15.8 The MERGE Storage Engine

15.8.1 MERGE Table Advantages and Disadvantages
15.8.2 MERGE Table Problems

The MERGE storage engine, also known as the MRG_MyISAM engine, is a collection of identical MyISAM tables that can be used as one. Identical means that all tables have identical column and index information. You cannot merge MyISAM tables in which the columns are listed in a different order, do not have exactly the same columns, or have the indexes in different order. However, any or all of the MyISAM tables can be compressed with myisampack. See Section 4.6.5, “myisampack — Generate Compressed, Read-Only MyISAM Tables”. Differences in table options such as AVG_ROW_LENGTH, MAX_ROWS, or PACK_KEYS do not matter.

An alternative to a MERGE table is a partitioned table, which stores partitions of a single table in separate files. Partitioning enables some operations to be performed more efficiently and is not limited to the MyISAM storage engine. For more information, see Chapter 19, Partitioning.

When you create a MERGE table, MySQL creates two files on disk. The files have names that begin with the table name and have an extension to indicate the file type. An .frm file stores the table format, and an .MRG file contains the names of the underlying MyISAM tables that should be used as one. The tables do not have to be in the same database as the MERGE table.

You can use SELECT, DELETE, UPDATE, and INSERT on MERGE tables. You must have SELECT, DELETE, and UPDATE privileges on the MyISAM tables that you map to a MERGE table.

Note

The use of MERGE tables entails the following security issue: If a user has access to MyISAM table t, that user can create a MERGE table m that accesses t. However, if the user's privileges on t are subsequently revoked, the user can continue to access t by doing so through m.

Use of DROP TABLE with a MERGE table drops only the MERGE specification. The underlying tables are not affected.

To create a MERGE table, you must specify a UNION=(list-of-tables) option that indicates which MyISAM tables to use. You can optionally specify an INSERT_METHOD option to control how inserts into the MERGE table take place. Use a value of FIRST or LAST to cause inserts to be made in the first or last underlying table, respectively. If you specify no INSERT_METHOD option or if you specify it with a value of NO, inserts into the MERGE table are not permitted and attempts to do so result in an error.

The following example shows how to create a MERGE table:

mysql> CREATE TABLE t1 (
    ->    a INT NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT PRIMARY KEY,
    ->    message CHAR(20)) ENGINE=MyISAM;
mysql> CREATE TABLE t2 (
    ->    a INT NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT PRIMARY KEY,
    ->    message CHAR(20)) ENGINE=MyISAM;
mysql> INSERT INTO t1 (message) VALUES ('Testing'),('table'),('t1');
mysql> INSERT INTO t2 (message) VALUES ('Testing'),('table'),('t2');
mysql> CREATE TABLE total (
    ->    a INT NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT,
    ->    message CHAR(20), INDEX(a))
    ->    ENGINE=MERGE UNION=(t1,t2) INSERT_METHOD=LAST;

Note that column a is indexed as a PRIMARY KEY in the underlying MyISAM tables, but not in the MERGE table. There it is indexed but not as a PRIMARY KEY because a MERGE table cannot enforce uniqueness over the set of underlying tables. (Similarly, a column with a UNIQUE index in the underlying tables should be indexed in the MERGE table but not as a UNIQUE index.)

After creating the MERGE table, you can use it to issue queries that operate on the group of tables as a whole:

mysql> SELECT * FROM total;
+---+---------+
| a | message |
+---+---------+
| 1 | Testing |
| 2 | table   |
| 3 | t1      |
| 1 | Testing |
| 2 | table   |
| 3 | t2      |
+---+---------+

To remap a MERGE table to a different collection of MyISAM tables, you can use one of the following methods:

The underlying table definitions and indexes must conform closely to the definition of the MERGE table. Conformance is checked when a table that is part of a MERGE table is opened, not when the MERGE table is created. If any table fails the conformance checks, the operation that triggered the opening of the table fails. This means that changes to the definitions of tables within a MERGE may cause a failure when the MERGE table is accessed. The conformance checks applied to each table are:

If a MERGE table cannot be opened or used because of a problem with an underlying table, CHECK TABLE displays information about which table caused the problem.

Additional Resources