MySQL and HeatWave

An Insider’s View of MySQL Group Replication—Now Available in Oracle MySQL Cloud Service!

Weichen Chiu
Pincipal Product Marketing Director

MySQL is the #1 open source database. Because of MySQL’s high
performance, scalability, and availability, it has been widely popular for Web
applications and has become the foundation for IT platforms that support
high-traffic social media portals, e-commerce applications, and fast-growing
organizations. As business models and technology requirements are being
transformed in all industries, more and more companies are embracing and
leveraging the cloud platform to enjoy the benefits of flexibility, agility and
cost-savings. Available in Oracle Cloud, the Oracle MySQL Cloud Service
provides an enterprise-grade MySQL database service to rapidly, securely, and
cost-effectively deliver modern applications. With the latest MySQL 5.7.17 update
release, MySQL Group Replication is now available in Oracle MySQL Cloud Service
and offers native, built-in high availability for MySQL databases.

To gain deeper insight into the benefits and use cases of
MySQL Group Replication, we had the pleasure to interview Nuno Carvalho, the
team lead for MySQL Group Replication, and get his insider perspective.

Q: Hi Nuno, could you
give us a little background about yourself and tell us what you do at MySQL?

A: Absolutely! Before coming to MySQL, I was a post-graduate
student and a researcher at the University of Minho in Portugal. My work focused
on designing and implementing techniques to improve scalability for distributed
systems. Five years ago I joined Oracle as a developer on the MySQL replication
team. One day, the opportunity to work on Group Replication was presented to me,
and my small team took on the task of making it happen. Currently I'm a
Principal Software Engineer and the MySQL Replication Service Team Lead at
Oracle. My team is in charge of MySQL
Group Replication plugin.

Q: Before we dive
into Group Replication, could you tell us what MySQL replication is and why
it's such a popular feature for MySQL?

A: MySQL replication is a simple and effective way to spread
data among several servers, with three main goals:

1) Availability: we can avoid the issue of single
point of failure by replicating data to several locations.

2) Scalability: the application can serve more
requests by sending read operations to replicas and allowing the primary server
to handle only the write operations.

3) Overcome the single server limit: eventually all
big users will reach the point when their data no longer fits in a single
server. The solution is to shard data across multiple servers, and it needs
replication to take care of data flow for the sharding to operate effectively.

MySQL replication is very easy to
set up and it performs extremely well, so MySQL developers and DBAs love to use
this feature to scale out and to provide high availability for their MySQL

Q: What triggered the
development of MySQL Group Replication if the existing MySQL replication is
already a great solution?

A: MySQL replication is an asynchronous replication, so to
avoid confusion between the traditional MySQL replication and the new MySQL
Group Replication, I’ll call the existing MySQL replication “MySQL asynchronous
replication” moving forward.

As mentioned previously, many MySQL developers and DBAs use
MySQL asynchronous replication for scaling out—using the primary server to
handle all the writes and the replicas for read operations. In this scenario,
if for any reason the primary server fails or needs to be taken down for
maintenance or upgrade, the DBA has to manually failover the primary server to
one of the replicas, direct the write traffic to the new primary, and configure
all the replicas to replicate from it. Once the previously-failed server goes
back online again, the DBA has to manually add the server back to the
replication topology and configure it appropriately.

This is not a big problem if you only have one primary and
two replicas, but consider the situation when you have tens or hundreds of
replicas, or even multiple layers of replication in your topology: handling all
these tasks manually becomes very complicated, time-consuming and error-prone
for DBAs. As the number of MySQL users grows, so does the usage of MySQL with
business-critical applications and its footprint within organizations. The
request to have a fault-tolerant MySQL system became a high priority for our customers
and also for the MySQL engineering team at Oracle. And so my team started on the journey of creating
MySQL Group Replication.

Q: It’s great to hear
the story behind product development and that’s actually a good transition to
our topic for today: What is MySQL Group Replication and how does it work?

A: MySQL Group Replication is a MySQL Database plugin that
enables developers and DBAs to create elastic, highly-available, fault-tolerant
replication topologies. It’s a mechanism that manages a group of servers and
presents it as if it’s a single server because all the servers in the same
group do the same operations and have the same data. Having multiple copies of
the same data set minimizes the risk of losing that data.

MySQL Group Replication can be operated in two modes:

1. Single-primary mode: in this mode, only one server accepts
updates at a time, so it’s almost like a drop-in replacement for any single
server, but with built-in high availability. In the case that the primary
server fails, the group automatically elects a new primary, and there is no
interruption to the service as everything happens in the background.

2. Multi-master mode: in this mode, all servers can accept
updates, even if they are issued concurrently. The built-in group membership
service keeps the view of the group consistent, and it’s available for all
servers at any given point in time. Servers can leave or join the group, and the
view would be updated accordingly. In the case when a server leaves the group
unexpectedly, the built-in failure detection mechanism would detect this event
and notify the group that the view has changed. And when a server joins, the
group would go through a distributed recovery stage so updates will be provided
to the group before handling requests. All these operations happen automatically
with no manual intervention needed.

Q: How is MySQL Group
Replication different from other MySQL replication mechanism?

A: MySQL Group Replication, despite providing the same look
and feel as a single server, it has a completely new implementation in the
transport layer.

MySQL asynchronous replication uses typical TCP connections
between the primary server and its secondary servers, and these operations are
not coordinated. For example, if a primary has two secondary servers, it is not
simple to ensure that data is replicated at same time to both of the secondary
servers. This makes handling failovers a very complex process for the

On the other hand, MySQL Group Replication is based on a
Paxos implementation, which ensures that all servers receive the same set of
data in the same order. This allows us to establish a logic clock among the
group and thus all operations, such as real-time group membership or primary
election in the single-primary mode, can be controlled according to that clock.
With such implementation, MySQL Group Replication performs much better in terms
of durability compared to the typical MySQL asynchronous replication.

Q: How does MySQL
Group Replication help DBAs?

A: When MySQL asynchronous replication is used, DBAs are responsible
for manually handling failures and primary failovers when the machine fails or during
scheduled maintenance on the primary server. With the built-in group membership
management in MySQL Group Replication, those tasks are managed automatically, no
matter when a member is removed intentionally, such as for maintenance, or by accident
due to machine failure. MySQL Group Replication provides data consistency
guarantees, conflict detection and handling, node failure detection and
database failover-related operations, all without the need for manual
intervention or custom tooling. When issues occur, the group has the capability
to manage necessary failover and heal itself.

This is a major step forward on automating DBAs’ tasks. With
MySQL Group Replication, DBAs not only save the time they otherwise would have had
to spend on manually configuring necessary failovers during scheduled
maintenance; more importantly, it removes the burden from DBAs to configure
failovers and other necessary settings correctly during stressful disaster
recovery. Since the failover process is automated, the failover time is
significantly reduced in the case of server failure. For MySQL asynchronous
replication, when the primary server fails, it takes from 5 seconds to a minute
or more for the failover to complete, depending on the workload and mainly on
how the primary failure is detected. With MySQL Group Replication, since we
have a group of servers, if one fails, the failover is immediately taken care
of by the group automatically. That is a huge improvement in high availability
and also there is no single point of failure.

Q: How do developers
benefit from MySQL Group Replication?

From the developers’ perspective, the best part of
implementing MySQL Group Replication—using the single-primary mode—is that almost
no change is required at the application level! Just minimal change in the code
and much higher availability for the application—how great is that? Existing applications
can be easily adapted when the underlying infrastructure moves from a single
server to a group of servers managed by MySQL Group Replication, and developers
can expect that the usual behavior of InnoDB, Performance Schema as well as
other MySQL components.

A quick note to developers thinking about trying out MySQL
Group Replication: transactions may rollback on commit due to conflicts between
concurrent operations, given the distributed fashion in the architecture. For
example, if you have a group of three, when two transactions are issued in
parallel to two different servers and they touch the same row, one of them will
be rolled back and only one will be committed. This is the difference developers
should be aware of when you replace a single server with Group Replication.

Another benefit Group Replication offers for developers is
guaranteed durability. MySQL Group Replication only acknowledges the commit once
it reaches the majority of servers in the group. Therefore, even if some
servers fail, the data is never lost because the majority already has it. This
is really, really important for developers.

Q: What has the
feedback been from MySQL users?

A: MySQL Group Replication has only been generally available
since December 2016, so most of our users are either testing this feature or
using it in their pilot programs. So far we’ve heard a lot of positive feedback
from those early adopters. They especially like the fact that this feature is
really easy to use and deploy, with almost no change required in the
application. We also received very useful input from our users, which we’re using
to make MySQL Group Replication even more powerful and user friendly.

Q: Now MySQL Group
Replication is also available in the Oracle MySQL Cloud Service. What
additional benefits do you foresee by having this feature in the cloud?

A: With MySQL Group Replication available in Oracle MySQL
Cloud Service, the biggest and most immediate benefit is that users have everything
they need all together, at one place. With a few clicks, our users can access
the latest and greatest replication technology for MySQL on the best hardware,
with optimal configuration. The end user will be able to easily create elastic,
highly-available, fault-tolerant MySQL replication deployment.

Here is a good example: with all the great capabilities I
mentioned earlier about MySQL Group Replication, some DBAs may be very
interested in trying it out, but they may be hesitant because they would have
to buy five machines and deploy five machines to take advantage of the benefits
of having a (5-member) group. Considering the time and money required to
purchase and configure five machines only to test MySQL Group Replication, the
idea of trying out this new feature seems less appealing. On the other hand,
having MySQL Group Replication in Oracle MySQL Cloud Service, the entire
process becomes very easy. Those DBAs only need to click a few buttons and request
five MySQL instances in Oracle Cloud, and the service is ready to go in a
matter of minutes—far faster than acquiring and configuring five physical
servers! This scenario would be perfect for many or even most customers in my

Q: What future
enhancements can users look forward to?

A: We are always working to make MySQL Group Replication, and
MySQL replication in general, even easier to use and more performant. There are
two areas of performance enhancements we are currently working on for MySQL
Group Replication: the first is to minimize the performance overhead or impact
when MySQL Group Replication is enabled; the other is to further increase the
number of members we can support in one group.

Q: Any parting words
you'd like to share with us?

A: MySQL Group Replication was a huge team effort, and it is
great to see it already being used by costumers and to hear their positive
feedback. It has been a pleasure to take an active part in the creation of this

Thank you, Nuno, for sharing your insight into MySQL Group Replication! To learn more, visit the product page for presentation slides and additional resources.

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