first edition; as you wrote in my copy, Derek: “Keep ’em honest, that’s all I ask.”

Also thanks to all my former colleagues (and present friends) at MySQL AB, where I acquired most of what I know about the topic; and in this context a special mention for Monty, whom I continue to regard as the proud parent of MySQL, even though his company now lives on as part of Sun Microsystems. I would also like to thank everyone else in the global MySQL community.

And last but not least, thanks to my daughter Phoebe, who at this stage in her young life does not care about this thing called “MySQL,” nor indeed has she any idea which of The Wiggles it might refer to! For some, ignorance is truly bliss, and they provide us with a refreshing perspective on what is really important in life; for the rest of you, may you find this book a useful addition on your reference bookshelf. And don’t forget your life.

Acknowledgments for the First Edition

A book like this doesn’t come into being without help from literally dozens of people. Without their assistance, the book you hold in your hands would probably still be a bunch of sticky notes on the sides of our monitors. This is the part of the book where we get to say whatever we like about the folks who helped us out, and we don’t have to worry about music playing in the background telling us to shut up and go away, as you might see on TV during an awards show.

We couldn’t have completed this project without the constant prodding, begging, pleading, and support from our editor, Andy Oram. If there is one person most responsible for the book in your hands, it’s Andy. We really do appreciate the weekly nag sessions.

Andy isn’t alone, though. At O’Reilly there are a bunch of other folks who had some part in getting those sticky notes converted to a cohesive book that you’d be willing to read, so we also have to thank the production, illustration, and marketing folks for helping to pull this book together. And, of course, thanks to Tim O’Reilly for his continued commitment to producing some of the industry’s finest documentation for popular open source software.

Finally, we’d both like to give a big thanks to the folks who agreed to look over the various drafts of the book and tell us all the things we were doing wrong: our reviewers. They spent part of their 2003 holiday break looking over roughly formatted versions of this text, full of typos, misleading statements, and outright mathematical errors. In no particular order, thanks to Brian “Krow” Aker, Mark “JDBC” Matthews, Jeremy “the other Jeremy” Cole, Mike “VBMySQL.com” Hillyer, Raymond “Rainman” De Roo, Jeffrey “Regex Master” Friedl, Jason DeHaan, Dan Nelson, Steve “Unix Wiz” Friedl, and, last but not least, Kasia “Unix Girl” Trapszo.

From Jeremy

I would again like to thank Andy for agreeing to take on this project and for continually beating on us for more chapter material. Derek’s help was essential for getting the last 20–30% of the book completed so that we wouldn’t miss yet another target date. Thanks for agreeing to come on board late in the process and deal with my sporadic bursts of productivity, and for handling the XML grunt work, Chapter 10, Appendix F, and all the other stuff I threw your way.

I also need to thank my parents for getting me that first Commodore 64 computer so many years ago. They not only tolerated the first 10 years of what seems to be a lifelong obsession with electronics and computer technology, but quickly became supporters of my never-ending quest to learn and do more.

Next, I’d like to thank a group of people I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working with while spreading the MySQL religion at Yahoo! during the last few years. Jeffrey Friedl and Ray Goldberger provided encouragement and feedback from the earliest stages of this undertaking. Along with them, Steve Morris, James Harvey, and Sergey Kolychev put up with my seemingly constant experimentation on the Yahoo! Finance MySQL servers, even when it interrupted their important work. Thanks also to the countless other Yahoo!s who have helped me find interesting MySQL problems and solutions. And, most importantly, thanks for having the trust and faith in me needed to put MySQL into some of the most important and visible parts of Yahoo!’s business.

Adam Goodman, the publisher and owner of Linux Magazine, helped me ease into the world of writing for a technical audience by publishing my first feature-length MySQL articles back in 2001. Since then, he’s taught me more than he realizes about editing and publishing and has encouraged me to continue on this road with my own monthly column in the magazine. Thanks, Adam.

Thanks to Monty and David for sharing MySQL with the world. Speaking of MySQL AB, thanks to all the other great folks there who have encouraged me in writing this: Kerry, Larry, Joe, Marten, Brian, Paul, Jeremy, Mark, Harrison, Matt, and the rest of the team there. You guys rock.

Finally, thanks to all my weblog readers for encouraging me to write informally about MySQL and other technical topics on a daily basis. And, last but not least, thanks to the Goon Squad.

From Derek

Like Jeremy, I’ve got to thank my family, for much the same reasons. I want to thank my parents for their constant goading that I should write a book, even if this isn’t anywhere near what they had in mind. My grandparents helped me learn two valuable lessons, the meaning of the dollar and how much I would fall in love with computers, as they loaned me the money to buy my first Commodore VIC-20.

I can’t thank Jeremy enough for inviting me to join him on the whirlwind book-writing roller coaster. It’s been a great experience and I look forward to working with him again in the future.

A special thanks goes out to Raymond De Roo, Brian Wohlgemuth, David Calafrancesco, Tera Doty, Jay Rubin, Bill Catlan, Anthony Howe, Mark O’Neal, George Montgomery, George Barber, and the myriad other people who patiently listened to me gripe about things, let me bounce ideas off them to see whether an outsider could understand what I was trying to say, or just managed to bring a smile to my face when I needed it most. Without you, this book might still have been written, but I almost certainly would have gone crazy in the process.

[1] To avoid confusion, we refer to Linux when we are writing about the kernel, and GNU/Linux when we are writing about the whole operating system infrastructure that supports applications.

[2] You can get Windows-compatible versions of Unix utilities at http://unxutils.sourceforge.net or http://gnuwin32.sourceforge.net.

[3] You can find a wealth of great technical blogging on http://planet.mysql.com.

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