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MySQL 5.5 Reference Manual  /  Alternative Storage Engines

Chapter 15 Alternative Storage Engines

Storage engines are MySQL components that handle the SQL operations for different table types. MySQL storage engines include both those that handle transaction-safe tables and those that handle nontransaction-safe tables. InnoDB is the default storage engine as of MySQL 5.5.5 (The CREATE TABLE statement in MySQL 5.5 creates InnoDB tables by default.)

MySQL uses a pluggable storage engine architecture that enables storage engines to be loaded into and unloaded from a running MySQL server.

To determine which storage engines your server supports, use the SHOW ENGINES statement. The value in the Support column indicates whether an engine can be used. A value of YES, NO, or DEFAULT indicates that an engine is available, not available, or available and currently set as the default storage engine.

*************************** 1. row ***************************
     Support: YES
     Comment: Performance Schema
Transactions: NO
          XA: NO
  Savepoints: NO
*************************** 2. row ***************************
      Engine: InnoDB
     Support: DEFAULT
     Comment: Supports transactions, row-level locking, and foreign keys
Transactions: YES
          XA: YES
  Savepoints: YES
*************************** 3. row ***************************
      Engine: MRG_MYISAM
     Support: YES
     Comment: Collection of identical MyISAM tables
Transactions: NO
          XA: NO
  Savepoints: NO
*************************** 4. row ***************************
      Engine: BLACKHOLE
     Support: YES
     Comment: /dev/null storage engine (anything you write to it disappears)
Transactions: NO
          XA: NO
  Savepoints: NO
*************************** 5. row ***************************
      Engine: MyISAM
     Support: YES
     Comment: MyISAM storage engine
Transactions: NO
          XA: NO
  Savepoints: NO

This chapter covers use cases for special-purpose MySQL storage engines. It does not cover the default InnoDB storage engine or the NDB storage engine which are covered in Chapter 14, The InnoDB Storage Engine and Chapter 18, MySQL NDB Cluster 7.2. For advanced users, this chapter also contains a description of the pluggable storage engine architecture (see Section 15.2, “Overview of MySQL Storage Engine Architecture”).

For information about storage engine support offered in commercial MySQL Server binaries, see MySQL Enterprise Server 5.5, on the MySQL website. The storage engines available might depend on which edition of Enterprise Server you are using.

For answers to some commonly asked questions about MySQL storage engines, see Section A.2, “MySQL 5.5 FAQ: Storage Engines”.

MySQL 5.5 Supported Storage Engines

  • InnoDB: The default storage engine as of MySQL 5.5.5. InnoDB is a transaction-safe (ACID compliant) storage engine for MySQL that has commit, rollback, and crash-recovery capabilities to protect user data. InnoDB row-level locking (without escalation to coarser granularity locks) and Oracle-style consistent nonlocking reads increase multi-user concurrency and performance. InnoDB stores user data in clustered indexes to reduce I/O for common queries based on primary keys. To maintain data integrity, InnoDB also supports FOREIGN KEY referential-integrity constraints. For more information about InnoDB, see Chapter 14, The InnoDB Storage Engine.

  • MyISAM: The MySQL storage engine that is used the most in Web, data warehousing, and other application environments. MyISAM is supported in all MySQL configurations, and is the default storage engine prior to MySQL 5.5.5.

  • Memory: Stores all data in RAM for extremely fast access in environments that require quick lookups of reference and other like data. This engine was formerly known as the HEAP engine.

  • Merge: Enables a MySQL DBA or developer to logically group a series of identical MyISAM tables and reference them as one object. Good for VLDB environments such as data warehousing.

  • Archive: Provides the perfect solution for storing and retrieving large amounts of seldom-referenced historical, archived, or security audit information.

  • Federated: Offers the ability to link separate MySQL servers to create one logical database from many physical servers. Very good for distributed or data mart environments.

  • NDB (also known as NDBCLUSTER)—This clustered database engine is particularly suited for applications that require the highest possible degree of uptime and availability.


    The NDB storage engine is not supported in standard MySQL 5.5 releases. Currently supported NDB Cluster releases include MySQL NDB Cluster 7.0 and MySQL NDB Cluster 7.1, which are based on MySQL 5.1, and MySQL NDB Cluster 7.2, which is based on MySQL 5.5. While based on MySQL Server, these releases also contain support for NDB.

  • CSV: The CSV storage engine stores data in text files using comma-separated values format. You can use the CSV engine to easily exchange data between other software and applications that can import and export in CSV format.

  • Blackhole: The Blackhole storage engine accepts but does not store data and retrievals always return an empty set. The functionality can be used in distributed database design where data is automatically replicated, but not stored locally.

  • Example: The Example storage engine is stub engine that does nothing. You can create tables with this engine, but no data can be stored in them or retrieved from them. The purpose of this engine is to serve as an example in the MySQL source code that illustrates how to begin writing new storage engines. As such, it is primarily of interest to developers.

It is important to remember that you are not restricted to using the same storage engine for an entire server or schema: you can use a different storage engine for each table in your schema.

Choosing a Storage Engine

The various storage engines provided with MySQL are designed with different use cases in mind. To use the pluggable storage architecture effectively, it is good to have an idea of the advantages and disadvantages of the various storage engines. The following table provides an overview of some storage engines provided with MySQL:

Table 15.1 Storage Engines Feature Summary

Storage limits256TBRAM64TBNone384EB
Locking granularityTableTableRowRowRow
Geospatial data type supportYesNoYesYesYes
Geospatial indexing supportYesNoYes[a]NoNo
B-tree indexesYesYesYesNoNo
T-tree indexesNoNoNoNoYes
Hash indexesNoYesNo[b]NoYes
Full-text search indexesYesNoYes[c]NoNo
Clustered indexesNoNoYesNoNo
Data cachesNoN/AYesNoYes
Index cachesYesN/AYesNoYes
Compressed dataYes[d]NoYes[e]YesNo
Encrypted data[f]YesYesYesYesYes
Cluster database supportNoNoNoNoYes
Replication support[g]YesLimited[h]YesYesYes
Foreign key supportNoNoYesNoYes[i]
Backup / point-in-time recovery[j]YesYesYesYesYes
Query cache supportYesYesYesYesYes
Update statistics for data dictionaryYesYesYesYesYes

[a] InnoDB support for geospatial indexing is available in MySQL 5.7.5 and later.

[b] InnoDB utilizes hash indexes internally for its Adaptive Hash Index feature.

[c] InnoDB support for FULLTEXT indexes is available in MySQL 5.6.4 and later.

[d] Compressed MyISAM tables are supported only when using the compressed row format. Tables using the compressed row format with MyISAM are read only.

[e] Compressed InnoDB tables require the InnoDB Barracuda file format.

[f] Implemented in the server (via encryption functions). Data-at-rest tablespace encryption is available in MySQL 5.7 and later.

[g] Implemented in the server, rather than in the storage engine.

[h] See the discussion later in this section.

[i] Support for foreign keys is available in MySQL Cluster NDB 7.3 and later.

[j] Implemented in the server, rather than in the storage engine.

User Comments
  Posted by Adrian Singer on January 26, 2008
More information about how to pick the best MySQL Storage engine for your real life scenario:
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