Initial Reactions to MySQL 5.6

New versions of MySQL are always interesting to try out. Often they have features which I may have asked for myself so it’s satisfying to see them eventually appear on a system I use. Often other new features make life easier for the DBA. Finally we hope overall performance will improve and managing the server(s) will be come easier.

So I had a system which needs to make heavy writes, and performance was a problem, even when writing to SSDs. Checkpointing seemed to be the big issue and the ib_logfile size in MySQL 5.5 is limited to 4 GB. That seems a lot, but once MySQL starts to fill these files (and this happens at ~70% of the total I believe),  checkpointing kicks in heavily, and slows things down.  So the main reason for trying out MySQL 5.6 was to see how things performed with larger ib_logfiles. (Yes, MariaDB 5.5 can do this too.)

Things improved a lot for my specific workload which was great news, but one thing which I noticed was that initial install / setup time of a system with these large files increased a huge amount. (I was using 2 x 16000M files.)  That was noticeable even on a box with SSDs. On a box with HDs that would be horrible.

mysql_install_db now uses innodb to setup some system things and restarts the mysqld binary a couple of times. When you also have a large innodb_buffer_pool (I was trying on a box with 192GB of RAM) the startup of mysqld each time took quite a while.

So initial thoughts are that the bootstrapping probably does not need to use the normal innodb_buffer_pool_size setting (but should perhaps overwrite it with the minimal size needed).

Managing the size of the ib_logfiles is also something that requires restarting mysqld. Given the sort of experimenting that I was doing it would be nice to be able to dynamically configure this.  I can see many issues with changing the sizes of the existing files, but what seems easier to implement would be to be able to increase or decrease the number of files used (removing the older, higher number files once they are “used”/checkpointed), and that would provide a lot more freedom to the DBA.

I clone servers quite a bit and the extra 32 GB of these redo log files is a pain to clone/copy, and time consuming, so being able to reduce the number of files, and checkpoint prior to shutting the server down for cloning, but then re-enabling the normal value afterwards would save a lot of time cloning. So would be a handy feature.

I also tried playing with the new GTID features.  They look great. Except for one thing.  This expects master and slaves to have binlogs enabled, so that the GTID values are kept locally, and on startup.  I manage several boxes where for performance reasons the slaves do not have binlogs enabled.  If it dies the slave gets recloned.  Adding back the requirement for binlogs ( and log_slave_updates ) on a slave to enable this feature seems wrong. I can see the need that the different GTID values are kept somewhere, but don’t see the need to keep all binlog information, at least on a slave. Given the ratio of slaves to masters can be quite high that can be an issue.  If necessary write this information somewhere else, why not in an InnoDB table, so that on sever recovery you have consistent information with the rest of the database, something that might not happen with the binlogs… ?

Talking of binlogs one new feature I’m using, which I think is good is: binlog_row_image = minimal. This reduces the size of the binlogs and thus I/O.  I’m missing the next step which would be to compress those binlog events, and reduce binlog size further. That may not be an issue on many systems but several servers I manage write over 100 GB of binlogs a day. Reducing this further by being able to compress the binlogs would be nice, and having better control of expire_logs_days too (as the daily granularity can be too large in many cases for me) would help.

NOTE: In MySQL 5.6.5 with gtid_mode = ON , mysql_install_db crashes! Bug reported to Oracle, and I guess will get fixed soon.

I have seen a few other crashes in 5.6.4 and 5.6.5, I can’t provide links unfortunately as they’re not public. They are still not resolved.  I’d like to make the details of these crashes public as others may come across them, or have come across them before me, but these issues are not visible in Would be nice if they were but requires me duplicating information which is a pain.  Oracle, please make this easier. It is good for us all.

So with the little testing I’ve done so far MySQL 5.6 looks good. I need to spend more time with it and investigate the new features, many of which will make life easier.

When it finally goes GA I will have to spend a lot more time seeing how it behaves but I believe there are still a few issues which still need resolving prior to that happening.