Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Monday, October 3, 2022

Alibaba Joins MySQL Scaling Effort 

The Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group has joined the WebScaleSQL initiative designed to create a set of common extensions aimed at scaling the open source MySQL relational database.

Alibaba joins hyperscale Web application giants Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter in the effort to leverage the MySQL 5.6 database overseen by Oracle Corp. Facebook, which has one of the largest MySQL installations in the world, announced the effort in April 2014.

Alibaba's MySQL team has "already pushed their first few commits," Facebook software engineer Steaphan Greene noted in a blog post. "We know they'll be a great fit for this project based on the work they've previously done in this space, from general bug fixes and specific performance improvements to enhanced large-scale parallelism and micro-optimizations in compression."

The MySQL effort appears to be gaining momentum. Along with the Alibaba announcement, Greene reported progress on implementing a planned replication and server-side fixes for the Global Transaction ID (GTID), which is billed as one of the more innovative features of MySQL 5.6. Version 5.6 is the latest, production-ready release of the relational database.

The group plans to offer many of its server-side fixes as open source via WebScaleSQL. Facebook reported last fall that it has enabled GTID on all of its production MySQL instances.

Greene also ticked off other planned enhancements, including an asynchronous client protocol, logical read-ahead, query throttling along with improved thread pooling at the server level. He also forecast a "major reduction in memory usage." The social network currently uses PCI-Express cards to accelerate its massive MySQL installation.

Last year, server flash memory maker Fusion-io added to new features to its ioMemory PCI-Express flash cards with two new designed to significantly speed up the performance of MySQL databases. The new features, called Atomic Writes and NVM Compression, were developed in conjunction with the MySQL community.

Each WebScaleSQL member has been contributing code over the past year as they seek to leverage new features in MySQL 5.6. Among the group's goals is developing more features "that are specific to deployments in large scale environments," Greene said.

The partners also said they are "working to share a common base of code changes to the upstream MySQL branch that we can all use and that will be made available via open source."

The four founders of WebScaleSQL previously said they were looking for other industry partners who were pushing the MySQL envelop. Alibaba, which completed the largest-ever $25 billion initial public offering last September, is China's largest online retailer.

WebScaleSQL is currently based on Oracle's MySQL 5.6 community release, a version that according to members already possesses "production-ready features we need to operate at scale." They also noted that planned features for MySQL 5.7 provide an evolutionary path for further development.

In the meantime, "We are committed to remaining a branch—and and not a fork—of MySQL that’s focused specifically on the challenges of deploying MySQL at our scale."

So far, engineers from the five hyperscale companies have developed a built-in test framework and a suite of "stress tests" along with performance upgrades in the form of buffer pool flushing and optimization of query types.

All of the elements of WebScaleSQL 5.6 initiative can be seen on its GitHub page.

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