HailDB: A NoSQl API Direct to InnoDB

At the MySQL Conference and Expo last week I gave a session on HailDB. I’ve got the slides up on slideshare so you can either view through them or download them. I think the session went well, and there certainly is some interest in HailDB out there (which is great!).

Speaking on Tuesday: HailDB and Dropping ACID: Eating Data in a Web 2.0 Cloud World

I’m giving two talks tomorrow (Tuesday) at the MySQL Conference and Expo:

HailDB: A NoSQL API direct to InnoDB, 2:00pm, Ballroom D

Dropping ACID: Eating Data In A Web 2.0 Cloud World 3:05pm, Ballroom G

The HailDB talk is all about a C API to embed an InnoDB based relational database engine into your application. Awesome stuff (also nice and technical).

The second talk, “Dropping ACID: Eating Data in a Web 2.0 Cloud World” is not only a joke that only database people get, but a humorous and serious look at data integrity and reliability as promised by the current hype. This was quite well received at linux.conf.au in January. So, if you weren’t in Australia in January this year, then certainly come along and see how you go heckling an Australian.

Things I’ve done in Drizzle

When writing my Dropping ACID: Eating Data in a Web 2.0 Cloud World talk for LCA2011 I came to the realisation that I had forgotten a lot of the things I had worked on in MySQL and MySQL Cluster. So, as a bit of a retrospective as part of the Drizzle7 GA release, I thought I might try and write down a (incomplete) list of the various things I’ve worked on in Drizzle.

I noticed I did a lot of code removal, that’s all fine and dandy but maybe I won’t list all of that… except perhaps my first branch that was merged :)


  • First ever branch that was merged: some mysys removal (use POSIX functions instead of wrappers that sometimes have different semantics than their POSIX functions), some removal of NETWARE, build scripts that weren’t helpful (i.e. weren’t what any build team ever used to build a release) and some other dead code removal.
  • Improve ‘make test’ time – transactions FTW! (this would be a theme for me over the years, I always want build and test to be faster)
  • Started moving functions out into their own plugins, removing the difference between UDFs (User Defined Functions) and builtin functions. One API to rule them all.
  • Ahhh compiler warnings (we now build with -Werror) and unchecked return codes from system calls (we now add this to some of our own methods, finding and fixing even more bugs). We did enable a lot of compiler warnings and OMG fix a lot of them.
  • Removal of FRM – use a protobuf message to describe the table. The first branch that implemented any of this was merged mid-November. It was pretty minimal, and we still had the FRM around for a little while yet – but it was the beginning of the end for features that couldn’t be implemented due to limitations in the FRM file format. I wrote a few blog entries about this.
  • A lot of test fixes for Drizzle
  • After relating the story of .test (hint: it broke the ability to check out the source tree on Solaris) to Anthony Baxter, he suggested trying something rather nasty… a unicode character above 2^16 – I chose 𝄢 – which at the time didn’t even render on Ubuntu – this was the test case you could only see correctly on MacOS X at the time (or some less broken Linux distro I guess). Some time later, I was actually able to view the test file on Ubuntu correctly.
  • I think it was November 1st when I started to work on Drizzle full time – this was rather awesome, although a really difficult decision as I did rather enjoy working with all the NDB guys.


  • January sparked the beginning of reading table information from the table protobuf message instead of the FRM file. The code around the FRM file was lovely and convoluted in places – to this day I’m surprised at the low bug count all that effort resulted in. One day I may write up a list of bugs and exploits probably available through the FRM code.
  • My hate for C++ fstream started in Feb 2009
  • In Feb I finally removed the code to work out (and store) in the FRM file how to display a set of fields for entering data into the table on a VT100 80×24 screen.
  • I filed my first GCC bug. The morning started off with a phone call and Brian asking me to look at some strange bug and ended with Intel processor manuals (mmm… the 387 is fun), the C language standard and (legitimately) finding it was a real compiler bug. Two hours and two minutes after filing the bug there was a patch to GCC fixing it – I was impressed.
  • By the end of Feb, the FRM was gone.
  • I spent a bit of time making Drizzle on linux-sparc work. We started building with compiler options that should be much friendlier to fast execution on SPARC processors (all to do with aligning things to word boundaries). -Wcast-align is an interesting gcc flag
  • Moved DDL commands to be in StorageEngine rather than handler for an instance of an open table (now known as Cursor)
  • MyISAM and CSV as temporary table only engines – this means we save a bunch of mucking about in the server.
  • Amazingly enough, sprintf is dangerous.
  • Moved to an API around what tables exist in a database so that the Storage Engines can own their own metadata.
  • Move to have Storage Engines deal with the protobuf table message directly.
  • Found out you should never assume that your process never calls fork() – if you use libuuid, it may. If it wasn’t for this and if we had param-build, my porting of mtr2 to Drizzle probably would have gone in.
  • There was this thing called pack_flag – its removal was especially painful.
  • Many improvements to the table protobuf message (FRM replacement) code and format – moving towards having a file format that could realistically be produced by code that wasn’t the Drizzle database kernel.
  • Many bug fixes, some acused by us, others exposed by us, others had always been there.


  • embedded_innodb storage engine (now HailDB). This spurred many bug and API fixes in the Storage Engine interface. This was an education in all the corner cases of the various interfaces, where the obvious way to do things was almost always not fully correct (but mostly worked).
  • Engine and Schema custom KEY=VALUE options.
  • Found a bug in the pthread_mutex implementation of the atomics<> template we had. That was fun tracking down.
  • started writing more test code for the storage engine interface and upper layer. With our (much improved) storage engine interface, this became relatively easy to implement a storage engine to test specific bits of the upper layer.
  • Wrote a CREATE TABLE query that would take over four minutes to run. Fixed the execution time too. This only existed because of a (hidden and undocumented) limitation in the FRM file format to do with ENUM columns.
  • Characters versus bytes is an important difference, and one that not all of the code really appreciated (or dealt with cleanly)
  • FOREIGN KEY information now stored in the table protobuf message (this was never stored in the FRM).
  • SHOW CREATE TABLE now uses a library that reads the table protobuf message (this will later be used in the replication code as well)
  • Started the HailDB project
  • Updated the innobase plugin to be based on the current InnoDB versions.
  • Amazingly, noticed that the READ_COMMITTED isolation level was never tested (even in the simplest way you would ever explain READ_COMMITTED).
  • Created a storage engine for testing called storage_engine_api_tester (or SEAPITester). It’s a dummy engine that checks we’re calling things correctly. It exposed even more bugs and strangeness that we weren’t aware of.
  • Fixed a lot of cases in the code where we were using a large stack frame in a function (greater than 32kb).
  • An initial patch using the internal InnoDB API to store the replication log


  • This can be detailed later, it’s still in progress :)
  • The big highlight: a release.

HailDB being built by default in Drizzle

It just it trunk – if you have HailDB installed when you build Drizzle, you will now get the HailDB plugin built. You can even run Drizzle with it (remove innobase plugin, load HailDB plugin). Previously, we had problems building both due to symbol conflicts between innobase and HailDB. We’ve fixed this thanks to the linker.

So, enjoy HailDB… welll, test it and report bugs that I can fix :)

New APIs in HailDB

In the current HailDB we have a couple of new API calls that you may like:

  • ib_status_get_all()
    Is very similar to ib_cfg_get_all(). This allows the library to add new status variables without applications having to know about them – because we return a list of what there are. For Drizzle, this means that the DATA_DICTIONARY.HAILDB_STATUS table will automatically have any new status variables we add to HailDB without a single extra line of code having to be written.
  • ib_set_panic_handler()
    Having a shared library call exit() is generally considered impolite. Previously, if HailDB hit corruption (or some other nasty conditions), it could call exit() and you’d never get a chance to display a sensible error message to your user (especially bad in a GUI app where the printed to console error message would be unseen). This call allows an application to specify a callback in the case of HailDB entering such a condition. We’ll still be unable to continue (and we strongly advise that you do in fact exit the process in your callback) but you’re at least now able to (for example) pop up a dialog box saying sorry.
  • ib_trx_set_client_data()
    This call lets you associate a void* with a transaction. HailDB keeps this pointer in its transaction data structure and in some callbacks (e.g. ib_set_trx_is_interrupted_handler(), see below) will pass this pointer back to you for you to use to help make a decision. In InnoDB in MySQL, this is the THD. In Drizzle, it’s the Session.
  • ib_set_trx_is_interrupted_handler()
    In various wait conditions (e.g. waiting for a row lock), HailDB will call the callback you set with this function with the client data (set with ib_trx_set_client_data()) to work out if the transaction has been cancelled. This enables an application to implement something like the MySQL/Drizzle KILL command to cancel a transaction in another thread.
  • ib_get_duplicate_key()
    If you just got a duplicate key error, this function will tell you what key it was. This allows you to implement a nicer error message.
  • ib_get_table_statistics()
    This function gives you access to some basic table statistics that HailDB maintains. This includes an approximate row count, clustered index size, total of secondary indexes as well as a “modified counter” which can give you a rough idea about how out of date these statistics are.

All of these are new to HailDB (and weren’t available in embedded_innodb), many in the new 2.3 development release. You can see usage examples both in the HailDB test suite and (for most of them) in the Drizzle HailDB Storage Engine.

Second Drizzle Beta (and InnoDB update)

We just released the latest Drizzle tarball (2010-10-11 milestone). There are a whole bunch of bug fixes, but there are two things that are interesting from a storage engine point of view:

  • The Innobase plugin is now based on innodb_plugin 1.0.6
  • The embedded_innodb engine is now named HailDB and requires HailDB, it can no longer be built with embedded_innodb.

Those of you following Drizzle fairly closely have probably noticed that we’ve lagged behind in InnoDB versions. I’m actively working on fixing that – both for the innobase plugin and for the HailDB library.

If building the HailDB plugin (which is planned to replace the innobase plugin), you’ll need the latest HailDB release (which as of writing is 2.3.1). We’re making good additions to the HailDB API to enable the storage engine to have the same features as the Innobase plugin.

Warnings are now actual problems

Yesterday, I reached a happy milestone in HailDB development. All compiler warnings left in the api/ directory (the public interface to the database engine) are now either probable/possible bugs (that we need to look at closely) or are warnings due to unfinished code (that we should finish).

There’s still a bunch of compiler warnings that we’ve inherited (HailDB compiles with lots of warnings enabled) that we have to get through, but a lot will wait until after we update the core to be based on InnoDB 1.1.

HailDB 2.0.0 released!

(Reposted from the HailDB Blog. See also the announcement on the Drizzle Blog.)
We’ve made our first HailDB release! We’ve decided to make this a very conservative release. Fixing some minor bugs, getting a lot of compiler warnings fixed and start to make the name change in the source from Embedded InnoDB to HailDB.

Migrating your software to use HailDB is really simple. In fact, for this release, it shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes.

Highlights of this release:

  • A lot of compiler warnings have been fixed.
  • The build system is now pandora-build.
  • some small bugs have been fixed
  • Header file is now haildb.h instead of innodb.h
  • We display “HailDB” instead of “Embedded InnoDB”
  • Library name is libhaildb instead of libinnodb
  • It is probably binary compatible with the last Embedded InnoDB release, but we don’t have explicit tests for that, so YMMV.

Check out the Launchpad page on 2.0.0 and you can download the tarball either from there or right here:

  • haildb-2.0.0.tar.gz
    MD5:  183b81bfe2303aed435cdc8babf11d2b
    SHA1:  065e6a2f2cb2949efd7b8f3ed664bc1ac655cd75

HailDB, Hudson, compiler warnings and cppcheck

I’ve integrated HailDB into our Hudson setup (haildb-trunk on Hudson). I’ve also made sure that Hudson is tracking the compiler warnings. We’ve enabled more compiler warnings than InnoDB has traditionally been compiled with – this means we’ve started off with over 4,300 compiler warnings! Most of those are not going to be anything remotely harmful – however, we often find that it’s 1 in 1000 that is a real bug. I’ve managed to get it down to about 1,700 at the moment (removing a lot of harmless ones).

I’ve also enabled a cppcheck run on it. Cppcheck is a static analysis tool for C/C++. We’ve also enabled it for Drizzle (see drizzle-build-cppcheck on Hudson). When we enabled it for Drizzle, we immediately found three real bugs! There is also a coding style checker which we’ve also enabled on both projects. So far, cppcheck has not found any real bugs in HailDB, just some style warnings.

So, I encourage you to try cppcheck if you’re writing C/C++.

Announcing HailDB

I just announced our continuation of the Embedded InnoDB project under the name of HailDB. Check out the announcement over at http://www.haildb.com/.

HailDB is a relational database that is embeddable within applications. You embed HailDB by linking to a shared library and calling a clean and simple API. HailDB is a continuation of the Embedded InnoDB project. It is not itself a database server, but is a library implementing the storage layer. With the addition of the HailDB plugin to Drizzle you get a full SQL interface.

Read more at http://www.haildb.com