A Brief Introduction to MySQL Performance Tuning

Here are some common performance tuning concepts that I frequently run into. Please note that this really is only a basic introduction to performance tuning. For more in-depth tuning, it strongly depends on your systems, data and usage.

Server Variables

For tuning InnoDB performance, your primary variable is innodb_buffer_pool_size. This is the chunk of memory that InnoDB uses for caching data, indexes and various pieces of information about your database. The bigger, the better. If you can cache all of your data in memory, you’ll see significant performance improvements.

For MyISAM, there is a similar buffer defined by key_buffer_size, though this is only used for indexes, not data. Again, the bigger, the better.

Other variables that are worth investigating for performance tuning are:

query_cache_size – This can be very useful if you have a small number of read queries that are repeated frequently, with no write queries in between. There have been problems with too large a query cache locking up the server, so you will need to experiment to find a value that’s right for you.

innodb_log_file_size – Don’t fall into the trap of setting this to be too large. A large InnoDB log file group is necessary if you have lots of large, concurrent transactions, but comes at the expense of slowing down InnoDB recover, in event of a crash.

sort_buffer_size – Another one that shouldn’t be set too large. Peter Zaitsev did some testing a while back showing that increasing sort_buffer_size can in fact reduce the speed of the query.

Server Hardware

There are a few solid recommendations for improving the performance of MySQL by upgrading your hardware:

  • Use a 64-bit processor, operating system and MySQL binary. This will allow you to address lots of RAM. At this point in time, InnoDB does have issues scaling past 8 cores, so you don’t need to go out of your way to have lots of processors.
  • Speaking of RAM, buy lots of it. Enough to fit all of your data and indexes, if you can.
  • If you can’t fit all of your data into RAM, you’ll need fast disks, RAID if you can. Have multiple disks, so you can seperate your data files, OS files and log files onto different physical disks.

Query Tuning

Finally, though probably the most important, we look at tuning queries. In particular, we make sure that they’re using indexes, and they’re running quickly. To do so, turn on the Slow Query Log for a day, with log_queries_not_using_indexes enabled as well. Run the resulting log through mysqldumpslow, which will produce a summary of the log. This will help you prioritize which queries to tackle first. Then, you can use EXPLAIN to find out what they’re doing, and adjust your indexes accordingly.

Have fun!