Monday, 27 September 2010

Some MySQL projects I think are cool - Flexviews

Most of the time we think of SQL queries as being executed at a point in time and generating a single definitive result, but huge efficiency gains are available when data changes are tracked and derived views are partially updated as needed rather than being fully recomputed periodically. MySQL has support for views on tables, but there is currently no support for materialized views. While thinking about this topic I decided to have another look at Justin Swanhart's Flexviews tool and it's definitely a cool MySQL based project.

Flexviews is an open source set of non-intrusive addons to MySQL enabling materialized views to be defined and maintained as the underlying tables are changed. If you're not sure what a materialized view is or why they can be useful then I recommend reading the intro on the Flexviews site. I was particularly impressed by the documented support for GROUP BY, aggregates and joins.

I have a vague recollection of reading a blog post about an early version of Flexviews which used MySQL triggers to collect data changes on underlying tables, and feeling that it was probably a little flaky. However I now read that the 'Change Data Capture' in recent versions has been factored out into a separate tool called FlexCDC which 'mines' Row-based Binlog entries. This is a far more promising approach, and useful for many other applications. From my own point of view, it makes Flexviews potentially useful for maintaining materialized views of data stored in MySQL Cluster, where Binlog is the only centralised record of change. It also got me thinking that MySQL Cluster already has code inside the Server listening to data changes for writing the Binlog, which could be extended to capture data changes into some other tables if it were a useful feature.

The fact that Flexviews is implemented without Server changes or hooks is impressive and it's a great example of a MySQL 'ecosystem' project. It would be great to read some blog entries about how people are using it and what it is doing for them.

1 comment:

swanhart said...

Glad you think it is cool. I too have thought about using the NDB hooks into the binary log to populate the log tables.