Understanding MySQL innodb_flush_log_at_trx_commit variable

The main objective of this post is to understand why innodb_fush_log_at_trx_commit variable is used? What are the applicable values for innodb_fush_log_at_trx_commit? How innodb_fush_log_at_trx_commit value will impact the MySQL performance and data safety?  How to change innodb_fush_log_at_trx_commit value? and How to change the frequency of InnoDB log flush?

Why innodb_fush_log_at_trx_commit?


In order to understand why we need innodb_fush_log_at_trx_commit variable, we should know about how InnoDB works. It is a huge and complex topic and it is not the scope of this article. I am trying to cover this topic in simple words and it is given below:

  1. InnoDB performs most of its operations at the memory (InnoDB Buffer Pool)
  2. It will write all changes from memory to the transaction log (InnoDB Log File)
  3. From transaction log - it will flush (write) data to storage disk (durable storage)

In order to achieve durability of data, we need to store each and every transaction data into hard disk storage. But consider, in a busy system, for each transaction commit, if InnoDB trying to flush (write) data to slow running disk, what will happen?, So how do we manage this situation, where we need to store each transaction data and at the same time maintaining good performance of the system.

The InnoDB provides the solution for this situation, based on your system, you can tell InnoDB, when you want to flush (write) data to disk. For example, you can tell InnoDB to work as mentioned below:

  1. Write to log file and flush data to disk in specified interval, not for every transaction commit.
  2. Write to log and flush to disk for each transaction commit.
  3. Write to log for every transaction commit but flush to disk at an interval not for each transaction commit.






Based on the application standard you can adjust these settings to maintain balance between performance and data safety. InnoDB provides a configurable variable to achieve this balance, this variable is called innodb_fush_log_at_trx_commit. This variable controls how often the log buffer is flushed.

What are the applicable values for innodb_fush_log_at_trx_commit and its impact?


InnoDB supports following 3 values for innodb_fush_log_at_trx_commit variable. Let see how these variables will change flush to disk behaviour:

innodb_flush_log_at_trx_commit=0

When you set innodb_flush_log_trx_at_commit=0, InnoDB will write the modified data (in InnoDB Buffer Pool) to log file (ib_logfile) and flush the log file (write to disk) every second, but it will not do anything at transaction commit.

Here, in case if there is a power failure or system crash, all the unflushed data will not be recoverable, since, it is not either written to log file or stored disk.

innodb_flush_log_at_trx_commit=1

When you set innodb_flush_log_trx_commit=1, InnoDB will write the log buffer to transaction log and flush to durable storage for every transaction.

Here, for all transaction commit, InnoDB will write to log and then write to disk, if in case the slower disk storage, it will badly impact the performance, i.e. the number of InnoDB transaction per second will be reduced.

innodb_flush_log_at_trx_commit=2

When you set innodb_flush_log_trx_commit = 2, InnoDB will write the log buffer to log file at every commit, but don't write data to disk. InnoDB flushes data once in every second.
Option 2, even if there is a power failure or system crash, data will be available in log file and can be recoverable.






So which option to be used on your application?


We have seen, the behaviour of each values, now it is based on the application requirement, we need to choose this variable value.

If performance is the main goal, you can set the value as 2. Since, InnoDB writing to disk once in every second, not for every transaction commit and it will improve the performance dramatically. In case if there is power failure or crash, data can be recoverable from transaction log.

If data safety is the main goal, you can set the value as 1, so that for every transaction commit, InnoDB will flush to disk. But performance may reduce in this case.

If you set value as 0, InnoDB will write from buffer to log once in every second and it will not perform any flush to disk operation for every transaction commit. The problem with this option is if in case of any power failure or system crash, there may be a chance of losing data up to one second.

Key points:


During buffer to log operation, i.e. writing from InnoDB buffer pool to InnoDB transaction log file - data is simply moved from InnoDB buffer to Operating system's cache, actually not written to the durable storage. So if you set innodb_fush_log_at_trx_commit either 0 or 2, there is a possibility of losing data up to one second.

If innodb_fush_log_at_trx_commit is set to 1 - InnoDB compels Operating System to flush data to durable storage. Writing to disk is a slow process and it is I/O blocking operation to ensure data is written to disk. So using this option, there is a chance; number of transaction per second will be reduced.

Note that, by default MySQL will auto commit the transactions.

Setting innodb_fush_log_at_trx_commit as 2 is useful when restoring huge databases, it will reduce the restoration time dramatically, and there are different opinions on this point, it is better to test in our own hand. In my experience, it really helped with the reduced restoration time.

Data Definition Language (DDL) changes flush the InnoDB log, independent of the innodb_fush_log_at_trx_commit setting.

Crash recovery operation works regardless of the innodb_fush_log_at_trx_commit setting, I am writing another article on InnoDB crash recovery.







How to configure innodb_fush_log_at_trx_commit variable?


The scope of the innodb_fush_log_at_trx_commit is GLOBAL and it can be set at dynamically without restarting server.

Dynamically on command line you can set innodb_fush_log_at_trx_commit as follows:

SET GLOBAL innodb_fush_log_at_trx_commit = 2;

On configuration file, you can set it as follows:

[mysqld]
innodb_fush_log_at_trx_commit = 2

Note: It requires server restart. Before making changes to configuration file, analyse the impact by setting it on dynamically.

If you try to set innodb_fush_log_at_trx_commit as session level variables, you will encounter the following error:

mysql> set session innodb_fush_log_at_trx_commit = 2;
ERROR 1229 (HY000): Variable 'innodb_fush_log_at_trx_commit' is a GLOBAL variable and should be set with SET GLOBAL
mysql>

How to change the frequency of InnoDB log file flushing?


The variable innodb_flush_log_at_timeout controls the frequency in which InnoDB flush log files. The frequency ranges from 1 to 2700 seconds, with the default value 1.






Note that, the higher this number, there is a higher the chance of losing data, in case of power failure or system crash.

For example, if you set this value as 5 seconds, in case of power failure, you may lose data upto 5 seconds.

In replication topology, to maintain durability and consistency of data, you can leave the default value, i.e. innodb_fush_log_at_trx_commit = 1.

I hope this article help you to understand, how InnoDB flush data and how it impact MySQL performance and data safety, also, how you can configure this variable to achieve maximum benefit. 

In future article let us see about how InnoDB crash recovery works and its configuration settings. If I missed something or if you wish to share your thoughts on this article, please mention in comment section, I will edit the post after review.




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  19. Great article, I will be investigating this setting for our database setup. By the way part of the variable name is mispelt most of the way through as fush instead of flush.

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