Horizontal Sharding

This guide walks you through the process of sharding an existing unsharded Vitess keyspace.


We begin by assuming you've completed the Getting Started guide, and have left the cluster running.


The sample clients in the examples/local folder use the following schema:

CREATE TABLE messages (
  time_created_ns BIGINT(20) UNSIGNED,
  message VARCHAR(10000),
  PRIMARY KEY (page, time_created_ns)

The idea is that each page number represents a separate guestbook in a multi-tenant app. Each guestbook page consists of a list of messages.

In this guide, we'll introduce sharding by page number. That means pages will be randomly distributed across shards, but all records for a given page are always guaranteed to be on the same shard. In this way, we can transparently scale the database to support arbitrary growth in the number of pages.

Configure sharding information

The first step is to tell Vitess how we want to partition the data. We do this by providing a VSchema definition as follows:

  "Sharded": true,
  "Vindexes": {
    "hash": {
      "Type": "hash"
  "Tables": {
    "messages": {
      "ColVindexes": [
          "Col": "page",
          "Name": "hash"

This says that we want to shard the data by a hash of the page column. In other words, keep each page's messages together, but spread pages around the shards randomly.

We can load this VSchema into Vitess like this:

vitess/examples/local$ ./lvtctl.sh ApplyVSchema -vschema "$(cat vschema.json)" test_keyspace

Bring up tablets for new shards

In the unsharded example, you started tablets for a shard named 0 in test_keyspace, written as test_keyspace/0. Now you'll start tablets for two additional shards, named test_keyspace/-80 and test_keyspace/80-:

vitess/examples/local$ ./sharded-vttablet-up.sh

Since the sharding key is the page number, this will result in half the pages going to each shard, since 0x80 is the midpoint of the sharding key range.

These new shards will run in parallel with the original shard during the transition, but actual traffic will be served only by the original shard until we tell it to switch over.

Check the vtctld web UI, or the output of lvtctl.sh ListAllTablets test, to see when the tablets are ready. There should be 5 tablets in each shard.

Once the tablets are ready, initialize replication by electing the first master for each of the new shards:

vitess/examples/local$ ./lvtctl.sh InitShardMaster -force test_keyspace/-80 test-0000000200
vitess/examples/local$ ./lvtctl.sh InitShardMaster -force test_keyspace/80- test-0000000300

Now there should be a total of 15 tablets, with one master for each shard:

vitess/examples/local$ ./lvtctl.sh ListAllTablets test
### example output:
# test-0000000100 test_keyspace 0 master []
# ...
# test-0000000200 test_keyspace -80 master []
# ...
# test-0000000300 test_keyspace 80- master []
# ...

Copy data from original shard

The new tablets start out empty, so we need to copy everything from the original shard to the two new ones, starting with the schema:

vitess/examples/local$ ./lvtctl.sh CopySchemaShard test_keyspace/0 test_keyspace/-80
vitess/examples/local$ ./lvtctl.sh CopySchemaShard test_keyspace/0 test_keyspace/80-

Next we copy the data. Since the amount of data to copy can be very large, we use a special batch process called vtworker to stream the data from a single source to multiple destinations, routing each row based on its keyspace_id:

vitess/examples/local$ ./sharded-vtworker.sh SplitClone test_keyspace/0
### example output:
# I0416 02:08:59.952805       9 instance.go:115] Starting worker...
# ...
# State: done
# Success:
# messages: copy done, copied 11 rows

Notice that we've only specified the source shard, test_keyspace/0. The SplitClone process will automatically figure out which shards to use as the destinations based on the key range that needs to be covered. In this case, shard 0 covers the entire range, so it identifies -80 and 80- as the destination shards, since they combine to cover the same range.

Next, it will pause replication on one rdonly (offline processing) tablet to serve as a consistent snapshot of the data. The app can continue without downtime, since live traffic is served by replica and master tablets, which are unaffected. Other batch jobs will also be unaffected, since they will be served only by the remaining, un-paused rdonly tablets.

Check filtered replication

Once the copy from the paused snapshot finishes, vtworker turns on filtered replication from the source shard to each destination shard. This allows the destination shards to catch up on updates that have continued to flow in from the app since the time of the snapshot.

When the destination shards are caught up, they will continue to replicate new updates. You can see this by looking at the contents of each shard as you add new messages to various pages in the Guestbook app. Shard 0 will see all the messages, while the new shards will only see messages for pages that live on that shard.

# See what's on shard test_keyspace/0:
vitess/examples/local$ ./lvtctl.sh ExecuteFetchAsDba test-0000000100 "SELECT * FROM messages"
# See what's on shard test_keyspace/-80:
vitess/examples/local$ ./lvtctl.sh ExecuteFetchAsDba test-0000000200 "SELECT * FROM messages"
# See what's on shard test_keyspace/80-:
vitess/examples/local$ ./lvtctl.sh ExecuteFetchAsDba test-0000000300 "SELECT * FROM messages"

You can run the client script again to add some messages on various pages and see how they get routed.

Check copied data integrity

The vtworker batch process has another mode that will compare the source and destination to ensure all the data is present and correct. The following commands will run a diff for each destination shard:

vitess/examples/local$ ./sharded-vtworker.sh SplitDiff test_keyspace/-80
vitess/examples/local$ ./sharded-vtworker.sh SplitDiff test_keyspace/80-

If any discrepancies are found, they will be printed. If everything is good, you should see something like this:

I0416 02:10:56.927313      10 split_diff.go:496] Table messages checks out (4 rows processed, 1072961 qps)

Switch over to new shards

Now we're ready to switch over to serving from the new shards. The MigrateServedTypes command lets you do this one tablet type at a time, and even one cell at a time. The process can be rolled back at any point until the master is switched over.

vitess/examples/local$ ./lvtctl.sh MigrateServedTypes test_keyspace/0 rdonly
vitess/examples/local$ ./lvtctl.sh MigrateServedTypes test_keyspace/0 replica
vitess/examples/local$ ./lvtctl.sh MigrateServedTypes test_keyspace/0 master

During the master migration, the original shard master will first stop accepting updates. Then the process will wait for the new shard masters to fully catch up on filtered replication before allowing them to begin serving. Since filtered replication has been following along with live updates, there should only be a few seconds of master unavailability.

When the master traffic is migrated, the filtered replication will be stopped. Data updates will be visible on the new shards, but not on the original shard. See it for yourself: Add a message to the guestbook page and then inspect the database content:

# See what's on shard test_keyspace/0
# (no updates visible since we migrated away from it):
vitess/examples/local$ ./lvtctl.sh ExecuteFetchAsDba test-0000000100 "SELECT * FROM messages"
# See what's on shard test_keyspace/-80:
vitess/examples/local$ ./lvtctl.sh ExecuteFetchAsDba test-0000000200 "SELECT * FROM messages"
# See what's on shard test_keyspace/80-:
vitess/examples/local$ ./lvtctl.sh ExecuteFetchAsDba test-0000000300 "SELECT * FROM messages"

Remove original shard

Now that all traffic is being served from the new shards, we can remove the original one. To do that, we use the vttablet-down.sh script from the unsharded example:

vitess/examples/local$ ./vttablet-down.sh

Then we can delete the now-empty shard:

vitess/examples/local$ ./lvtctl.sh DeleteShard -recursive test_keyspace/0

You should then see in the vtctld Topology page, or in the output of lvtctl.sh ListAllTablets test that the tablets for shard 0 are gone.

Tear down and clean up

Since you already cleaned up the tablets from the original unsharded example by running ./vttablet-down.sh, that step has been replaced with ./sharded-vttablet-down.sh to clean up the new sharded tablets.

vitess/examples/local$ ./vtgate-down.sh
vitess/examples/local$ ./sharded-vttablet-down.sh
vitess/examples/local$ ./vtctld-down.sh
vitess/examples/local$ ./zk-down.sh