How to Fully Disable Query Cache in MySQL

This blog post was motivated by an internal discussion about how to fully disable query cache in MySQL.

According to the manual, we should be able to disable “Query Cache” on the fly by changing query_cache_type to 0, but as we will show this is not fully true. This blog will show you how to properly disable “query cache,” and how common practices might not be as good as we think.

Can we just disable it by changing variables, or does it requires a restart to avoid the global mutex? Let’s see how it works.

Some Query Cache context

The query cache stores the text of a “Select” statement together with the corresponding result that was sent to the client. If an identical statement is received later, the server retrieves the results from the query cache rather than parsing and executing the statement again. The query cache is shared among sessions, so a result set generated by one client can be sent in response to the same query issued by another client.

But cacheable queries take out an “exclusive lock” on MySQL’s query cache. In addition, any insert, update, delete or other modifications to a table causes any relevant entries in the query cache to be flushed. If you see many “Waiting for query cache lock” in the processlist, you might be suffering from this exclusive lock. In this blog post, you can see how this global mutex in high concurrency can cause performance degradation.

If we are facing this situation, how can we disable it?

Disabling Query Cache

There are two options that you can change: query_cache_type and query_cache_size.

So if we change query_cache_size to “0”, does it means the cache is disabled? Or we also have to change query_cache_type? Or both? And does MySQL require a restart to avoid the global mutex?

The source code shows us this:

MySQL is going to check if the query cache is enabled before it locks it. It is checking four conditions, and one of them has to be true. The last three could be obvious, but what is the “is_disabled()” function? Following the source code, we can find the next: sql_cache.h

If the global_system_variables.query_cache_type == 0 condition is true it is going to call the  disable_query_cache  function, which sets m_query_cache_is_disabled = True, so is_disabled going to be “True”. That means if we are setting query_cache_type to 0 in runtime, that should eliminate the global mutex. Let’s run some tests to confirm this and see if the global mutex disappears after changing query_cache_type to 0.

Running tests

Context on the tests:

  1. We ran simple OLTP tests using sysbench as follows:

  1. Important portion of my.cnf file:

Disable the Query Cache

So basically the tests were run for two minutes each while playing with query_cache_type and query_cache_size.

  1. Started MySQL with query_cache_type = 1 and query_cache_size=1G.
  2. Change query_cache_type to 0. As we can see nothing changed, MySQL is still using the query cache.
  3. But when we stopped sysbench and started again (closing and opening new connections), we can see there are no more inserts going into query cache. But we still can see the queries like “Not Cached” that means changing the query_cache_type applies only for the new connections, and we still can see some mutex.
  4. Restarted MySQL with query_cache_type = 0 and query_cache_size=0. Finally, we disabled the query cache and all the mutex is disappeared.
  5. Restarted MySQL with query cache enabled.
  6. We changed query_cache_size=0 and it almost worked, we could disable query cache on the fly, but as we can see there is still some mutex activity.
  7. Changing query_cache_type=0 and restarting sysbench does not have any effect on the mutex.

So the only way to stop any activity around query cache requires restarting MySQL with query_cache_type = 0  and query_cache_size=0. Disabling it or even set it to “0” on runtime is not completely stopping mutex activity.

But why do we still need query_cache_size while in theory query_cache_type should be enough?

As referenced above, the manual says if query_cache_type = 0:

Do not cache results in or retrieve results from the query cache. Note that this does not deallocate the query cache buffer. To do that, you should set query_cache_size to 0.

Based on our test, if we change query_cache_type to 0, it still hits the cache.

So you might think “well, I don’t enable the query cache and use defaults to keep it disabled.” Keep reading, because you might be wrong. According to manual, starting from 5.6.8 query_cache_type=0 is set by default, but query_cache_size= 1048576  (1MB). This means that if we keep default configuration, we will still see activity in the query cache as follows:

But if we just add query_cache_size=0  to my.cnf and check again (of course after restarting server):