Solving the non-atomic table swap, Take III: making it atomic

July 7, 2016

With the unintended impression of becoming live blogging, we now follow up on Solving the non-atomic table swap, Take II and Solving the Facebook-OSC non-atomic table swap problem with a safe, blocking, atomic solution

Why yet another iteration?

The solution presented in Solving the non-atomic table swap, Take II was good, in that it was safe. No data corruption. Optimistic: if no connection is killed throughout the process, then completely blocking.

Two outstanding issues remained:

  • If something did go wrong, the solution reverted to a table-outage
  • On replicas, the table swap is non atomic, non blocking. There's table-outage scenario on replica.

As it turns out, there's a simpler solution which overcomes both the above. As with math and physics, the simpler solution is often the preferred one. But it took those previous iterations to gather a few ideas together. So, anyway:

Safe, locking, atomic, asynchronous table swap

Do read the aforementioned previous posts; the quick-quick recap is: we want to be able to LOCK a table tbl, then do some stuff, then swap it out and put some ghost table in its place. MySQL does not allow us to rename tbl to tbl_old, ghost to tbl if we have locks on tbl in that session.

The solution we offer is now based on two connections only (as opposed to three, in the optimistic approach). "Our" connections will be C10, C20. The "normal" app connections are C1..C9, C11..C19, C21..C29.

  • Connections C1..C9 operate on tbl with normal DML: INSERT, UPDATE, DELETE
  • Connection C10: CREATE TABLE tbl_old (id int primary key) COMMENT='magic-be-here'
  • Connection C10: LOCK TABLES tbl WRITE, tbl_old WRITE
  • Connections C11..C19, newly incoming, issue queries on tbl but are blocked due to the LOCK
  • Connection C20: RENAME TABLE tbl TO tbl_old, ghost TO tbl
    This is blocked due to the LOCK, but gets prioritized on top connections C11..C19 and on top C1..C9 or any other connection that attempts DML on tbl
  • Connections C21..C29, newly incoming, issue queries on tbl but are blocked due to the LOCK and due to the RENAME, waiting in queue
  • Connection C10: checks that C20's RENAME is applied (looks for the blocked RENAME in processlist)
  • Connection 10: DROP TABLE tbl_old
    Nothing happens yet; tbl is still locked. All other connections still blocked.
  • Connection 10: UNLOCK TABLES
    The RENAME is first to execute, ghost table is swapped in place of tbl, then C1..C9, C11..C19, C21..C29 all get to operate on the new and shiny tbl

Some notes

  • We create tbl_old as a blocker for a premature swap
  • It is allowed for a connection to DROP a table it has under a WRITE LOCK
  • A blocked RENAME is always prioritized over a blocked INSERT/UPDATE/DELETE, no matter who came first

What happens on failures?

Much fun. Just works; no rollback required.

  • If C10 errors on the CREATE we do not proceed.
  • If C10 errors on the LOCK statement, we do not proceed. The table is not locked. App continues to operate as normal.
  • If C10 dies just as C20 is about to issue the RENAME:
    • The lock is released, the queries C1..C9, C11..C19 immediately operate on tbl.
    • C20's RENAME immediately fails because tbl_old exists.
      The entire operation is failed, but nothing terrible happens; some queries were blocked for some time is all. We will need to retry everything
  • If C10 dies while C20 is blocked on RENAME: Mostly similar to the above. Lock released, then C20 fails the RENAME (because tbl_old exists), then all queries resume normal operation
  • If C20 dies before C10 drops the table, we catch the error and let C10 proceed as planned: DROP, UNLOCK. Nothing terrible happens, some queries were blocked for some time. We will need to retry
  • If C20 dies just after C10 DROPs the table but before the unlock, same as above.
  • If both C10 and C20 die, no problem: LOCK is cleared; RENAME lock is cleared. C1..C9, C11..C19, C21..C29 are free to operate on tbl.

No matter what happens, at the end of operation we look for the ghost table. Is it still there? Then we know the operation failed, "atomically". Is it not there? Then it has been renamed to tbl, and the operation worked atomically.

A side note on failure is the matter of cleaning up the magic tbl_old. Here this is a matter of taste. Maybe just let it live and avoid recreating it, or you can drop it if you like.

Impact on app

App connections are guaranteed to be blocked, either until ghost is swapped in, or until operation fails. In the former, they proceed to operate on the new table. In the latter, they proceed to operate on the original table.

Impact on replication

Replication only sees the RENAME. There is no LOCK in the binary logs. Thus, replication sees an atomic two-table swap. There is no table-outage.


This solution satisfies all we wanted to achieve. We're unlikely to give this another iteration. Well, if some yet-more-elegant solution comes along I'll be tempted, for the beauty of it, but the solution offered in this post is simple-enough, safe, atomic, replication friendly, and should make everyone happy.

  • That are the issues with this?

    tbl1 TO tmp,
    tbl2 TO tbl1,
    tmp TO tbl2;

  • @Rick, I'm not looking for a symmetric swap. I'm looking to replace one table with another, while under lock, such that I can finalize some last writes.

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