how innodb lost its advantage

For years it was very easy to defend InnoDB’s advantage over competition – covering index reads were saving I/O operations and CPU everywhere, table space and I/O management allowed to focus on database and not on file systems or virtual memory behaviors, and for past few years InnoDB compression was the way to have highly efficient OLTP (or in our case – SGTP – Social Graph Transaction Processing) environments. Until one day (for some it came sooner, for others later)…

InnoDB team announced that it will change how it is going to do compression in the future and that old ways (that we rely on) will be all gone. I’m not exactly sure if there was any definite messaging on the future of existing methods, but Oracle in public will never put out a roadmap, and there’s lots of uncertainty involved then. Unfortunately, with this uncertainty, we probably lost quite some momentum in InnoDB engineering efforts (we don’t get to see some of planned advancements like Nizam’s work on page reorganization).

The new way is “InnoDB Transparent PageIO Compression” – and it makes lots of sense from full-stack architecture perspective. It relies on the fact that high end flash storage devices already have a log-structured block storage internally, and if one ties directly into it, lots of overhead can be avoided (similar concepts are used by MariaDB’s atomic writes).

We were throwing this idea around as a thought exercise years ago, and we mentioned it here and there. As every thought exercise, we had lots of pros and cons to think about.

One problem is that even it is log structured internally, it is still glued together out of blocks. Few years ago disks and flash devices used to be 512-byte formatted. Nowadays industry is switching to 4k sectors (on disks it yields higher density, on flash it reduces flash translation layer (FTL) costs).

If 16k compresses into 9k, earlier assumption was that new layer will write only 9k. With 4k sectors it will actually write 12k, oh no. How do we solve that with old-style compression? We only partially fill InnoDB’s page so that we will write 8k. In this case InnoDB deciding to be naive and not do any speculative page size management ends up writing much more than solutions used at large scale environments.

Another problem is that buffer pool is no longer compressed. This may mean you will need to buy devices with more IOPS and higher write endurance. Compressed buffer pool is huge advantage, and without it users will just have to spend more on hardware (and Oracle is in selling hardware business, yay!).

Then there’s this whole other thing, which makes absolutely no sense. Why would Oracle decide to support single hardware vendor (it doesn’t even own) proprietary solution in its ubiquitous open-source product. They say they’re using APIs that work elsewhere, but thats where it is recycled bovine manure.

When you’re talking to flash device, its FTL is hiding the fact that everything is truly fragmented underneath you and the namespace it has to deal with it does not have any complicated dependencies – it is essentially log-structured K/V store, where key is block address. The ease of log structured design is that you’re writing to very few places (and you’re usually appending). General purpose file system such as XFS has to handle all the metadata between underlying flat-addressed block device and directories, file placement, extents and writes to files. On top of that it has to provide semantics like file expansion, renames, deletion, all happening on that single block device underneath.

For quite a while InnoDB was holding a global mutex when extending files – and that is very trivial operation comparing to what hole punching would mean. Hole punching inside a file system would make each InnoDB page a separate segment that has to be tracked via file system metadata management (so every page write will be accompanied by filesystem journal and metadata writes). There is a question whether file system is going to scale, and then there’s just basic efficiency (a sparse synchronous write is ~5x more expensive than non-sparse one).

Dropping a file with millions of file system segments in it will take minutes of CPU time and lock contention on allocation group (each segment has to be evaluated, added back to list of free space segments with possible merging, etc). Understanding implications of extreme fragmentation (can you even use the file system once it hits 50% full? 75% full?) is not that straightforward either.

I did not have to think at all about file system scalability before (as long as writes got through), now I can’t stop noticing things like XFS padding log writes to a imaginary or real stripe size (as if every RAID is RAID5).

So while Oracle has completely messed up with InnoDB compression roadmap, surrounding industry moved ahead in leaps and bounds. Remember that toy MongoDB with all of its inefficiencies? This is where it is today:

Chasing benchmarks is not enough to win a datacenter, especially when large scale environments are working on improving efficiency of systems, not just throughput. RocksDB has been making its way into InnoDB’s turf in MySQL world, MongoDB ecosystem has RocksDB, TokuDB, WiredTiger. Embeddable InnoDB does not exist anymore, so most of innovation in storage systems ends up completely ignoring it.

While Oracle orients MySQL towards proprietary file systems and hardware devices, we will see more and more new platforms on top of open-source pluggable storage engines.

Though we did deploy recently some non-compressed InnoDB environments (I am going to talk at MySQL Conference about our MySQL/InnoDB Messenger backend), Yoshinori is going to talk about LSM databases at Facebook too and Harrison’s keynote will be about all the different systems that are needed to deal with complex data problems.

how MySQL engineering broke the backups

MySQL has exceptional track of record by introducing minor fixes that cause major breakages. Though usually I could blame naiveté of engineers, who did not really ever have to deal with production implications, but lately I can start sensing various business implications against open-source offerings.

As an original author of mydumper I really cannot get out of my mind that 5.5 and 5.6 metadata locking changes are there to screw with anyone who is building a backup solution using stable snapshot views of MySQL (for example, mysqldump –single-transaction, the golden standard of backing things up in MySQL world).

As seen in a bug #71017 (palindrome!) filed by my esteemed colleague Eric, newly introduced behaviors gobble all the locks possible, even if it makes absolutely no sense for backup/ETL/migration/etc scenarios. 

The only supported way out of that is using MySQL Enterprise Backup, which is proprietary software, and does not produce logical backups that allow selective data restores or ETL capabilities or anything else. You get complete vendor lock in where there is no way to get your data out of the system in a consistent manner, unless, of course, you restrict to “no metadata changes allowed in production” mode. 

On replication, some more

Dear MySQL,

I feel ashamed that I ever wanted you to support 4.0->5.1 replication, and apologize for that. I really understand that it was really egoistic of me even to consider you should be involved in this.

I even understand that 5.0 is running out of active support (I’m not questioning that you’ll stop supporting 4.1 entirely too), and you’ll stop doing pretty much anything to 5.0, except “critical security fixes” (w00t, I managed to get one into 4.1, 8 year old MITM flaw :).

I really understand that supporting more than one release is very very very difficult, and people should do only adjacent version upgrade.

I’m not asking you much, but, maybe you could then support 5.1 to 5.1 replication? I don’t want much, just:

  • Gracefully recover after slave crashes.
  • Don’t have single serial reading of pages for replication stream as a bottleneck – either read-ahead properly (you can do that with RBR!!!), or apply events in parallel (you can do that with RBR too!)
  • Allow to edit replication filters without restarting servers.
  • Allow to enable and disable binary logging of events received from master, as well as enabling and disabling binary logging without restarting the instance.

I hope it isn’t too much too ask! It is just supported replication between two same version instances.


Profile guided optimization with gcc

Yesterday I wrote how certain build optimizations can have performance differences – and I decided to step a bit deeper into a quite interesting field – profile guided binary optimization. There’re quite a few interesting projects out there, like LLVM (I hear it is used extensively in iphone?) – which analyze run-time profile of compiled code and can do just in time adjustments of binary code. Apparently, you don’t need that fancy technology, and can use plain old gcc.

The whole plan is:

  1. Compile all code with -fprofile-generate in {C|CXX|LD}FLAGS
  2. Run the binary
  3. Run your application/benchmark against that binary
  4. Recompile all code with -fprofile-use (above steps will place lots of .gcda files in source tree)
  5. PROFIT!!! (note the omission of “???” step)

How much profit? I measured ~7% of sysbench performance increase (and probably would see much higher value in CPU-tight benchmarks). YMMV. Can such PGO be useful for every user out there? Maybe – but the best results are achieved once looking at actual use patterns – though of course, lots of them are similar everywhere around.

Also, I am showing the actual profiling process with too much of pink. Apparently gcc/gcov profiles tend to get corrupted in multithreaded applications, so I did multiple profile/build passes, until I managed to assemble final binary. :-)

Now I have to figure out how to use -combine flag in gcc, and treat whole MySQL codebase as one huge .c file (apparently compilers can make much much better decisions then).

Notes from land of I/O

A discussion on IRC sparkled some interest on how various I/O things work in Linux. I wrote small microbenchmarking program (where all configuration is in source file, and I/O modes can be changed by editing various places in code ;-), and started playing with performance.

The machine for this testing was RAID10 16disk box with 2.6.24 kernel, and I tried to understand how O_DIRECT works, and how fsync() works and ended up digging into some other stuff.

My notes for now are:

  • O_DIRECT serializes writes to a file on ext2, ext3, jfs, so I got at most 200-250w/s.
  • xfs allows parallel (and out-of-order, if that matters) DIO, so I got 1500-2700w/s (depending on file size – seek time changes.. :) of random I/O without write-behind caching. There are few outstanding bugs that lock this down back to 250w/s (#xfs@freenode: “yeah, we drop back to taking the i_mutex in teh case where we are writing beyond EOF or we have cached pages”, so
    posix_fadvise(fd, 0, filesize, POSIX_FADV_DONTNEED)


  • fsync(),sync(),fdatasync() wait if there are any writes, bad part – it can wait forever. Filesystems people say thats a bug – it shouldn’t wait for I/O that happened after sync being called. I tend to believe, as it causes stuff like InnoDB semaphore waits and such.

Of course, having write-behind caching at the controller (or disk, *shudder*) level allows filesystems to be lazy (and benchmarks are no longer that different), but having the upper layers work efficiently is quite important too, to avoid bottlenecks.

It is interesting, that write-behind caching isn’t needed that much anymore for random writes, once filesystem parallelizes I/O, even direct, nonbuffered one.

Anyway, now that I found some of I/O properties and issues, should probably start thinking how they apply to the upper layers like InnoDB.. :)

On blocking

If a process has two blocking operations, each blocking other (like, I/O and networking), theoretical performance decrease will be 50%. Solution is very easy – convert one operation (quite often the one that blocks less, but I guess it doesn’t matter that much) into a nonblocking one.

Though MySQL has network-write buffer, which provides some async network behavior, it still has to get context switch into a thread to write stuff.

rsync and other file transfer protocols are even worse in this regard. On a regular Linux machine rsync even on gigabit network will keep kernel’s send-queue saturated (it is 128K by default anyway).

How to make MySQL’s or rsync networking snappier? If in ‘netstat’ sendq column is maxed out – just increase kernel buffers, instead of process buffers:

# increase TCP max buffer size
net.core.rmem_max = 16777216
net.core.wmem_max = 16777216
# increase Linux autotuning TCP buffer limits
# min, default, and max number of bytes to use
net.ipv4.tcp_rmem = 4096 87380 16777216
net.ipv4.tcp_wmem = 4096 65536 16777216

This can add additional 10-20% of file transfer throughput (and sendq goes up to 500k – so it seems to be really worth it).