5 signs you're outgrowing MySQL

MySQL has earned its huge installed base. But as Scott Sullivan of Clustrix argues, performance warning signs may indicate it's time to consider a NewSQL alternative

MySQL has long been the go-to database of the Web. It has powered some of the largest websites on the planet, as well as countless installations of open source software on every scale imaginable. But as many have learned, at a certain point, MySQL can become a burden to scale efficiently.

Scott Sullivan, vice president of technical account management at NewSQL vendor Clustrix, explains MySQL's limitations and details how NewSQL databases provide a fresh alternative. -- Paul Venezia

How to tell you're outgrowing MySQL

Rampant growth in data has left us scrambling to find better data management solutions. Most companies with a sizable user base have long outgrown the single database server that hosts all applications -- and now live in a bewilderingly complex ecosystem of multiple data management systems.

You may already have swarms of read slaves backing an elastic set of memcached MySQL servers, answering queries from your various Web/application farms in the cloud. You've probably already configured geographically distributed multimaster replication for handling writes into your database. Or maybe you just think you need to figure all of that out sooner rather than later.

Whether you have done none or all of the above, there comes a time when you outgrow what you have -- in many cases, the time-honored MySQL database -- and need to expand to meet current or anticipated growth. How do you know it's time?

1. Latency increases during peak traffic
If your services perform well off-hours, but seem sluggish during the peak part of your day, that's a strong indicator that you need more capacity or a shift in architecture.

Many teams naturally try to identify the offending load generators: adding indexes, rewriting queries to be more efficient, returning fewer results per page view, and so on -- and those efforts are often rewarded with improved user experiences. But those are 1 percent solutions. If you find yourself doing this day after day, you need a double-digit improvement often provided by additional hardware resources.

MySQL can scale up to the limits of today's technology as well as any system, but scaling out is limited. Common attempts to scale out a MySQL platform range from simple approaches -- such as deploying read-only slaves -- all the way to complex solutions like sharding or off-loading queries to a NoSQL architecture. All of these require changing your application's logic and data access methods and perhaps even your data model and user experience. None of these changes can be deployed quickly to combat rising latencies.

NewSQL solutions such as ClustrixDB are designed to scale out by incorporating additional hardware resources effortlessly, increasing capacity without requiring any work other than the rack and stack of new servers -- no application changes, no alteration of your data model. NewSQL delivers on the promise that a relational database can simply outgrow today's single instance hardware limits through clustering across affordable servers.

2. Delays in reporting and analytics
DBAs cringe when management wants to run reports against the production database. That's because the production database often runs full-tilt during the day and cannot afford to service the heavy calculations required to tell you how your service is performing. Running your reports on production not only takes longer than normal, but your user experience suffers.

Your DBA may have already set up a copy of production (a read slave) specifically for analytics and reports. The data on this dedicated reporting server may be slightly behind your production traffic due to replication delays, but at least your reports run quickly. This is like having a company car reserved for you and you alone. If you are not driving, it sits idle, waiting. Wouldn't it be better to put that reporting server to work serving user requests -- and be able to run reports quickly when you need them?

NewSQL systems can dynamically incorporate additional servers into a single database service, which no MySQL architecture can do efficiently. By overprovisioning a NewSQL system, your excess capacity can serve not just the occasional report, but surges in user traffic as well.

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