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The INFORMATION_SCHEMA is, in theory, a set of views specified in the SQL standard that allow the user to inspect the system's metadata. How is it this implemented in MySQL?

When I connect to a fresh installation I see two databases: mysql and information_schema. After using SHOW CREATE TABLE statements on the information_schema database, it looks like it's not implemented as a set of views but with base tables instead. Is this assumption correct? Or there are other system tables that are hidden from the user?

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@ivotron All tables in the INFORMATION_SCHEMA database are stored directly in memory as MEMORY storage engine tables. They are totally internal to MySQL, so the .frm mechanisms are handled in mysqld. In my answer, I first showed the table layout of INFORMATION_SCHEMA.TABLES. It is a temporary table in memory. It is manipulated using storage engine protocols. Thus, when mysqld is shutdown, all information_schema tables are dropped. When mysqld is started, all information_schema tables are created as TEMPORARY tables and repopulated with metadata for every table. –  RolandoMySQLDBA Jun 16 '11 at 1:10
    
@ivotron After reading the comment I sent you, I thought it would make more sense to place the comment into the answer itself. –  RolandoMySQLDBA Jun 16 '11 at 1:12
    
@ivotron I am going to give you a +1 for this quesiton because 1) no one has really asked this kind of mysql quesiton before, 2) this gave me the opportunity to introduce an information-schema tag so that questions asked in the future that involve the information_schema of mysql, oracle, postgresql,or other RDBMS's can be tagged appropriately, 3) I am sure many others have asked this question and simply asked no one else. Thank You !!! –  RolandoMySQLDBA Jun 16 '11 at 1:16
    
Thanks a lot for the +1 :) One last clarification. After what you've said, is it right to state that the metadata information is read directly from the actual .frm files corresponding to tables that are actually materialized? So when the server boots it reads that info from the tables and creates the INFORMATION_SCHEMA. Then if an ANALYZE TABLE or a CREATE INDEX or in general any DDL statement is executed, the INFORMATION_SCHEMA is updated accordingly? –  ivotron Jun 16 '11 at 1:36
    
@ivotron : This is correct !!! There are tables in the INFORMATION_SCHEMA that record schema changes such as COLUMNS, STATISTICS, TABLE_CONSTRAINTS, and so forth. Because the INFORMATION_SCHEMA is all in memory, the recording of all DDL changes is nearly instantaneous. –  RolandoMySQLDBA Jun 16 '11 at 1:43

1 Answer 1

up vote 20 down vote accepted

The INFORMATION_SCHEMA database is made up of temporary tables using the MEMORY storage engine.

Example: Here is the table INFORMATION_SCHEMA.TABLES in MySQL 5.5.12 (Windows Version)

mysql> show create table information_schema.tables\G
*************************** 1. row ***************************
       Table: TABLES
Create Table: CREATE TEMPORARY TABLE `TABLES` (
  `TABLE_CATALOG` varchar(512) NOT NULL DEFAULT '',
  `TABLE_SCHEMA` varchar(64) NOT NULL DEFAULT '',
  `TABLE_NAME` varchar(64) NOT NULL DEFAULT '',
  `TABLE_TYPE` varchar(64) NOT NULL DEFAULT '',
  `ENGINE` varchar(64) DEFAULT NULL,
  `VERSION` bigint(21) unsigned DEFAULT NULL,
  `ROW_FORMAT` varchar(10) DEFAULT NULL,
  `TABLE_ROWS` bigint(21) unsigned DEFAULT NULL,
  `AVG_ROW_LENGTH` bigint(21) unsigned DEFAULT NULL,
  `DATA_LENGTH` bigint(21) unsigned DEFAULT NULL,
  `MAX_DATA_LENGTH` bigint(21) unsigned DEFAULT NULL,
  `INDEX_LENGTH` bigint(21) unsigned DEFAULT NULL,
  `DATA_FREE` bigint(21) unsigned DEFAULT NULL,
  `AUTO_INCREMENT` bigint(21) unsigned DEFAULT NULL,
  `CREATE_TIME` datetime DEFAULT NULL,
  `UPDATE_TIME` datetime DEFAULT NULL,
  `CHECK_TIME` datetime DEFAULT NULL,
  `TABLE_COLLATION` varchar(32) DEFAULT NULL,
  `CHECKSUM` bigint(21) unsigned DEFAULT NULL,
  `CREATE_OPTIONS` varchar(255) DEFAULT NULL,
  `TABLE_COMMENT` varchar(2048) NOT NULL DEFAULT ''
) ENGINE=MEMORY DEFAULT CHARSET=utf8
1 row in set (0.00 sec)

There is no physical folder for those tables, not even .frm files. You cannot mysqldump it. You cannot drop it. You cannot add tables to it. You cannot drop tables from it. So, where are the tables ???

All tables in the INFORMATION_SCHEMA database are stored directly in memory as MEMORY storage engine tables. They are totally internal to MySQL, so the .frm mechanisms are handled in mysqld. In my answer, I first showed the table layout of INFORMATION_SCHEMA.TABLES. It is a temporary table in memory. It is manipulated using storage engine protocols. Thus, when mysqld is shutdown, all information_schema tables are dropped. When mysqld is started, all information_schema tables are created as TEMPORARY tables and repopulated with metadata for every table in the mysql instance.

The INFORMATION_SCHEMA database was first introduced in MySQL 5.0 to give you access to metadata about tables of other storage engines. For example, you could do SHOW DATABASES to get a list of databases. You could also query for them like this:

SELECT schema_name database FROM information_schema.schemata;

You could retrieve table names in a database in two ways:

use mydb
show tables;

or

SELECT table_name from information_schema.tables WHERE table_schema = 'mydb';

Since its inception, MySQL has expanded the INFORMATION_SCHEMA database to have the processlist (as of MySQL 5.1). You can actually query the processlist looking for long running queries that are still running at least 10 minutes:

SELECT * FROM information_schema.processlist WHERE time >= 600\G

You can use the INFORMATION_SCHEMA to do every elaborate things: such as :

Get counts of all tables using specific storage engines:

SELECT COUNT(1) TableCount,IFNULL(engine,'Total') StorageEngine
FROM information_schema.tables
WHERE table_schema NOT IN ('information_schema','mysql')
AND engine IS NOT NULL
GROUP BY engine WITH ROLLUP;

Get the recommended MyISAM Key Buffer Size in MB

SELECT CONCAT(ROUND(KBS/POWER(1024,IF(pw<0,0,IF(pw>3,0,pw)))+0.49999),
SUBSTR(' KMG',IF(pw<0,0,IF(pw>3,0,pw))+1,1)) recommended_key_buffer_size
FROM (SELECT SUM(index_length) KBS FROM information_schema.tables WHERE
engine='MyISAM' AND table_schema NOT IN ('information_schema','mysql')) A,
(SELECT 2 pw) B;

Get the recommended InnoDB Buffer Pool Size in GB

SELECT CONCAT(ROUND(KBS/POWER(1024,IF(pw<0,0,IF(pw>3,0,pw)))+0.49999),
SUBSTR(' KMG',IF(pw<0,0,IF(pw>3,0,pw))+1,1)) recommended_innodb_buffer_pool_size
FROM (SELECT SUM(data_length+index_length) KBS FROM information_schema.tables
WHERE engine='InnoDB') A,(SELECT 3 pw) B;

Get Disk Usage of all Databases By Storage Engine in MB

SELECT Statistic,DataSize "Data Size",IndexSize "Index Size",TableSize "Table Size"
FROM (SELECT IF(ISNULL(table_schema)=1,10,0) schema_score,
IF(ISNULL(engine)=1,10,0) engine_score,
IF(ISNULL(table_schema)=1,'ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ',table_schema) schemaname,
IF(ISNULL(B.table_schema)+ISNULL(B.engine)=2,"Storage for All Databases",
IF(ISNULL(B.table_schema)+ISNULL(B.engine)=1,CONCAT("Storage for ",B.table_schema),
CONCAT(B.engine," Tables for ",B.table_schema))) Statistic,
CONCAT(LPAD(REPLACE(FORMAT(B.DSize/POWER(1024,pw),3),',',''),17,' '),' ',
SUBSTR(' KMGTP',pw+1,1),'B') DataSize,
CONCAT(LPAD(REPLACE(FORMAT(B.ISize/POWER(1024,pw),3),',',''),17,' '),' ',
SUBSTR(' KMGTP',pw+1,1),'B') IndexSize,
CONCAT(LPAD(REPLACE(FORMAT(B.TSize/POWER(1024,pw),3),',',''),17,' '),' ',
SUBSTR(' KMGTP',pw+1,1),'B') TableSize
FROM (SELECT table_schema,engine,SUM(data_length) DSize,SUM(index_length) ISize,
SUM(data_length+index_length) TSize FROM information_schema.tables
WHERE table_schema NOT IN ('mysql','information_schema','performance_schema')
AND engine IS NOT NULL GROUP BY table_schema,engine WITH ROLLUP) B,
(SELECT 2 pw) A) AA ORDER BY schemaname,schema_score,engine_score;

Believe me, there are still more wonderful uses for INFORMATION_SCHEMA that time does not permit me to discuss further.

Please keep in mind that the INFORMATION_SCHEMA is so sensitive that if mysql is running and you do the following:

cd /var/lib/mysql
mkdir junkfolder

and then go into mysql run

mysql> SHOW DATABASES;

You will see junkfolder as one of the databases.

Knowing it is very vital for DBAs and Developers. Chapter 20 (developers) and Chapter 31 (DBAs) of the book MySQL 5.0 Certification Study Guide

enter image description here

are there for preparing for the Developer and DBA Certification Exams. Get the book, study those chapters well, and you could do great things with MySQL's INFORMATION_SCHEMA.

The INFORMATION_SCHEMA database as of MySQL 5.5, now features plugins, global variables (status and static), session variables (status and static), storage engine status, performance metrics instrumentation, trigger map, events (programmable) and much more.

Sorry this may seem like WTMI but I am a big proponent of using the INFORMATION_SCHEMA database.

share|improve this answer
    
Hi Rolando, thanks a lot for taking the time to answer my question. You mention that "There is no physical folder for those tables, not even .frm files. You cannot mysqldump it. You cannot drop it. You cannot add tables to it. You cannot drop tables from it." If there are no .frm files, do you know where is the metadata actually stored? –  ivotron Jun 16 '11 at 0:53
3  
unfortunately there is only an option for +1. This answer deserves more. Its been a while since I moved from MySQL to SQL server, but your explanations alone are getting me back into it MySQL. Cheers. –  StanleyJohns Jun 16 '11 at 13:16
    
your answer is an absolutely pure awesomeness!! –  kiiwii Jun 13 at 6:35

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