MySQL engines, MyISAM vs. Innodb

I think Narayan Newton does a very good job of summarizing the pros and cons of MyISAM and Innodb in this post “MySQL engines, MyISAM vs. Innodb”.

I have seen a lot written about this before but I think his post neatly summarizes the arguments on both sides and as worth reading if you are having to make a decision about this.

My reflex is to always use Innodb unless there is a compelling reason for using MyISAM, and it has to be really, really compelling.

I did take issue with one point he makes which he illustrates with an experience:

On the other hand, InnoDB is a largely ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability) engine, built to guarantee consistency and durability. It does this through a transaction log (with the option of a two-phase commit if you have the binary log enabled), a double-write buffer and automatic checksumming and checksum validation of database pages. These safety measures not only prevent corruption on “hard” shutdowns, but can even detect hardware failure (such as memory failure/corruption) and prevent damage to your data.

Drupal.org has made use of this feature of InnoDB as well. The database in question contains a large amount of user contributed content, cvs messages, cvs history, forum messages, comments and, more critically, the issue queues for the entire Drupal project. This is not data where corruption is an option. In 2007, the master database server for the project went down. After examining the logs, it became clear that it hadn’t crashed as such, but InnoDB had read a checksum from disk that didn’t match the checksum it had in memory. In this case, the checksum miss-match was a clear sign of memory corruption. Not only did it detect this, but it killed the MySQL daemon to prevent data corruption. In fact, it wouldn’t let the MySQL daemon run for more than a half hour on that server without killing it after finding a checksum miss-match. When your data is of the utmost importance, this is very comforting behavior.

I have certainly had this happen to me, once or twice, and it is very satisfying to see Innodb recover and carry on on its merry way. However I did experience very nasty hardware failure where a RAID controller went nuts and sprayed bad data out to storage, Innodb won’t prevent this, the database had turned into a small pile of bit goo and Innodb was not able to recover it regardless of how high the ACP(*) innodb_force_recovery was set. We had to switch to backup and wipe the original system clean. It is probable that MyISAM would have been able to recover the database because of its simpler structure.

(*) ass-covering parameter.

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One Response to MySQL engines, MyISAM vs. Innodb

  1. Pingback: InnoDb vs. MyISAM | John Maitz

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