Posted on

Unqualified COUNT(*) speed PBXT vs InnoDB

So this is about a SELECT COUNT(*) FROM tblname without a WHERE clause. MyISAM has an optimisation for that since it maintains a rowcount for each table. InnoDB and PBXT can’t do that (at least not easily) because of their multi-versioned nature… different transactions may see a different number of rows for the table table!

So, it’s kinda known but nevertheless often ignored that this operation on InnoDB is costly in terms of time; what InnoDB has to do to figure out the exact number of rows is scan the primary key and just tally. Of course it’s faster if it doesn’t have to read a lot of the blocks from disk (i.e. smaller dataset or a large enough buffer pool).

I was curious about PBXT’s performance on this, and behold it appears to be quite a bit faster! For a table with 50 million rows, PBXT took about 20 minutes whereas the same table in InnoDB took 30 minutes. Interesting!

From those numbers [addendum: yes I do realise there’s something else wrong on that server to take that long, but it’d be slow regardless] you can tell that doing the query at all is not an efficient thing to do, and definitely not something a frontend web page should be doing. Usually you just need a ballpark figure so running the query in a cron job and putting the value into memcached (or just an include file) will work well in such cases.

If you do use a WHERE clause, all engines (including MyISAM) are in the same boat… they might be able to use an index to filter on the conditions – but the bigger the table, the more work it is for the engine. PBXT being faster than InnoDB for this task makes it potentially interesting for reporting purposes as well, where otherwise you might consider using MyISAM – we generally recommend using a separate reporting slave with particular settings anyway (fewer connections but larger session-specific buffers), but it’s good to have extra choices for the task.

(In case you didn’t know, it’s ok for a slave to use a different engine from a master – so you can really make use of that ability for specialised tasks such as reporting.)

Posted on

PBXT early impressions in production use

With Paul McCullagh’s PBXT storage engine getting integrated into MariaDB 5.1, it’s never been easier to it out. So we have, on a slave off one of our own production systems which gets lots of inserts from our Zabbix monitoring system.

That’s possibly an ideal usage profile, since PBXT is a log based engine (simplistically stated, it indexes its transaction logs, rather than rewriting data from log into index and indexing that) so it should require less disk I/O than say InnoDB. And that means it should be particularly suited to for instance logging, which have lots of inserts on a sustained basis. Note that for short insert burst you may not see a difference with InnoDB because of caching, but sustain it and then you can notice.

Because PBXT has such different/distinct architecture there’s a lot of learning involved. Together with Paul and help from Roland Bouman we also created a stored procedure that can calculate the optimal average row size for PBXT, and even ALTER TABLE statements you can paste to convert tables. The AVG_ROW_LENGTH option is quite critical with PBXT, if set too big (or if you let PBXT guess and it gets it wrong) it’ll eat heaps more diskspace as well as being much slower, and if too small it’ll be slower also; this, it needs to be in the right ballpark. For existing datasets it can be calculated, so that’s what we’ve worked on. The procs will be published shortly, and Paul will also put them in with the rest of the PBXT files.

Another important aspect for PBXT is having sufficient cache memory allocated, otherwise operations can take much much longer. While the exact “cause” is different, one would notice similar performance aspects when using InnoDB on larger datasets and buffers that are too small for the purpose.

So, while using or converting some tables to PBXT takes a bit of consideration, effort and learning, it appears to be dealing with the real world very well so far – and that’s a testament to Paul’s experience. Paul is also very responsive to questions. As we gain more experience, it is our intent to try PBXT for some of our clients that have operational needs that might be a particularly good fit for PBXT.

I should also mention that it is possible to have a consistent transaction between PBXT, InnoDB and the binary log, because of the 2-phase commit (XA) infrastructure. This means that you should even be able to do a mysqldump with –single-transaction if you have both PBXT and InnoDB tables, and acquire a consistent snapshot!

More experiences and details to come.

Posted on

MariaDB 5.1 packages for Debian/Ubuntu

See the OurDelta blog for details of this release. RHEL/CentOS packages also coming.