MySQL 5.0 Reference Manual  /  ...  /  Multiple Key Caches Multiple Key Caches

Shared access to the key cache improves performance but does not eliminate contention among sessions entirely. They still compete for control structures that manage access to the key cache buffers. To reduce key cache access contention further, MySQL also provides multiple key caches. This feature enables you to assign different table indexes to different key caches.

Where there are multiple key caches, the server must know which cache to use when processing queries for a given MyISAM table. By default, all MyISAM table indexes are cached in the default key cache. To assign table indexes to a specific key cache, use the CACHE INDEX statement (see Section, “CACHE INDEX Syntax”). For example, the following statement assigns indexes from the tables t1, t2, and t3 to the key cache named hot_cache:

mysql> CACHE INDEX t1, t2, t3 IN hot_cache;
| Table   | Op                 | Msg_type | Msg_text |
| test.t1 | assign_to_keycache | status   | OK       |
| test.t2 | assign_to_keycache | status   | OK       |
| test.t3 | assign_to_keycache | status   | OK       |

The key cache referred to in a CACHE INDEX statement can be created by setting its size with a SET GLOBAL parameter setting statement or by using server startup options. For example:

mysql> SET GLOBAL keycache1.key_buffer_size=128*1024;

To destroy a key cache, set its size to zero:

mysql> SET GLOBAL keycache1.key_buffer_size=0;

You cannot destroy the default key cache. Any attempt to do this is ignored:

mysql> SET GLOBAL key_buffer_size = 0;

mysql> SHOW VARIABLES LIKE 'key_buffer_size';
| Variable_name   | Value   |
| key_buffer_size | 8384512 |

Key cache variables are structured system variables that have a name and components. For keycache1.key_buffer_size, keycache1 is the cache variable name and key_buffer_size is the cache component. See Section, “Structured System Variables”, for a description of the syntax used for referring to structured key cache system variables.

By default, table indexes are assigned to the main (default) key cache created at the server startup. When a key cache is destroyed, all indexes assigned to it are reassigned to the default key cache.

For a busy server, you can use a strategy that involves three key caches:

  • A hot key cache that takes up 20% of the space allocated for all key caches. Use this for tables that are heavily used for searches but that are not updated.

  • A cold key cache that takes up 20% of the space allocated for all key caches. Use this cache for medium-sized, intensively modified tables, such as temporary tables.

  • A warm key cache that takes up 60% of the key cache space. Employ this as the default key cache, to be used by default for all other tables.

One reason the use of three key caches is beneficial is that access to one key cache structure does not block access to the others. Statements that access tables assigned to one cache do not compete with statements that access tables assigned to another cache. Performance gains occur for other reasons as well:

  • The hot cache is used only for retrieval queries, so its contents are never modified. Consequently, whenever an index block needs to be pulled in from disk, the contents of the cache block chosen for replacement need not be flushed first.

  • For an index assigned to the hot cache, if there are no queries requiring an index scan, there is a high probability that the index blocks corresponding to nonleaf nodes of the index B-tree remain in the cache.

  • An update operation most frequently executed for temporary tables is performed much faster when the updated node is in the cache and need not be read in from disk first. If the size of the indexes of the temporary tables are comparable with the size of cold key cache, the probability is very high that the updated node is in the cache.

The CACHE INDEX statement sets up an association between a table and a key cache, but the association is lost each time the server restarts. If you want the association to take effect each time the server starts, one way to accomplish this is to use an option file: Include variable settings that configure your key caches, and an init-file option that names a file containing CACHE INDEX statements to be executed. For example:

key_buffer_size = 4G
hot_cache.key_buffer_size = 2G
cold_cache.key_buffer_size = 2G

The statements in mysqld_init.sql are executed each time the server starts. The file should contain one SQL statement per line. The following example assigns several tables each to hot_cache and cold_cache:

CACHE INDEX db1.t1, db1.t2, db2.t3 IN hot_cache
CACHE INDEX db1.t4, db2.t5, db2.t6 IN cold_cache

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User Comments
  Posted by Haluk Akin on November 30, 2010
At this time it looks like getting information on custom active key caches is not very easy.

I filed a feature request here:

In return Shane Bester commented that I can run a "mysqladmin debug" and it will output some information about the custom key caches into the mysql log.

It is a start, it helped me and it might help some others.
However, still, there is a need to be able to query more information on custom key caches. Most importantly we need to be able to query which tables are assigned to which custom key cache.
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