10 essential performance tips for MySQL

From workload profiling to the three rules of indexing, these expert insights are sure to make your MySQL servers scream

By Baron Schwartz, InfoWorld |  Software, databases, MySQL

When choosing hardware for MySQL, ensure good-performing components all around. Just as important, balance them reasonably well against each other. Often, organizations will select servers with fast CPUs and disks but that are starved for memory. In some cases, adding memory is cheap way of increasing performance by orders of magnitude, especially on workloads that are disk-bound. This might seem counterintuitive, but in many cases disks are overutilized because there isn't enough memory to hold the server's working set of data.

Another good example of this balance pertains to CPUs. In most cases, MySQL will perform well with fast CPUs because each query runs in a single thread and can't be parallelized across CPUs.

When it comes to troubleshooting, check the performance and utilization of all four resources, with a careful eye toward determining whether they are performing poorly or are simply being asked to do too much work. This knowledge can help solve problems quickly.

MySQL performance tip No. 3: Don't use MySQL as a queue

Queues and queue-like access patterns can sneak into your application without your knowing it. For example, if you set the status of an item so that a particular worker process can claim it before acting on it, then you're unwittingly creating a queue. Marking emails as unsent, sending them, then marking them as sent is a common example.

Queues cause problems for two major reasons: They serialize your workload, preventing tasks from being done in parallel, and they often result in a table that contains work in process as well as historical data from jobs that were processed long ago. Both add latency to the application and load to MySQL.

MySQL performance tip No. 4: Filter results by cheapest first

A great way to optimize MySQL is to do cheap, imprecise work first, then the hard, precise work on the smaller, resulting set of data.

For example, suppose you're looking for something within a given radius of a geographical point. The first tool in many programmers' toolbox is the great-circle (Haversine) formula for computing distance along the surface of a sphere. The problem with this technique is that the formula requires a lot of trigonometric operations, which are very CPU-intensive. Great-circle calculations tend to run slowly and make the machine's CPU utilization skyrocket.

Before applying the great-circle formula, pare down your records to a small subset of the total, and trim the resulting set to a precise circle. A square that contains the circle (precisely or imprecisely) is an easy way to do this. That way, the world outside the square never gets hit with all those costly trig functions.

MySQL performance tip No. 5: Know the two scalability death traps

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