When MySQL 5.6 went GA back in 2013, it was a major milestone for MySQL, with a large number of improvements and new features in areas such as InnoDB, partitioning, performance schema, optimizer, and GIS. And not least, 5.6 came with much improved security features and characteristics.
But all things eventually come to an end. The baton passed to MySQL 5.7 and then 8.0, and as of February 5 2021, 5.6 will in practice reach its end of life. You will still be able to access pre-existing update releases, documentation and other support materials as per Oracle’s Sustaining Support policy, but the January 5.6.51 release was the last 5.6 maintenance release. So while it may not be quite as dead as the parrot in the world’s greatest comedy sketch, it does mean that there will be no new bug fixes or any other kind of maintenance on 5.6 from now on.
So with 5.6 getting deep-sixed, what should you do? Upgrading to 5.7 is certainly an option, but we would advise you to go all the way to the most recent major version, which is 8.0. Released as GA in April 2018, MySQL 8.0 represents the biggest leap forward with respect to performance, security and advanced features of any new MySQL major version, and it should be the default choice for anyone migrating from 5.6.
Upgrading from 5.6 to 8.0 is a two step process, where you first upgrade from 5.6 to 5.7, then from 5.7 to 8.0. For Linux based platforms, getting to 5.7 is covered in the blog post Upgrading to MySQL 5.7 Using the MySQL Repos for Linux. For non-Linux platforms, please refer to the Upgrading section of the MySQL 5.7 Reference Manual.
The subsequent step of upgrading from 5.7 to 8.0 is covered in depth in the MySQL 8.0 Reference Manual, with further details and examples in two blog posts from the MySQL Server team blog: INPLACE upgrade from MySQL 5.7 to MySQL 8.0 and Upgrading to MySQL 8.0? Here is what you need to know… And finally, a highly practical how-to from lefred, everyone’s favourite MySQL Evangelist: How to safely upgrade to MySQL 8.0?
With that, we’ve hopefully gotten you on your way to upgrade your MySQL 5.6 if you haven’t already. Keep in mind that running unmaintained software may be risky, and that is what 5.6 is going to become very soon.