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Optimizer hints in MySQL 5.7.7 – The missed manual

 | April 30, 2015 |  Posted In: EXPLAIN, Insight for DBAs, MySQL, Percona Live


In version MySQL 5.7.7 Oracle presented a new promising feature: optimizer hints. However it did not publish any documentation about the hints. The only note which I found in the user manual about the hints is:

  • It is now possible to provide hints to the optimizer by including /*+ ... */ comments following the SELECT, INSERT, REPLACE, UPDATE, or DELETE keyword of SQL statements. Such statements can also be used with EXPLAIN. Examples:

There are also three worklogs: WL #3996, WL #8016 and WL #8017. But they describe the general concept and do not have much information about which optimizations can be used and how. More light on this provided by slide 59 from Øystein Grøvlen’s session at Percona Live. But that’s all: no “official” full list of possible optimizations, no use cases… nothing.

I tried to sort it out myself.

My first finding is the fact that slide #59 really lists six of seven possible index hints. Confirmation for this exists in one of two new files under sql directory of MySQL source tree, created for this new feature.

Looking into file sql/opt_hints.cc we can find out what these optimizations give not much choice: either enable or disable.

A choice for the way to include hints into SQL statements: inside comments with sign “+” /*+ NO_RANGE_OPTIMIZATION(t3 PRIMARY, f2_idx) */ , – is compatible with style of optimizer hints which Oracle uses.

We actually had access to these hints before: they were accessible via variable optimizer_switch. At least such optimizations like BKA, BNL, ICP, MRR. But with new syntax we cannot only modify this access globally or per session, but can turn on or off particular optimization for a single table and column in the query. I can demonstrate it on this quite artificial but always accessible example:

I used one more hint, which we could not turn on or off directly earlier: range optimization.

One more “intuitively” documented feature is the ability to turn on or off a particular optimization. This works only for BKA, BNL, ICP and MRR: you can specify NO_BKA(table[[, table]…]), NO_BNL(table[[, table]…]), NO_ICP(table indexes[[, table indexes]…]) and NO_MRR(table indexes[[, table indexes]…]) to avoid using these algorithms for particular table or index in the JOIN.

MAX_EXECUTION_TIME does not require any table or key name inside. Instead you need to specify maximum time in milliseconds which query should run:

QB_NAME is more complicated. WL #8017 tells us this is custom context. But what is this? The answer is in the MySQL test suite! Tests for optimizer hints exist in file t/opt_hints.test For QB_NAME very first entry is query:

So we can specify custom QB_NAME for any subquery and specify optimizer hint only for this context.

To conclude this quick overview I want to show a practical example of when query hints are really needed. Last week I worked on an issue where a customer upgraded from MySQL version 5.5 to 5.6 and found some of their queries started to work slower than before. I wrote an answer which could sound funny, but still remains correct: “One of the reasons for such behavior is optimizer  improvements. While they all are made for better performance, some queries – optimized for older versions – can start working slower than before.”

To demonstrate a public example of such a query I will use my favorite source of information: MySQL Community Bugs Database. In a search for Optimizer regression bugs that are still not fixed we can find bug #68919 demonstrating regression in case the MRR algorithm is used for queries with LIMIT. In run queries, shown in the bug report, we will see a huge difference:

With MRR query execution takes 6.88 seconds and 0 if MRR is not used! But the bug report itself suggests using optimizer_switch="mrr=off"; as a workaround. And this will work perfectly well if you are OK to run SET optimizer_switch="mrr=off"; every time you are running a query which will take advantage of having it OFF. With optimizer hints you can have one or another algorithm to be ON for particular table in the query and OFF for another one. I, again, took quite an artificial example, but it demonstrates the method:


Sveta Smirnova

Sveta joined Percona in 2015. Her main professional interests are problem solving, working with tricky issues, bugs, finding patterns that can solve typical issues quicker and teaching others how to deal with MySQL issues, bugs and gotchas effectively. Before joining Percona Sveta worked as a Support Engineer in the MySQL Bugs Analysis Support Group in MySQL AB-Sun-Oracle. She is the author of the book "MySQL Troubleshooting" and JSON UDF functions for MySQL.


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