stop messing with the tablespace

People keep loving and endorsing the –innodb-file-per-table. Then poor new users read about that, get confused, start using –innodb-file-per-table, and tell others to. Others read then, get confused even more, and start using –innodb-file-per-table, then write about it. Then…

Oh well. Here, some endorsements and FUD against one-tablespace-to-unite-them-all:

This same nice property also translates to a not so nice one: data can be greatly fragmented across the tablespace.

Of course, having file-per-table will mean that only one table will be in a file, so, kind of, it will not be ‘mixed’… inside file. Now, when data grows organically (not when you restore few-hundred-gigabyte dump sequentially), all those files grow and start getting fragmented (at ratios depending on how smart filesystem is, and.. how many people choose smart filesystems nowadays?). So, disks will have same soup of data, just instead of ‘fragmentation’ inside tablespace which is laid out sequentially on a disk/filesystem, you get fragmentation at file system level. Now, InnoDB has extents and such, and can afford new storage formats more often than filesystems do, so… which one is more modern for proper data allocation strategies?

So, some more criticism of InnoDB tablespaces:

An annoying property of InnoDB’s tablespaces is that they never shrink.

Annoying are people who find this annoying. Look, it is simple, if your data grows to X, then you do something amazing and shrink your dataset, there’re two outstanding questioms:

  • How soon will your dataset grow back to X?
  • What temporary data will be placed there, until the moment dataset grows back to X?

It is very simple, database servers house data. Run OPTIMIZE, data will get eventually fragmented (quite fast, actually, at usual access patterns, as once you have lots of full pages around, a simple insertion will split pages). That ‘free space’ achieved does not bring too much value, it will be gone, and data will be placed there. Oh, well, and it _will_ be used by database, by _any_ table, not just the owner-table of a file.

It does not release storage to the file system.

*facepalm*. File system doesn’t want that storage. It will give it back to InnoDB as soon as it asks. :)

I’ve seen more than once how certain tables are left unwatched, growing until disk space reaches 90% and SMS notifications start beeping all around.

Where is that issue of data storage strategies? I have tablespaces taking 95%. When they will reach 99% I will kill the database servers and cycle them out to other tasks to deal with smaller datasets. There is nothing bad with data growing, as long as you know the reason. There is nothing wrong with tablespace growing, thats its job – to house the data you feed in.

But having a file which consumes some 80-90% of disk space is a performance catastrophe. It means the disk needle needs to move large distances. Overall disk performance runs very low.

[citation needed]. Which filesystem will not place data at those ‘long distances’ for the needle, when it gets full? Which filesystem will relocate the data to the start of disk? This is most poorly sourced statement, which spreads FUD, even though same data placement would happen pretty much with every storage strategy. If start area gets full, you have to place data elsewhere. End of tablespace, end of filesystem, end of disk, it is same thing.

Also, one can never be sure how underlying storage will be mapped to block device. Writing to the end can be fastest, you never know. Did you try? :)

mysqldump, mk-parallel-dump

Where is mydumper? ;-D

One other nice thing about innodb_file_per_table is that it is possible to monitor table size on the file system level.

Oh sure, thats just what you need, give people who deal with data at the application level, access to MySQL data directories, and let them run awk, sort, du, etc, even though INFORMATION_SCHEMA gives you that data for any kind of table storage type you use. Oh, by the way, both I_S and ‘SHOW TABLE STATUS’ will tell about free space, whereas filesystem has no idea about what data is inside file. You choose your tools… ;-)

Oh, wait, this was given as an argument:

You don’t need access to MySQL, to use SHOW TABLE STATUS or to query the INFORMATION_SCHEMA.


Though actually I know where file-per-table solves something. I’ve written already, that most Linux file systems serialize O_DIRECT writes. Using separate files will mean that O_DIRECTs will be placed in separate queues per each inode. I’d suggest just using proper file system :-)

Now I should probably tell why having single tablespace is better. Besides the obvious (freed space shared by all tables), I don’t know. Well, there’re lots of different issues that have different impact on different operating systems, file systems, storage, etc.

For example, when data lives inside single tablespace, filesystem metadata operations are nearly non-existing. That means no writes to FS journal, less need for multiple-points-of-synchronization, etc.

Multiple file descriptors could also be mentioned, though probably nowadays it has nearly zero significance. I don’t know – statements like that need more than just assumptions. I don’t have good numbers about how much FS fragmentation affects proper database workload – and results can be different depending on data access patterns, size composition, and of course, filesystems used.

Still, from OS administrator’s perspective data is not fragmented in any way, moving files around will hit bandwidth issues in network, memory, I/O, but will not do any seeks. I probably have dealt too much with systems that had hundreds of millions of files, to love single-file-approach. :)