BLOBS in the Drizzle/MySQL Storage Engine API

Another (AFAIK) undocumented part of the Storage Engine API:

We all know what a normal row looks like in Drizzle/MySQL row format (a NULL bitmap and then column data):

Nothing that special. It’s a fixed sized buffer, Field objects reference into it, you read out of it and write the values into your engine. However, when you get to BLOBs, we can’t use a fixed sized buffer as BLOBs may be quite large. So, the format with BLOBS is the bit in the row is a length of the blob (1, 2, 3 or 4 bytes – in Drizzle it’s only 3 or 4 bytes now and soon only 4 bytes once we fix a bug that isn’t interesting to discuss here). The Second part of the in-row part is a pointer to a location in memory where the BLOB is stored. So a row that has a BLOB in it looks something like this:

The size of the pointer is (of course) platform dependent. On 32bit machines it’s 4 bytes and on 64bit machines it’s 8 bytes.

Now, if I were any other source of documentation, I’d stop right here.

But I’m not. I’m a programmer writing a Storage Engine who now has the crucial question of memory management.

When your engine is given the row from the upper layer (such as doInsertRecord()/write_row()) you don’t have to worry, for the duration of the call, the memory will be there (don’t count on it being there after though, so if you’re not going to immediately splat it somewhere, make your own copy).

For reading, you are expected to provide a pointer to a location in memory that is valid until the next call to your Cursor. For example, rnd_next() call reads a BLOB field and your engine provides a pointer. At the subsequent rnd_next() call, it can free that pointer (or at doStopTableScan()/rnd_end()).

HOWEVER, this is true except for index_read_idx_map(), which in the default implementation in the Cursor (handler) base class ends up doing a doStartIndexScan(), index_read(), doEndIndexScan(). This means that if a BLOB was read, the engine could have (quite rightly) freed that memory already. In this case, you must keep the memory around until either a reset() or extra(HA_EXTRA_FLUSH) call.

This exception is tested (by accident) by a whole single query in type_blob.test – a monster of a query that’s about a seven way join with a group by and an order by. It would be quite possible to write a fairly functional engine and completely miss this.

Good luck.

This blog post (but not the whole blog) is published under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License. Attribution is by linking back to this post and mentioning my name (Stewart Smith).

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