One of the most expensive database operations is performing Data Definition Language (DDL, e.g. CREATE, DROP, ALTER, etc.) statements, specially, the ALTER statements because MySQL blocks the entire table for both reads and writes while modifying the table.
For the huge tables, this might take hours to get the table changed which affects the application, so that, a good planning is required for such operations in order to avoid doing these changes during the peak times. For those people who have 24/7 services or limited maintenance window, DDL on huge tables is a really nightmare.
Percona developed a very good tool called pt-online-schema-change (version 2.2.6 at the time of writing this article) to perform such operations [Read more...]