Lead Image © Maikloff, Fotolia.com

Lead Image © Maikloff, Fotolia.com

A storage engine for every use case

Data Machine

Article from ADMIN 50/2019
You can choose from among a number of open source database storage engines for both general and specialized data.

MySQL knows very little about how to manage a table. Instead, it delegates such operations to a specific plugin type called the storage engine, which is the implementation of some important functions called by MySQL, including writing, deleting, and updating a row; reading rows; maintaining indexes; accessing indexes to find data more quickly; handling transactions (although many do not do this); and much more.

Today, the concept of a storage engine is implemented by several databases, such as MongoDB and Tarantool, the NoSQL database management system (DBMS) and Lua application server. However, MySQL probably invented this concept, because older competitors (e.g., Oracle, PostgreSQL) never implemented such a thing, knowing only one way to read or write a row.

One of the most famous contributors to MySQL and its fork MariaDB is Facebook. Last year, the social network spread the news of an important migration: Its MySQL instances, which relied on the default storage engine InnoDB, were migrated to their in-house, home-made storage engine, MyRocks, for their RocksDB high-performance database.

Not every company runs databases at the same scale as Facebook, so this piece of news gathered interest from database professionals, system administrators, and developers. Some people realized for the first time that MySQL supports storage engines, and those who already knew realized that MySQL storage engines are something to take extremely seriously. After all, it is difficult to doubt the quality of an important part of the Facebook infrastructure.

Why Storage Engines?

Why would MySQL implement storage engines? Maintaining multiple storage engines is expensive for a development team, even if this simply means fixing the most important bugs. Storage engines need to cooperate when different tables are used in a JOIN or when writes to different tables are performed in the same

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