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MySQL Reference Manual by Kaj Arno, David Axmark, Michael Widenius

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Locking Issues

How MySQL Locks Tables

You can find a discussion about different locking methods in the appendix. See Section D.4.

All locking in MySQL is deadlock-free, except for InnoDB and BDB type tables. This is managed by always requesting all needed locks at once at the beginning of a query and always locking the tables in the same order.

InnoDB type tables automatically acquire their row locks and BDB type tables their page locks during the processing of SQL statements, not at the start of the transaction.

The locking method MySQL uses for WRITE locks works as follows:

  • If there are no locks on the table, put a write lock on it.

  • Otherwise, put the lock request in the write lock queue.

The locking method MySQL uses for READ locks works as follows:

  • If there are no write locks on the table, put a read lock on it.

  • Otherwise, put the lock request in the read lock queue.

When a lock is released, the lock is made available to the threads in the write lock queue, then to the threads in the read lock queue.

This means that if you have many updates on a table, SELECT statements will wait until there are no more updates.

To work around this for the case where you want to do many INSERT and SELECT operations on a table, you can insert rows in a temporary table and update the real table with the records from the temporary table once in a while.

This can be done with the following code:

mysql> LOCK TABLES real_table WRITE, insert_table WRITE;
mysql> INSERT INTO real_table SELECT * FROM insert_table;
mysql> TRUNCATE TABLE insert_table;

You can use the LOW_PRIORITY options with INSERT, UPDATE, or DELETE, or HIGH_PRIORITY with SELECT if you want to prioritise retrieval in some specific cases. You can also start mysqld with --low-priority-updates to get the same behavior.

Using SQL_BUFFER_RESULT can also help make table locks shorter. See Section 6.4.1.

You could also change the locking code in mysys/thr_lock.c to use a single queue. In this case, write locks and read locks would have the same priority, which might help some applications.

Table Locking Issues

The table locking code in MySQL is deadlock free.

MySQL uses table locking (instead of row locking or column locking) on all table types, except InnoDB and BDB tables, to achieve a very high lock speed. For large tables, table locking is much better than row locking for most applications, but there are, of course, some pitfalls.

For InnoDB and BDB tables, MySQL only uses table locking if you explicitly lock the table with LOCK TABLES. For these table types we recommend that you not use LOCK TABLES at all because InnoDB uses automatic row-level locking and BDB uses page-level locking to ensure transaction isolation.

In MySQL Versions 3.23.7 and above, you can insert rows into MyISAM tables at the same time other threads are reading from the table. Note that currently this only works if there are no holes after deleted rows in the table at the time the insert is made. When all holes have been filled with new data, concurrent inserts will automatically be enabled again.

Table locking enables many threads to read from a table at the same time, but if a thread wants to write to a table, it must first get exclusive access. During the update, all other threads that want to access this particular table will wait until the update is ready.

As updates on tables normally are considered to be more important than SELECT, all statements that update a table have higher priority than statements that retrieve information from a table. This should ensure that updates are not ‘starved’ because one issues a lot of heavy queries against a specific table. (You can change this by using LOW_PRIORITY with the statement that does the update or HIGH_PRIORITY with the SELECT statement.)

Starting from MySQL Version 3.23.7 one can use the max_write_lock_count variable to force MySQL to temporary give all SELECT statements that wait for a table a higher priority after a specific number of inserts on a table.

Table locking is, however, not very good under the following scenario:

  • A client issues a SELECT that takes a long time to run.

  • Another client then issues an UPDATE on a used table. This client will wait until the SELECT is finished.

  • Another client issues another SELECT statement on the same table. As UPDATE has higher priority than SELECT, this SELECT will wait for the UPDATE to finish. It will also wait for the first SELECT to finish!

  • A thread is waiting for something like full disk, in which case all threads that want to access the problem table will also be put in a waiting state until more disk space is made available.

Some possible solutions to this problem are:

  • Try to get the SELECT statements to run faster. You may have to create some summary tables to do this.

  • Start mysqld with --low-priority-updates. This will give all statements that update (modify) a table lower priority than a SELECT statement. In this case the last SELECT statement in the previous scenario would execute before the INSERT statement.

  • You can give a specific INSERT, UPDATE, or DELETE statement lower priority with the LOW_PRIORITY attribute.

  • Start mysqld with a low value for max_write_lock_count to give READ locks after a certain number of WRITE locks.

  • You can specify that all updates from a specific thread should be done with low priority by using the SQL command SET SQL_LOW_PRIORITY_UPDATES=1. See Section 5.5.6.

  • You can specify that a specific SELECT is very important with the HIGH_PRIORITY attribute. See Section 6.4.1.

  • If you have problems with INSERT combined with SELECT, switch to use the new MyISAM tables, as these support concurrent SELECTs and INSERTs.

  • If you mainly mix INSERT and SELECT statements, the DELAYED attribute to INSERT will probably solve your problems. See Section 6.4.3.

  • If you have problems with SELECT and DELETE, the LIMIT option to DELETE may help. See Section 6.4.6.

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