14.2.3.3 AUTO_INCREMENT Handling in InnoDB

To use the AUTO_INCREMENT mechanism with an InnoDB table, an AUTO_INCREMENT column ai_col must be defined as part of an index such that it is possible to perform the equivalent of an indexed SELECT MAX(ai_col) lookup on the table to obtain the maximum column value. Typically, this is achieved by making the column the first column of some table index.

If you specify an AUTO_INCREMENT column for an InnoDB table, the table handle in the InnoDB data dictionary contains a special counter called the auto-increment counter that is used in assigning new values for the column. This counter is stored only in main memory, not on disk.

InnoDB uses the following algorithm to initialize the auto-increment counter for a table t that contains an AUTO_INCREMENT column named ai_col: After a server startup, for the first insert into a table t, InnoDB executes the equivalent of this statement:

SELECT MAX(ai_col) FROM t FOR UPDATE;

InnoDB increments by one the value retrieved by the statement and assigns it to the column and to the auto-increment counter for the table. If the table is empty, InnoDB uses the value 1. If a user invokes a SHOW TABLE STATUS statement that displays output for the table t and the auto-increment counter has not been initialized, InnoDB initializes but does not increment the value and stores it for use by later inserts. This initialization uses a normal exclusive-locking read on the table and the lock lasts to the end of the transaction.

InnoDB follows the same procedure for initializing the auto-increment counter for a freshly created table.

After the auto-increment counter has been initialized, if you do not explicitly specify a value for an AUTO_INCREMENT column, InnoDB increments the counter and assigns the new value to the column. If you insert a row that explicitly specifies the column value, and the value is bigger than the current counter value, the counter is set to the specified column value.

If a user specifies NULL or 0 for the AUTO_INCREMENT column in an INSERT, InnoDB treats the row as if the value had not been specified and generates a new value for it.

The behavior of the auto-increment mechanism is not defined if a user assigns a negative value to the column or if the value becomes bigger than the maximum integer that can be stored in the specified integer type.

When accessing the auto-increment counter, InnoDB uses a special table-level AUTO-INC lock that it keeps to the end of the current SQL statement, not to the end of the transaction. The special lock release strategy was introduced to improve concurrency for inserts into a table containing an AUTO_INCREMENT column. Nevertheless, two transactions cannot have the AUTO-INC lock on the same table simultaneously, which can have a performance impact if the AUTO-INC lock is held for a long time. That might be the case for a statement such as INSERT INTO t1 ... SELECT ... FROM t2 that inserts all rows from one table into another.

InnoDB uses the in-memory auto-increment counter as long as the server runs. When the server is stopped and restarted, InnoDB reinitializes the counter for each table for the first INSERT to the table, as described earlier.

A server restart also cancels the effect of the AUTO_INCREMENT = N table option in CREATE TABLE and ALTER TABLE statements, which you can use with InnoDB tables as of MySQL 5.0.3 to set the initial counter value or alter the current counter value.

You may see gaps in the sequence of values assigned to the AUTO_INCREMENT column if you roll back transactions that have generated numbers using the counter.