19.2.7 How MySQL Partitioning Handles NULL

Partitioning in MySQL does nothing to disallow NULL as the value of a partitioning expression, whether it is a column value or the value of a user-supplied expression. Even though it is permitted to use NULL as the value of an expression that must otherwise yield an integer, it is important to keep in mind that NULL is not a number. MySQL's partitioning implementation treats NULL as being less than any non-NULL value, just as ORDER BY does.

This means that treatment of NULL varies between partitioning of different types, and may produce behavior which you do not expect if you are not prepared for it. This being the case, we discuss in this section how each MySQL partitioning type handles NULL values when determining the partition in which a row should be stored, and provide examples for each.

Handling of NULL with RANGE partitioning.  If you insert a row into a table partitioned by RANGE such that the column value used to determine the partition is NULL, the row is inserted into the lowest partition. Consider these two tables in a database named p, created as follows:

mysql> CREATE TABLE t1 (
    ->     c1 INT,
    ->     c2 VARCHAR(20)
    -> )
    -> PARTITION BY RANGE(c1) (
    ->     PARTITION p0 VALUES LESS THAN (0),
    ->     PARTITION p1 VALUES LESS THAN (10),
    ->     PARTITION p2 VALUES LESS THAN MAXVALUE
    -> );
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.09 sec)

mysql> CREATE TABLE t2 (
    ->     c1 INT,
    ->     c2 VARCHAR(20)
    -> )
    -> PARTITION BY RANGE(c1) (
    ->     PARTITION p0 VALUES LESS THAN (-5),
    ->     PARTITION p1 VALUES LESS THAN (0),
    ->     PARTITION p2 VALUES LESS THAN (10),
    ->     PARTITION p3 VALUES LESS THAN MAXVALUE
    -> );
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.09 sec)

You can see the partitions created by these two CREATE TABLE statements using the following query against the PARTITIONS table in the INFORMATION_SCHEMA database:

mysql> SELECT TABLE_NAME, PARTITION_NAME, TABLE_ROWS, AVG_ROW_LENGTH, DATA_LENGTH
     >   FROM INFORMATION_SCHEMA.PARTITIONS
     >   WHERE TABLE_SCHEMA = 'p' AND TABLE_NAME LIKE 't_';
+------------+----------------+------------+----------------+-------------+
| TABLE_NAME | PARTITION_NAME | TABLE_ROWS | AVG_ROW_LENGTH | DATA_LENGTH |
+------------+----------------+------------+----------------+-------------+
| t1         | p0             |          0 |              0 |           0 |
| t1         | p1             |          0 |              0 |           0 |
| t1         | p2             |          0 |              0 |           0 |
| t2         | p0             |          0 |              0 |           0 |
| t2         | p1             |          0 |              0 |           0 |
| t2         | p2             |          0 |              0 |           0 |
| t2         | p3             |          0 |              0 |           0 |
+------------+----------------+------------+----------------+-------------+
7 rows in set (0.00 sec)

(For more information about this table, see Section 21.12, “The INFORMATION_SCHEMA PARTITIONS Table”.) Now let us populate each of these tables with a single row containing a NULL in the column used as the partitioning key, and verify that the rows were inserted using a pair of SELECT statements:

mysql> INSERT INTO t1 VALUES (NULL, 'mothra');
Query OK, 1 row affected (0.00 sec)

mysql> INSERT INTO t2 VALUES (NULL, 'mothra');
Query OK, 1 row affected (0.00 sec)

mysql> SELECT * FROM t1;
+------+--------+
| id   | name   |
+------+--------+
| NULL | mothra |
+------+--------+
1 row in set (0.00 sec)

mysql> SELECT * FROM t2;
+------+--------+
| id   | name   |
+------+--------+
| NULL | mothra |
+------+--------+
1 row in set (0.00 sec)

You can see which partitions are used to store the inserted rows by rerunning the previous query against INFORMATION_SCHEMA.PARTITIONS and inspecting the output:

mysql> SELECT TABLE_NAME, PARTITION_NAME, TABLE_ROWS, AVG_ROW_LENGTH, DATA_LENGTH
     >   FROM INFORMATION_SCHEMA.PARTITIONS
     >   WHERE TABLE_SCHEMA = 'p' AND TABLE_NAME LIKE 't_';
+------------+----------------+------------+----------------+-------------+
| TABLE_NAME | PARTITION_NAME | TABLE_ROWS | AVG_ROW_LENGTH | DATA_LENGTH |
+------------+----------------+------------+----------------+-------------+
| t1         | p0             |          1 |             20 |          20 |
| t1         | p1             |          0 |              0 |           0 |
| t1         | p2             |          0 |              0 |           0 |
| t2         | p0             |          1 |             20 |          20 |
| t2         | p1             |          0 |              0 |           0 |
| t2         | p2             |          0 |              0 |           0 |
| t2         | p3             |          0 |              0 |           0 |
+------------+----------------+------------+----------------+-------------+
7 rows in set (0.01 sec)

You can also demonstrate that these rows were stored in the lowest partition of each table by dropping these partitions, and then re-running the SELECT statements:

mysql> ALTER TABLE t1 DROP PARTITION p0;
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.16 sec)

mysql> ALTER TABLE t2 DROP PARTITION p0;
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.16 sec)

mysql> SELECT * FROM t1;
Empty set (0.00 sec)

mysql> SELECT * FROM t2;
Empty set (0.00 sec)

(For more information on ALTER TABLE ... DROP PARTITION, see Section 13.1.7, “ALTER TABLE Syntax”.)

NULL is also treated in this way for partitioning expressions that use SQL functions. Suppose that we define a table using a CREATE TABLE statement such as this one:

CREATE TABLE tndate (
    id INT,
    dt DATE
)
PARTITION BY RANGE( YEAR(dt) ) (
    PARTITION p0 VALUES LESS THAN (1990),
    PARTITION p1 VALUES LESS THAN (2000),
    PARTITION p2 VALUES LESS THAN MAXVALUE
);

As with other MySQL functions, YEAR(NULL) returns NULL. A row with a dt column value of NULL is treated as though the partitioning expression evaluated to a value less than any other value, and so is inserted into partition p0.

Handling of NULL with LIST partitioning.  A table that is partitioned by LIST admits NULL values if and only if one of its partitions is defined using that value-list that contains NULL. The converse of this is that a table partitioned by LIST which does not explicitly use NULL in a value list rejects rows resulting in a NULL value for the partitioning expression, as shown in this example:

mysql> CREATE TABLE ts1 (
    ->     c1 INT,
    ->     c2 VARCHAR(20)
    -> )
    -> PARTITION BY LIST(c1) (
    ->     PARTITION p0 VALUES IN (0, 3, 6),
    ->     PARTITION p1 VALUES IN (1, 4, 7),
    ->     PARTITION p2 VALUES IN (2, 5, 8)
    -> );
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.01 sec)

mysql> INSERT INTO ts1 VALUES (9, 'mothra');
ERROR 1504 (HY000): Table has no partition for value 9

mysql> INSERT INTO ts1 VALUES (NULL, 'mothra');
ERROR 1504 (HY000): Table has no partition for value NULL

Only rows having a c1 value between 0 and 8 inclusive can be inserted into ts1. NULL falls outside this range, just like the number 9. We can create tables ts2 and ts3 having value lists containing NULL, as shown here:

mysql> CREATE TABLE ts2 (
    ->     c1 INT,
    ->     c2 VARCHAR(20)
    -> )
    -> PARTITION BY LIST(c1) (
    ->     PARTITION p0 VALUES IN (0, 3, 6),
    ->     PARTITION p1 VALUES IN (1, 4, 7),
    ->     PARTITION p2 VALUES IN (2, 5, 8),
    ->     PARTITION p3 VALUES IN (NULL)
    -> );
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.01 sec)

mysql> CREATE TABLE ts3 (
    ->     c1 INT,
    ->     c2 VARCHAR(20)
    -> )
    -> PARTITION BY LIST(c1) (
    ->     PARTITION p0 VALUES IN (0, 3, 6),
    ->     PARTITION p1 VALUES IN (1, 4, 7, NULL),
    ->     PARTITION p2 VALUES IN (2, 5, 8)
    -> );
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.01 sec)

When defining value lists for partitioning, you can (and should) treat NULL just as you would any other value. For example, both VALUES IN (NULL) and VALUES IN (1, 4, 7, NULL) are valid, as are VALUES IN (1, NULL, 4, 7), VALUES IN (NULL, 1, 4, 7), and so on. You can insert a row having NULL for column c1 into each of the tables ts2 and ts3:

mysql> INSERT INTO ts2 VALUES (NULL, 'mothra');
Query OK, 1 row affected (0.00 sec)

mysql> INSERT INTO ts3 VALUES (NULL, 'mothra');
Query OK, 1 row affected (0.00 sec)

By issuing the appropriate query against INFORMATION_SCHEMA.PARTITIONS, you can determine which partitions were used to store the rows just inserted (we assume, as in the previous examples, that the partitioned tables were created in the p database):

mysql> SELECT TABLE_NAME, PARTITION_NAME, TABLE_ROWS, AVG_ROW_LENGTH, DATA_LENGTH
     >   FROM INFORMATION_SCHEMA.PARTITIONS
     >   WHERE TABLE_SCHEMA = 'p' AND TABLE_NAME LIKE 'ts_';
+------------+----------------+------------+----------------+-------------+
| TABLE_NAME | PARTITION_NAME | TABLE_ROWS | AVG_ROW_LENGTH | DATA_LENGTH |
+------------+----------------+------------+----------------+-------------+
| ts2        | p0             |          0 |              0 |           0 |
| ts2        | p1             |          0 |              0 |           0 |
| ts2        | p2             |          0 |              0 |           0 |
| ts2        | p3             |          1 |             20 |          20 |
| ts3        | p0             |          0 |              0 |           0 |
| ts3        | p1             |          1 |             20 |          20 |
| ts3        | p2             |          0 |              0 |           0 |
+------------+----------------+------------+----------------+-------------+
7 rows in set (0.01 sec)

As shown earlier in this section, you can also verify which partitions were used for storing the rows by deleting these partitions and then performing a SELECT.

Handling of NULL with HASH and KEY partitioning.  NULL is handled somewhat differently for tables partitioned by HASH or KEY. In these cases, any partition expression that yields a NULL value is treated as though its return value were zero. We can verify this behavior by examining the effects on the file system of creating a table partitioned by HASH and populating it with a record containing appropriate values. Suppose that you have a table th (also in the p database) created using the following statement:

mysql> CREATE TABLE th (
    ->     c1 INT,
    ->     c2 VARCHAR(20)
    -> )
    -> PARTITION BY HASH(c1)
    -> PARTITIONS 2;
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)

The partitions belonging to this table can be viewed using the query shown here:

mysql> SELECT TABLE_NAME,PARTITION_NAME,TABLE_ROWS,AVG_ROW_LENGTH,DATA_LENGTH
     >   FROM INFORMATION_SCHEMA.PARTITIONS
     >   WHERE TABLE_SCHEMA = 'p' AND TABLE_NAME ='th';
+------------+----------------+------------+----------------+-------------+
| TABLE_NAME | PARTITION_NAME | TABLE_ROWS | AVG_ROW_LENGTH | DATA_LENGTH |
+------------+----------------+------------+----------------+-------------+
| th         | p0             |          0 |              0 |           0 |
| th         | p1             |          0 |              0 |           0 |
+------------+----------------+------------+----------------+-------------+
2 rows in set (0.00 sec)

Note that TABLE_ROWS for each partition is 0. Now insert two rows into th whose c1 column values are NULL and 0, and verify that these rows were inserted, as shown here:

mysql> INSERT INTO th VALUES (NULL, 'mothra'), (0, 'gigan');
Query OK, 1 row affected (0.00 sec)

mysql> SELECT * FROM th;
+------+---------+
| c1   | c2      |
+------+---------+
| NULL | mothra  |
+------+---------+
|    0 | gigan   |
+------+---------+
2 rows in set (0.01 sec)

Recall that for any integer N, the value of NULL MOD N is always NULL. For tables that are partitioned by HASH or KEY, this result is treated for determining the correct partition as 0. Checking the INFORMATION_SCHEMA.PARTITIONS table once again, we can see that both rows were inserted into partition p0:

mysql> SELECT TABLE_NAME, PARTITION_NAME, TABLE_ROWS, AVG_ROW_LENGTH, DATA_LENGTH
     >   FROM INFORMATION_SCHEMA.PARTITIONS
     >   WHERE TABLE_SCHEMA = 'p' AND TABLE_NAME ='th';
+------------+----------------+------------+----------------+-------------+
| TABLE_NAME | PARTITION_NAME | TABLE_ROWS | AVG_ROW_LENGTH | DATA_LENGTH |
+------------+----------------+------------+----------------+-------------+
| th         | p0             |          2 |             20 |          20 |
| th         | p1             |          0 |              0 |           0 |
+------------+----------------+------------+----------------+-------------+
2 rows in set (0.00 sec)

If you repeat this example using PARTITION BY KEY in place of PARTITION BY HASH in the definition of the table, you can verify easily that NULL is also treated like 0 for this type of partitioning.