Shard widely, shard often.

Sharding is a method of horizontally partitioning a database to store data across two or more database servers. This document explains how sharding works in Vitess and the types of sharding that Vitess supports.

Overview #

A keyspace in Vitess can be sharded or unsharded. An unsharded keyspace maps directly to a MySQL database. If sharded, the rows of the keyspace are partitioned into different databases of identical schema.

For example, if an application's "user" keyspace is split into two shards, each shard contains records for approximately half of the application's users. Each single user's information however, is stored in only one shard.

Note that sharding is orthogonal to (MySQL) replication. A Vitess shard typically contains one MySQL primary and many MySQL replicas. The primary handles write operations, while replicas handle read-only traffic, batch processing operations, and other tasks. Each MySQL instance within the shard should have the same data, excepting some replication lag.

Supported Operations #

Vitess supports the following types of sharding operations:

  • Horizontal sharding: Splitting or merging shards in a sharded keyspace
  • Vertical sharding: Moving tables from an unsharded keyspace to a different keyspace.

With these features, you can start with a single keyspace that contains all of your data (in multiple tables). As your database grows, you can move tables to different keyspaces (vertical split) and shard some or all of those keyspaces (horizontal split) without any real downtime for your application.

Sharding scheme #

Vitess allows you to choose the type of sharding scheme by the choice of your Primary Vindex for the tables of a shard. Once you have chosen the Primary Vindex, you can choose the partitions depending on how the resulting keyspace IDs are distributed.

Vitess calculates the sharding key or keys for each query and then routes that query to the appropriate shards. For example, a query that updates information about a particular user might be directed to a single shard in the application's "user" keyspace. On the other hand, a query that retrieves information about several products might be directed to one or more shards in the application's "product" keyspace.

Key Ranges and Partitions #

Vitess uses key ranges to determine which shards should handle any particular query.

  • A key range is a series of consecutive keyspace ID values. It has starting and ending values. A key falls inside the range if it is equal to or greater than the start value and strictly less than the end value.
  • A partition represents a set of key ranges that covers the entire space.

When building the serving graph for a sharded keyspace, Vitess ensures that each shard is valid and that the shards collectively constitute a full partition. In each keyspace, one shard must have a key range with an empty start value and one shard, which could be the same shard, must have a key range with an empty end value.

  • An empty start value represents the lowest value, and all values are greater than it.
  • An empty end value represents a value larger than the highest possible value, and all values are strictly lower than it.

Vitess always converts sharding keys to a left-justified binary string for computing a shard. This left-justification makes the right-most zeroes insignificant and optional. Therefore, the value 0x80 is the middle value for sharding keys. So, in a keyspace with two shards, sharding keys that have a binary value lower than 0x80 are assigned to the first shard. Keys with a binary value equal to or higher than 0x80 are assigned to the other shard.

Several sample key ranges are shown below:

Start=[], End=[]: Full Key Range
Start=[], End=[0x80]: Lower half of the Key Range.
Start=[0x80], End=[]: Upper half of the Key Range.
Start=[0x40], End=[0x80]: Second quarter of the Key Range.
Start=[0xFF00], End=[0xFF80]: Second to last 1/512th of the Key Range.

Two key ranges are consecutive if the end value of one range equals the start value of the other range.

Shard Names #

A shard's name identifies the start and end of the shard's key range, printed in hexadecimal and separated by a hyphen. For instance, if a shard's key range is the array of bytes beginning with [ 0x80 ] and ending, noninclusively, with [ 0xc0], then the shard's name is 80-c0.

Using this naming convention, the following four shards would be a valid full partition:

  • -40
  • 40-80
  • 80-c0
  • c0-

Shards do not need to handle the same size portion of the key space. For example, the following five shards would also be a valid full partition, possibly with a highly uneven distribution of keys.

  • -80
  • 80-c0
  • c0-dc00
  • dc00-dc80
  • dc80-

Resharding #

Resharding describes the process of updating the sharding scheme for a keyspace and dynamically reorganizing data to match the new scheme. During resharding, Vitess copies, verifies, and keeps data up-to-date on new shards while the existing shards continue to serve live read and write traffic. When you're ready to switch over, the migration occurs with only a few seconds of read-only downtime. During that time, existing data can be read, but new data cannot be written.

The table below lists the sharding (or resharding) processes that you would typically perform for different types of requirements:

Uniformly increase read capacityAdd replicas or split shards
Uniformly increase write capacitySplit shards
Reclaim overprovisioned resourcesMerge shards and/or keyspaces
Increase geo-diversityAdd new cells and replicas
Cool a hot tabletFor read access, add replicas or split shards. For write access, split shards.

Additional Tools and Processes #

Vitess provides the following tools to help manage range-based shards:

  • The vtctl GenerateShardRanges command-line tool supports generating shard ranges based on the provided number of shards.
  • There are additional Shard specific vtctl command-line tools.
  • Client APIs account for sharding operations.