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mysqlnd plugins for PHP in practice

Note: This article was originally published at Planet PHP on 6 November 2010.
Planet PHP

If you follow my blog or twitter stream you might know I've recently been at Barcelona to attend the PHP Barcelona conference. Conferences are great for exchanging ideas one of the ideas I discussed with Combell's Thijs Feryn: They are a hosting company providing managed MySQL instances to their customers, as such they run multiple MySQL servers and each server serves a few of their customers. Now they have to provide every customer with database credentials, including a host name to connect to. The issue there is that a fixed hostname takes flexibility out of the setup. Say ou have and over time you figure out that there are two high load customers on db1 while db2 is mostly idle. You might want to move the data from one customer over to db2 to share the load. This means you have to ask the customer to change his application configuration at the time you're moving the data. Quite annoying task.

Now there's a solution: MySQL Proxy. The proxy is a daemon sitting in between of the application/web servers and MySQL something like in the picture below.

The proxy can be scripted using lua so it is not too hard to implement a feature which chooses the database server to actually connect to. The customer is then told to connect to the proxy and depending on the username given he is redirected to a specific system. All magic happens transparent in the background. This is nice but not without issues: There is one more daemon to monitor, the proxy sitting in between adds latency, and so on.

In case you attended a recent talk by Ulf or me you certainly learned about mysqlnd plugins. We always compare mysqlnd plugins with the MySQL Proxy, so let's take a closer look: The plugins are PHP extensions, usually written in C, hooking into mysqlnd, the native driver for PHP, overriding parts of mysqlnd's internals. mysqlnd, introduced in PHP 5.3, is the implementation of the MySQL Client-Server-Protocol sitting invisible below the PHP extensions ext/mysql, mysqli and PDO_mysql. This means any plugin to mysqlnd can transparently change the behavior without an changes to the actual application.

Now with this plugin facility we can move the code for the server selection from the proxy directly in PHP. By doing this we will have almost no overhead and due to the deep integration less work for monitoring and no additional fault component.