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7.3. Locking Issues

MySQL manages contention for table contents using locking:

7.3.1. Internal Locking Methods

This section discusses internal locking; that is, locking performed within the MySQL server itself to manage contention for table contents by multiple threads. This type of locking is internal because it is performed entirely by the server and involves no other programs. External locking occurs when the server and other programs lock table files to coordinate among themselves which program can access the tables at which time. See Section 7.3.4, “External Locking”.

MySQL uses table-level locking for MyISAM and MEMORY tables, page-level locking for BDB tables, and row-level locking for InnoDB tables.

In many cases, you can make an educated guess about which locking type is best for an application, but generally it is difficult to say that a given lock type is better than another. Everything depends on the application and different parts of an application may require different lock types.

To decide whether you want to use a storage engine with row-level locking, you should look at what your application does and what mix of select and update statements it uses. For example, most Web applications perform many selects, relatively few deletes, updates based mainly on key values, and inserts into a few specific tables. The base MySQL MyISAM setup is very well tuned for this.

MySQL Enterprise.  The MySQL Network Monitoring and Advisory Service provides expert advice on when to use table-level locking and when to use row-level locking. To subscribe see http://www.mysql.com/products/enterprise/advisors.html.

Table locking in MySQL is deadlock-free for storage engines that use table-level locking. Deadlock avoidance 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.

MySQL grants table WRITE locks as follows:

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

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

MySQL grants table READ locks as follows:

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

  2. 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 and then to the threads in the read lock queue. This means that if you have many updates for a table, SELECT statements wait until there are no more updates.

You can analyze the table lock contention on your system by checking the Table_locks_waited and Table_locks_immediate status variables:

mysql> SHOW STATUS LIKE 'Table%';
+-----------------------+---------+
| Variable_name         | Value   |
+-----------------------+---------+
| Table_locks_immediate | 1151552 |
| Table_locks_waited    | 15324   |
+-----------------------+---------+

The MyISAM storage engine supports concurrent inserts to reduce contention between readers and writers for a given table: If a MyISAM table has no free blocks in the middle of the data file, rows are always inserted at the end of the data file. In this case, you can freely mix concurrent INSERT and SELECT statements for a MyISAM table without locks. That is, you can insert rows into a MyISAM table at the same time other clients are reading from it. Holes can result from rows having been deleted from or updated in the middle of the table. If there are holes, concurrent inserts are disabled but are re-enabled automatically when all holes have been filled with new data. This behavior is altered by the concurrent_insert system variable. See Section 7.3.3, “Concurrent Inserts”.

If you want to perform many INSERT and SELECT operations on a table real_table when concurrent inserts are not possible, you can insert rows into a temporary table temp_table and update the real table with the rows from the temporary table periodically. This can be done with the following code:

mysql> LOCK TABLES real_table WRITE, temp_table WRITE;
mysql> INSERT INTO real_table SELECT * FROM temp_table;
mysql> DELETE FROM temp_table;
mysql> UNLOCK TABLES;

InnoDB uses row locks and BDB uses page locks. Deadlocks are possible for these storage engines because they automatically acquire locks during the processing of SQL statements, not at the start of the transaction.

Advantages of row-level locking:

  • Fewer lock conflicts when accessing different rows in many threads

  • Fewer changes for rollbacks

  • Possible to lock a single row for a long time

Disadvantages of row-level locking:

  • Requires more memory than page-level or table-level locks

  • Slower than page-level or table-level locks when used on a large part of the table because you must acquire many more locks

  • Definitely much slower than other locks if you often do GROUP BY operations on a large part of the data or if you must scan the entire table frequently

Table locks are superior to page-level or row-level locks in the following cases:

  • Most statements for the table are reads

  • Statements for the table are a mix of reads and writes, where writes are updates or deletes for a single row that can be fetched with one key read:

    UPDATE tbl_name SET column=value WHERE unique_key_col=key_value;
    DELETE FROM tbl_name WHERE unique_key_col=key_value;
    
  • SELECT combined with concurrent INSERT statements, and very few UPDATE or DELETE statements

  • Many scans or GROUP BY operations on the entire table without any writers

With higher-level locks, you can more easily tune applications by supporting locks of different types, because the lock overhead is less than for row-level locks.

Options other than row-level or page-level locking:

  • Versioning (such as that used in MySQL for concurrent inserts) where it is possible to have one writer at the same time as many readers. This means that the database or table supports different views for the data depending on when access begins. Other common terms for this are “time travel,” “copy on write,” or “copy on demand.

  • Copy on demand is in many cases superior to page-level or row-level locking. However, in the worst case, it can use much more memory than using normal locks.

  • Instead of using row-level locks, you can employ application-level locks, such as those provided by GET_LOCK() and RELEASE_LOCK() in MySQL. These are advisory locks, so they work only in well-behaved applications. See Section 12.10.4, “Miscellaneous Functions”.

7.3.2. Table Locking Issues

To achieve a very high lock speed, MySQL uses table locking (instead of page, row, or column locking) for all storage engines except InnoDB, BDB, and NDBCLUSTER.

For InnoDB and BDB tables, MySQL only uses table locking if you explicitly lock the table with LOCK TABLES. For these storage engines, 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.

For large tables, table locking is much better than row locking for most applications, but there are some pitfalls:

  • 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 must wait until the update is done.

  • Table updates normally are considered to be more important than table retrievals, so they are given higher priority. This should ensure that updates to a table are not “starved” even if there is heavy SELECT activity for the table.

  • Table locking causes problems in cases such as when a thread is waiting because the disk is full and free space needs to become available before the thread can proceed. In this case, all threads that want to access the problem table are also put in a waiting state until more disk space is made available.

Table locking is also disadvantageous under the following scenario:

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

  • Another client then issues an UPDATE on the same table. This client waits until the SELECT is finished.

  • Another client issues another SELECT statement on the same table. Because UPDATE has higher priority than SELECT, this SELECT waits for the UPDATE to finish, and for the first SELECT to finish.

The following items describe some ways to avoid or reduce contention caused by table locking:

  • Try to get the SELECT statements to run faster so that they lock tables for a shorter time. You might have to create some summary tables to do this.

  • Start mysqld with --low-priority-updates. For storage engines that use only table-level locking (MyISAM, MEMORY, MERGE), this gives all statements that update (modify) a table lower priority than SELECT statements. In this case, the second SELECT statement in the preceding scenario would execute before the UPDATE statement, and would not need to wait for the first SELECT to finish.

  • You can specify that all updates issued in a specific connection should be done with low priority by using the SET LOW_PRIORITY_UPDATES=1 statement. See Section 13.5.3, “SET Syntax”.

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

  • You can give a specific SELECT statement higher priority with the HIGH_PRIORITY attribute. See Section 13.2.7, “SELECT Syntax”.

  • You can start mysqld with a low value for the max_write_lock_count system variable to force MySQL to temporarily elevate the priority of all SELECT statements that are waiting for a table after a specific number of inserts to the table occur. This allows READ locks after a certain number of WRITE locks.

  • If you have problems with INSERT combined with SELECT, you might want to consider switching to MyISAM tables, which support concurrent SELECT and INSERT statements. (See Section 7.3.3, “Concurrent Inserts”.)

  • If you mix inserts and deletes on the same table, INSERT DELAYED may be of great help. See Section 13.2.4.2, “INSERT DELAYED Syntax”.

  • If you have problems with mixed SELECT and DELETE statements, the LIMIT option to DELETE may help. See Section 13.2.1, “DELETE Syntax”.

  • Using SQL_BUFFER_RESULT with SELECT statements can help to make the duration of table locks shorter. See Section 13.2.7, “SELECT Syntax”.

  • You could 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.

Here are some tips concerning table locks in MySQL:

  • Concurrent users are not a problem if you do not mix updates with selects that need to examine many rows in the same table.

  • You can use LOCK TABLES to increase speed, because many updates within a single lock is much faster than updating without locks. Splitting table contents into separate tables may also help.

  • If you encounter speed problems with table locks in MySQL, you may be able to improve performance by converting some of your tables to InnoDB or BDB tables. See Section 14.2, “The InnoDB Storage Engine”, and Section 14.5, “The BDB (BerkeleyDB) Storage Engine”.

    MySQL Enterprise.  Lock contention can seriously degrade performance. The MySQL Network Monitoring and Advisory Service provides expert advice on avoiding this problem. To subscribe see http://www.mysql.com/products/enterprise/advisors.html.

7.3.3. Concurrent Inserts

The MyISAM storage engine supports concurrent inserts to reduce contention between readers and writers for a given table: If a MyISAM table has no holes in the data file (deleted rows in the middle), inserts can be performed to add rows to the end of the table at the same time that SELECT statements are reading rows from the table.

The concurrent_insert system variable can be set to modify the concurrent-insert processing. By default, the variable is set to 1 and concurrent inserts are handled as just described. If concurrent_inserts is set to 0, concurrent inserts are disabled. If the variable is set to 2, concurrent inserts at the end of the table are allowed even for tables that have deleted rows. See also the description of the concurrent_insert system variable.

Under circumstances where concurrent inserts can be used, there is seldom any need to use the DELAYED modifier for INSERT statements. See Section 13.2.4.2, “INSERT DELAYED Syntax”.

If you are using the binary log, concurrent inserts are converted to normal inserts for CREATE ... SELECT or INSERT ... SELECT statements. This is done to ensure that you can re-create an exact copy of your tables by applying the log during a backup operation. See Section 5.11.3, “The Binary Log”.

With LOAD DATA INFILE, if you specify CONCURRENT with a MyISAM table that satisfies the condition for concurrent inserts (that is, it contains no free blocks in the middle), other threads can retrieve data from the table while LOAD DATA is executing. Use of the CONCURRENT option affects the performance of LOAD DATA a bit, even if no other thread is using the table at the same time.

If you specify HIGH_PRIORITY, it overrides the effect of the --low-priority-updates option if the server was started with that option. It also causes concurrent inserts not to be used.

For LOCK TABLE, the difference between READ LOCAL and READ is that READ LOCAL allows non-conflicting INSERT statements (concurrent inserts) to execute while the lock is held. However, this cannot be used if you are going to manipulate the database using processes external to the server while you hold the lock.

7.3.4. External Locking

External locking is the use of filesystem locking to manage contention for database tables by multiple processes. External locking is used in situations where a single process such as the MySQL server cannot be assumed to be the only process that requires access to tables. Here are some examples:

  • If you run multiple servers that use the same database directory (not recommended), each server must have external locking enabled.

  • If you use myisamchk to perform table maintenance operations on MyISAM tables, you must either ensure that the server is not running, or that the server has external locking enabled so that it locks table files as necessary to coordinate with myisamchk for access to the tables. The same is true for use of myisampack to pack MyISAM tables.

With external locking in effect, each process that requires access to a table acquires a filesystem lock for the table files before proceeding to access the table. If all necessary locks cannot be acquired, the process is blocked from accessing the table until the locks can be obtained (after the process that currently holds the locks releases them).

External locking affects server performance because the server must sometimes wait for other processes before it can access tables.

External locking is unnecessary if you run a single server to access a given data directory (which is the usual case) and if no other programs such as myisamchk need to modify tables while the server is running. If you only read tables with other programs, external locking is not required, although myisamchk might report warnings if the server changes tables while myisamchk is reading them.

With external locking disabled, to use myisamchk, you must either stop the server while myisamchk executes or else lock and flush the tables before running myisamchk. (See Section 7.5.1, “System Factors and Startup Parameter Tuning”.) To avoid this requirement, use the CHECK TABLE and REPAIR TABLE statements to check and repair MyISAM tables.

For mysqld, external locking is controlled by the value of the skip_external_locking system variable. (Before MySQL 4.0.3, this variable is named skip_locking.) When this variable is enabled, external locking is disabled, and vice versa. From MySQL 4.0 on, external locking is disabled by default. Before MySQL 4.0, external locking is enabled by default on Linux or when MySQL is configured to use MIT-pthreads.

Use of external locking can be controlled at server startup by using the --external-locking or --skip-external-locking option. (Before MySQL 4.0.3, these options are named --enable-locking and --skip-locking.)

If you do use external locking option to enable updates to MyISAM tables from many MySQL processes, you must ensure that the following conditions are satisfied:

  • You should not use the query cache for queries that use tables that are updated by another process.

  • You should not start the server with the --delay-key-write=ALL option or use the DELAY_KEY_WRITE=1 table option for any shared tables. Otherise, index corruption can occur.

The easiest way to satisfy these conditions is to always use --external-locking together with --delay-key-write=OFF and --query-cache-size=0. (This is not done by default because in many setups it is useful to have a mixture of the preceding options.)


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