Backup and Restore are integrated features provided by tablets managed by Vitess. As well as using backups for data integrity, Vitess will also create and restore backups for provisioning new tablets in an existing shard.

Concepts #

Vitess supports pluggable interfaces for both Backup Storage Services and Backup Engines.

Backup Storage Services #

Currently, Vitess has plugins for:

  • File (using a path on shared storage, e.g. an NFS mount)
  • Google Cloud Storage
  • Amazon S3
  • Ceph

Backup Engines #

The engine is the techology used for generating the backup. Currently Vitess has plugins for:

  • Builtin: Shutdown an instance and copy all the database files (default)
  • XtraBackup: An online backup using Percona's XtraBackup

Backup types #

Vitess supports full backups as well as incremental backups, and their respective counterparts full restores and point-in-time restores.

  • A full backup contains the entire data in the database. The backup represents a consistent state of the data, i.e. it is a snapshot of the data at some point in time.
  • An incremental backup contains a changelog, or a transition of data from one state to another. Vitess implements incremental backups by making a copy of MySQL binary logs.

Generally speaking and on most workloads, the cost of a full backup is higher, and the cost of incremental backups is lower. The time it takes to create a full backup is significant, and it is therefore impractical to take full backups in very small intervals. Moreover, a full backup consumes the disk space needed for the entire dataset. Incremental backups, on the other hand, are quick to run, and have very little impact, if any, to the running servers. They only contain the changes in between two points in time, and on most workloads are more compact.

Full and incremental backups are expected to be interleaved. For example: one would create a full backup once per day, and incremental backups once per hour.

Full backups are simply states of the database. Incremental backups, however, need to start with some point and end with some point. The common practice is for an incremental backup to continue from the point of the last good backup, which can be a full or incremental backup. An inremental backup in Vitess ends at the point in time of execution.

The identity of the tablet on which a full backup or an incremental backup is taken is immaterial. It is possible to take a full backup on one tablet and incremental backups on another. It is possible to take full backups on two different tablets. It is also possible to take incremental backups, independently, on two different tablets, even though the contents of those incremental backups overlaps. Vitess uses MySQL GTID sets to determine positioning and prune duplicates.

Restores #

Restores are the counterparts of backups. A restore uses the engine utilized to create a backup. One may run a restore from a full backup, or a point-in-time restore (PITR) based on additional incremental backups.

A Vitess restore operates on a tablet. The restore process completely wipes out the data in the tablet's MySQL server and repopulates the server with the backup(s) data. The MySQL server is shutdown during the process. As a safety mechanism, Vitess by default prevents a restore onto a PRIMARY tablet. Any non-PRIMARY tablet is otherwise eligible to restore.

Restore Types #

Vitess supports full restores and incremental (AKA point-in-time) restores. The two serve different purposes.

  • A full restore loads the dataset from a full backup onto a non-PRIMARY tablet. Once the data is loaded, the restore process starts the MySQL service and makes it join the replication stream. It is expected that a freshly restored server will lag behind the shard's PRIMARY for a period of time. The full restore flow is useful for seeding new replica tablets. It may also be used to fix replicas that have been corrupted.
  • An incremental, or a point-in-time restore, restores a tablet/MySQL up to a specific position or time. This is done by first loading a full backup dataset, followed by applying the changelog captured in zero or more incremental backups. Once that is complete, the tablet type is set to DRAINED and the tablet does not join the replication stream. The common purpose of point-in-time restore is to recover data from an accidental write/deletion. If the database administrator knows at about what time the accidental write took place, they can restore a replica tablet to a point in time shortly before the accidental write. Since the server does not join the replication stream, its data then remains static, and the administrator may review or copy the data as they please. Finally, it is then possible to change the tablet type back to REPLICA and have it join the shard's replication.

Vtbackup, VTTablet and Vtctld #

Vtbackup, VTTablet, and Vtctld may all participate in backups and restores.

  • Vtbackup is a standalone program that restores the last backup into an empty mysqld installation, replicates new changes into that installation, and takes a new backup from that installation.
  • VTTablet can be configured to restore from a backup, or to take a new backup.
  • Vtctld can be instructed to take backups with commands like Backup and BackupShard.

Configuration #

Before backing up or restoring a tablet, you need to ensure that the tablet is aware of the Backup Storage system and Backup Engine that you are using.

To do so, use command-line flags to configure vtbackup, vttablet, or vtctld programs that have access to the location where you are storing backups.

Common flags:

All three programs can be made aware of Backup Engine and Backup Storage using these common flags.

backup_storage_implementationSpecifies the implementation of the Backup Storage interface to use.

Current plugin options available are:
  • file: Using shared storage (e.g. NFS).
  • gcs: Google Cloud Storage.
  • s3: Amazon S3.
  • ceph: Ceph Object Gateway S3 API.
backup_engine_implementationSpecifies the implementation of the Backup Engine to use.

Current options available are:
  • builtin: Copy all the database files into specified storage. This is the default.
  • xtrabackup: Percona XtraBackup.
backup_storage_compressThis flag controls if the backups are compressed by the Vitess code. By default it is set to true. Use --backup_storage_compress=false to disable.
backup_storage_block_sizeIf --backup_storage_compress is true, backup_storage_block_size sets the block size in bytes to use while compressing (default is 250000).
backup_storage_number_blocksIf --backup_storage_compress is true, backup_storage_number_blocks sets the number of blocks that can be processed, in parallel, before the writer blocks, during compression. It should be equal to the number of CPUs available for compression. (default 2)
compression-levelSelect what is the compression level (from `1..9`) to be used with the builtin compressors. It doesn't have any effect if you are using an external compressor. Defaults to 1 (fastest compression).
compression-engine-nameThis indicates which compression engine to use. The default value is pargzip. If using an external compressor (see below), this should be a compatible compression engine as the value will be saved to the MANIFEST when creating the backup and can be used to decompress it.
external-compressorInstead of compressing inside the vttablet process, use the external command to compress the input. The compressed stream needs to be written to STDOUT.

An example command to compress with an external compressor using the fastest mode and lowest CPU priority:
--external-compressor "nice -n 19 pigz -1 -c"

If the backup is supported by one of the builtin engines, make sure to use --compression-engine-name so it can be restored without requiring --external-decompressor to be defined.
external-compressor-extensionUsing the --external-compressor-extension flag will set the correct extension when writing the file. Only used for the xtrabackupengine.

Example: --external-compressor-extension ".gz"
external-decompressorUse an external decompressor to process the backups. This overrides the builtin decompressor which would be automatically select the best engine based on the MANIFEST information. The decompressed stream needs to be written to STDOUT.

An example of how to use an external decompressor:
--external-decompressor "pigz -d -c"
file_backup_storage_rootFor the file plugin, this identifies the root directory for backups. This path must exist on shared storage to provide a global backup view for all vtctlds and vttablets.
gcs_backup_storage_bucketFor the gcs plugin, this identifies the bucket to use.
s3_backup_aws_regionFor the s3 plugin, this identifies the AWS region.
s3_backup_storage_bucketFor the s3 plugin, this identifies the AWS S3 bucket.
ceph_backup_storage_configFor the ceph plugin, this identifies the path to a text file with a JSON object as configuration. The JSON object requires the following keys: accessKey, secretKey, endPoint and useSSL. Bucket name is computed from keyspace name and shard name is separated for different keyspaces / shards.
restart_before_backupIf set, perform a clean MySQL shutdown and startup cycle. Note this is not executing any `FLUSH` statements. This enables users to work around xtrabackup DDL issues.
xbstream_restore_flagsThe flags to pass to the xbstream command during restore. These should be space separated and will be added to the end of the command. These need to match the ones used for backup e.g. --compress / --decompress, --encrypt / --decrypt
xtrabackup_root_pathFor the xtrabackup backup engine, directory location of the xtrabackup executable, e.g., `/usr/bin`
xtrabackup_backup_flagsFor the xtrabackup backup engine, flags to pass to the backup command. These should be space separated and will be added to the end of the command.
xtrabackup_stream_modeFor the xtrabackup backup engine, which mode to use if streaming, valid values are tar and xbstream. Defaults to tar.
xtrabackup_userFor the xtrabackup backup engine, required user that xtrabackup will use to connect to the database server. This user must have all necessary privileges. For details, please refer to xtrabackup documentation.
xtrabackup_stripesFor the xtrabackup backup engine, if greater than 0, use data striping across this many destination files to parallelize data transfer and decompression.
xtrabackup_stripe_block_sizeFor the xtrabackup backup engine, size in bytes of each block that gets sent to a given stripe before rotating to the next stripe. Defaults to 102400.
xtrabackup_prepare_flagsFlags to pass to the prepare command. These should be space separated and will be added to the end of the command.

Restore flags:

Only VTTablet can be configured to restore from a previous backup. The flags below only apply to VTTablet.

restore_from_backupIndicates that, when started with an empty MySQL instance, the tablet should restore the most recent backup from the specified storage plugin. This flag only applies to VTTablet.
restore_from_backup_tsIf set, restore the latest backup taken at or before this timestamp rather than using the most recent one. Example: β€˜2021-04-29.133050’. (Vitess 12.0+)

Authentication #

Note that for the Google Cloud Storage plugin, we currently only support Application Default Credentials. This means that access to Google Cloud Storage (GCS) is automatically granted by virtue of the fact that you're already running within Google Compute Engine (GCE) or Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE).

For this to work, the GCE instances must have been created with the scope that grants read-write access to GCS. When using GKE, you can do this for all the instances it creates by adding --scopes storage-rw to the gcloud container clusters create command.

Backup Frequency #

We recommend to take backups regularly -- e.g. you should set up a cron job for it.

To determine the proper frequency for creating backups, consider the amount of time that you keep replication logs (see the binlog_expire_logs variables) and allow enough time to investigate and fix problems in the event that a backup operation fails.

For example, suppose you typically keep four days of replication logs and you create daily backups. In that case, even if a backup fails, you have at least a couple of days from the time of the failure to investigate and fix the problem.

Concurrency #

The backup and restore processes simultaneously copy and either compress or decompress multiple files to increase throughput. You can control the concurrency using command-line flags:

  • The vtctl Backup command uses the --concurrency flag.
  • vttablet uses the --restore_concurrency flag.

If the network link is fast enough, the concurrency matches the CPU usage of the process during the backup or restore process.

Backup Compression #

By default, vttablet backups are compressed using pargzip that generates gzip compatible files. You can select other builtin engines that are supported, or choose to use an external process to do the compression/decompression for you. There are some advantages of doing this, like being able to set the scheduling priority or even to choose dedicated CPU cores to do the compression, things that are not possible when running inside the vttablet process.

The built-in supported engines are:


  • pargzip (default)
  • pgzip
  • lz4
  • zstd


  • pgzip
  • lz4
  • zstd

To change which compression engine to use, you can use the --compression-engine-name flag. The compression engine will also be saved to the backup manifest, which is read during the decompression process to select the right engine to decompress (so even if it gets changed, the vttablet will still be able to restore previous backups).

If you want to use an external compressor/decompressor, you can do this by setting:

  • --external-compressor with the command that will actually compress the stream;
  • --external-compressor-extension (only if using xtrabackupengine): this will let you use the extension of the file saved
  • --compression-engine-name with the compatible engine that can decompress it. Use external if you are using an external engine not included in the above supported list. This value will be saved to the backup MANIFEST; If it is not added (or engine is external), backups won't be able to restore unless you pass the parameter below:
  • --external-decompressor with the command used to decompress the files;

The vttablet process will launch the external process and pass the input stream via STDIN and expects the process will write the compressed/decompressed stream to STDOUT.

If you are using an external compressor and want to move to a builtin engine:

  • If the engine is supported according to the list above, you just need to make sure your --compression-engine-name is correct and you can remove the --external-compressor parameter
  • If you want to move away from an unsupported engine to a builtin one, then you have to:
    • First change the --compression-engine-name to a supported one and remove the --external-compressor
    • Once the first backup is completed, you can then remove --external-decompressor
    • After this all new backups will be done using the new engine. Restoring an older backup will still require the --external-decompressor flag to be provided