This is the 8th installment in the rather long series that started with Part 1 about a month ago.
Back in 2006, we were in the situation where MySQL 5.0 had taken forever, and the first “GA” release was not suitable for production. Looking towards MySQL 5.1, it was also unlikely to be out any time soon. The MySQL Cluster team had customers that needed new features in a stable release. The majority of users didn’t use the MySQL server at all, they directly used the C++ NDB API for the vast majority of queries – so the vast majority of release blocker bugs in the MySQL server would not affect the production readiness of MySQL Cluster for these customers.
So, the decision was wisely made to do separate releases from a separate tree for MySQL Cluster. This was named MySQL Cluster: Carrier Grade Edition and exists to this day.
The main use case for MySQL Cluster at this time was running telephone networks, specifically the Home Location Registry databases of GSM phone networks. Basically, you need to keep a database of which tower each subscriber is associated with so when you go to make a phone call (or SMS) the network can properly route the call. This means there’s some realtime response requirements and hardcore availabilty which demands a special type of database.
NDB has a long history (some of it detailed in a previous post), but for those kind of interested in internals, I’ll quote Frazer Clement (now a long time MySQL Cluster developer although I completely forget which year he joined the team, which is just slightly embarrassing):
…Erlang and Ndb Cluster share some Plex heritage, which can still be seen in their architectures today. Since Plex, Erlang has mated with Prolog, and Ndb Cluster was involved in a car crash with C++.
The customers for MySQL Cluster were not the ones who bought the $5000 support option… Typically, paying for the addition of a relatively major feature was considered quite okay and even “normal”. After all, the effort that goes into constructing the entire software stack of a large cell phone network is rather large, and MySQL Cluster would end up being a very small part of that.
Many major features went into MySQL Cluster first, sometimes years before they made the general MySQL Server: row based replication, circular replication with conflict resolution and online DDL (add/drop index and column). In fact, it kind of incredibly frustrates me that we solved online add column in NDB so many years ago and you still can’t add a column to an InnoDB table without some serious planning.
The key thing about MySQL Cluster releases? They happened. They were also regular, addressing customer issues and new major versions brought features that worked for the use cases of those who needed them.
Interestingly enough, you may recognize the person who ran the MySQL Cluster team as the same person who has overseen the now regular release cycle of the MySQL Server itself (and has now been in the MySQL world for over ten years).