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MaxScale 1.0-beta is out - Happy Birthday MaxScale!
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It was a year ago, on a nice Sunday night of the English Summer (apologies for the oxymoron), that Mark Riddoch came to see me and together we headed to the Vansittart Arms, our local family pub round the corner. A pint of London Pride on one side and a Honey Dew on the other were the perfect add-on to Mark’s MacBook Pro, on which Mark was showing me the 0.1 version of MaxScale. It was the result of the joint efforts of Mark’s team, Massimiliano and Vilho, who had worked hard to bring to life the first version of something that I believe will be a natural addition to clusters of MySQL/Percona/MariaDB servers in the near future.

A year ago, Mark showed me a basic debugging interface for MaxScale. We went through some parts of the code and the internal structures, and we looked at the way his team had kept everything sleek and lightweight. It was the implementation of hours and hours spent jotting ideas, diagrams, comments from users and customers. We spent hours at Caffe Trieste in San Francisco, at the Google Campus and at the National Theatre in London, in Berlin with my friend Kris and in many busy airports around Europe and US. Last but not least, the whiteboard in my garden office had been filled and wiped hundreds of times in order to try and find good ideas and the right components for MaxScale.

Today MaxScale has reached its beta stage. It is like a birthday, not only because a year has passed and we have reached a certain level of maturity, but mainly because, as it happens for humans, we like to set milestones in order to better organise our life and our work, and to set and achieve goals. But MaxScale is already evolving from 1.0: the code in various branches on GitHub is already showing more interesting and exciting features, which the team is developing for the next versions.

What is important and I want to talk about today is what is available in the 1.0-beta. We have now a new set of modules that are used to create filters, log queries and results, transform the requests to the database and the data retrieved. The read/write splitter is now available for both MySQL Replication and Galera, opening new possibilities to scale even better. In addition to these features, we now have dynamic balance server weighting, Node and Session Replication Consistency checks, automatic failover to multiple slaves and a more clear mechanism to implement high availability for MaxScale itself.

Let’s stick to the basics

For those who do not know MaxScale yet, here is the 60 seconds pitch. MaxScale is a database-centric proxy. It is "database centric" because it has been designed with database operations in mind, covering the typical I/O, computation and resource management of a databases. “Proxy" means that it sits between two components of a data infrastructure, where at least one of these components is a database. This means that MaxScale can sit between a client and one or more database servers, between a database master and one or more database slaves, or between two or more paired databases.
MaxScale's core is based in Linux epoll calls and is optimised to be lightweight and low latency. MaxScale's architecture relies on the use of pluggable modules that are combined together to offer authentication, protocol management, filtering, logging, monitoring and routing. In simple terms, the opportunities are endless: you simply need to define your objective and know the MaxScale API to build a proxy system that will take care of the communication and the resource usage of its components.
MaxScale as a proxy between client applications and a cluster of MySQL and MariaDB Replication servers and Galera Cluster. Red lines are read/write, blue lines are read/only.
MaxScale 1.0 beta comes with a set of interesting modules:

  • Authentication: MySQL/MariaDB authentication is operated inside MaxScale and the authentication to one or more servers is executed asynchronously. This module reduces the overall latency, especially when MaxScale is co-located with the application server.
  • Protocol: MaxScale provides client and backend MySQL connectivity.
  • Monitoring: MaxScale 1.0 beta comes with monitoring modules that are designed to work with single MySQL, Percona and MariaDB servers, with MySQL and MariaDB Replication and with Galera-based clusters.
  • Filter & Logging: this is the last addition to the set of modules in MaxScale. There are now some interesting logging modules used to monitor queries and results, and to transform queries captured using regular expressions.
  • Routing: MaxScale 1.0 beta comes with 2 routing modules, one to load-balance read/only connections on slave nodes or to load-balance read/write connections to Galera nodes, and another to route statements on nodes that are part of MySQL, MariaDB Replication and Galera-based clusters.

High availability for MaxScale: redundant MaxScales and co-location with the application servers.
You can find more details on the modules in Mark Riddoch’s blog posts.

Why a Proxy?

You may have seen the latest announcements from Oracle regarding a long-awaited and great product, MySQL Fabric (http://www.mysql.com/products/enterprise/fabric.html" target="_blank). Fabric proudly claims to be proxy-free, and people usually ask me to compare MaxScale with Fabric and what the pros and cons of the two products are. First of all, I believe these products serve different scopes and they overlap only for a small set of features.

Fabric, as Oracle says in the first sentence of its web page (http://www.mysql.com/products/enterprise/fabric.html" target="_blank) is a framework for managing a farm of MySQL Servers. The focus is on the management of a number of servers that work together to provide a database infrastructure for your application. The servers are mapped together to provide availability and scalability, for example through database sharding. In order to use Fabric, you must upgrade to the newest versions of your database connectors and servers. For some applications, you may also need to modify the code in order to use some Fabric features (for example when Fabric is used with MySQL Replication, in order to load balance workload on read slaves).

MaxScale is meant to be a dispatcher of your database communications. In doing so, MaxScale can reduce the number of I/O ops, log and modify queries and results, and optimize the use of the database servers. MaxScale is designed to work transparently with all the connectors and database servers from version 4.1 to the latest MariaDB 10.X, and to react in real time to the requests of the clients, to the current workload and to the status of the database infrastructure. By doing so, MaxScale offers better availability and scalability - you may say, like Fabric does, but looking at what scalability and availability means, MaxScale is focused on the optimal use of the database servers (for example with a continuous monitoring of the database workload), instead of looking at a farm of servers as a whole.

The first baby step

This is the first baby step for MaxScale and users are warned that there is still a lot of work to do to improve it and to make it more stable. The fact that MaxScale is now beta means that it has reached a maturity in terms of features and many bugs have been fixed in the last 6 months, but the product is not production ready yet, unless used in a thoroughly tested and conso

lidated environment, i.e. where no changes in terms of versions or features are applied to the database and application servers. The next months will be devoted to catch more bugs, to benchmark MaxScale on real cases and in extreme conditions, such as heavy workloads in typical web-based applications for social networking, e-commerce, gaming and collaboration. The next objective is of course to see a robust version that can be declared production ready, i.e. in common terms we have thoroughly tested on live environments and we have caught and fixed all the known P1 & P2 bugs.

As usual, there is more to come, but in the meantime, we need your help to improve MaxScale - you can find the source code here (warning: the build is not optimal yet!). The fuss-free compiled versions are here. maxscale@googlegroups.com is now very active, we have many people who submit comments and requests every day, and this is already a success per se.

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