How to manage large databases

By
Elina
developer
3
min read
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Managing databases can be quite challenging, mainly due to the size and complexity of the data involved. Organizations often worry about how to handle and manage the impact of data growth, especially when the database management systems can’t keep up.

Sometimes, issues arise from overlooked concerns during the initial stages of the process. This could be because the current technology in use was assumed to automatically handle these complexities. So, the key is to have a solid plan in place for managing large, complex databases, particularly when the data is expected to grow significantly, whether predictably or unpredictably.

Data Size does Matter

The size of a database is crucial as it influences both performance and management methods. The way data is processed and stored affects how the database is managed, and this applies to data both in transit and at rest. For many large companies, data is invaluable, and an increase in data could dramatically change their procedures. Thus, it’s essential to plan in advance for data growth in a database.

In our work with databases at AINSYS, we have seen customers struggle with performance issues and managing substantial data growth. Questions often surface, such as whether to normalize or denormalize the tables.

Normalizing Tables

Table normalization is beneficial because it maintains data integrity, reduces redundancy, and organizes data more efficiently for management, analysis, and extraction. Normalized tables are particularly efficient when analyzing data flow and retrieving data through SQL statements or various programming languages, such as C/C++, Java, Go, Ruby, PHP, or Python, that interface with the MySQL Connectors.

However, normalized tables can come with performance penalties and potentially slow down queries due to the need for multiple joins when retrieving data. On the other hand, denormalized tables optimize retrieval primarily through indexing or using the primary key, allowing data to be stored in a buffer for faster access than performing multiple disk seeks. Denormalized tables don’t require joins, which can speed up retrieval, but they compromise data integrity and can lead to rapid database growth.

When dealing with large databases, it’s advisable to use a Data Definition Language (DDL) for your MySQL/MariaDB table. Actions such as adding a primary or unique key to your table, or changing a column’s data type, require a table rebuild, as the only applicable algorithm is ALGORITHM=COPY.

Doing this in a production environment can be difficult, especially if the table in question is large. Think of tables with millions or even billions of rows. Directly applying an ALTER TABLE statement to your table can block all incoming traffic needing to access the table during the DDL application.

However, this issue can be alleviated by using tools like pt-online-schema-change or gh-ost. It’s important to note that using these tools still requires diligent monitoring and maintenance during the DDL process.

Database Complexity Affects Performance

Performance penalties can often arise with large and complex databases. In this context, “complex” refers to databases that contain intricate content, such as mathematical equations, coordinates, or numerical and financial records. These complexities can increase significantly when combined with queries that intensively use the database’s native mathematical functions.

When dealing with complex scenarios, it is often more effective to steer clear of extensively using intricate mathematical equations or heavily relying on the system’s inherent computational abilities. Instead, we can manage and process these complex calculations using backend programming languages, rather than utilizing the database directly.

Suppose you do have complicated computations. In that case, a more efficient method could be to store these equations in the database, retrieve the necessary data when required, and then organize it in a way that’s easier to understand or debug when issues arise.

Are You Using the Right Database Engine?

The performance of a database server depends on the data structure used and how it interacts with the queries made and the data retrieved from the table. Different database engines in MySQL/MariaDB, such as InnoDB and MyISAM, use B-Trees, while NDB or Memory database engines utilize Hash Mapping. These data structures each have a Big O notation, a term in Computer Science that describes the performance or complexity of an algorithm.

InnoDB and MyISAM, with their use of B-Trees, have a search performance of O(log n). On the other hand, Hash Tables or Hash Maps have a performance of O(n). It’s important to note that both share the same average and worst-case performance based on these notations.

The specific engine’s data structure and the queries you apply to retrieve targeted data directly impact your database server’s performance. For instance, Hash Tables can’t retrieve ranges, while B-Trees are very efficient for such searches and can manage large data volumes.

To choose the best engine for your data, you must:

  1. Identify the queries you will use,
  2. Understand how the data will transform into business logic,
  3. Evaluate the types and volumes of data you’ll manage,
  4. Consider the type of searches you will conduct frequently (range retrieval or specific key access), and
  5. Assess the performance implications based on the Big O notation of the engine’s data structure.

When dealing with thousands of databases, using the right engine in combination with your queries and the data you need to store and retrieve can yield excellent performance. However, this requires a thorough analysis of your needs to establish the right database environment.

Right Tools to Manage Large Databases

Managing a large database can be challenging without a robust platform to support the process. Even with skilled database engineers, there’s always a risk of human error with the database server in use. Any misstep in altering configuration parameters or variables could lead to significant changes, potentially reducing the server’s performance.

AINSYS proves to be the go-to tool for managing large databases effectively. It is designed to cope with the unique challenges posed by large data volumes.

With AINSYS, you get enhanced performance. The system applies optimal strategies to handle normalized and denormalized tables and uses database engines efficiently. It minimizes human error potential, thanks to its smart design and automated processes, thereby reducing risks to server performance.

AINSYS is also adept at handling complex databases, smoothly processing intricate mathematical equations or extensive numerical and financial records. Its efficient data management capabilities can seamlessly integrate with your business needs, making it a powerful tool for large database management.

Advices to consider when working on databases

Here are some more tips for working on databases:

  1. Choose the appropriate data types for your columns to optimize storage and improve query performance.
  2. Follow database normalization principles to reduce redundancy and enhance data integrity.
  3. Perform routine database maintenance tasks, like rebuilding indexes and updating statistics.
  4. Create indexes on frequently queried columns to speed up operations, but be mindful of over-indexing.
  5. Write efficient database queries using appropriate joins and filtering conditions, and monitor their performance.
  6. Regularly back up your database for data protection, and make sure to validate the integrity of backups.
  7. Implement security best practices to prevent unauthorized database access.
  8. Use monitoring tools to track your database’s performance and proactively address bottlenecks.
  9. Design your database with scalability in mind to accommodate future growth.
  10. Document your database schema, configurations, and data flow to aid understanding and troubleshooting.

In conclusion, managing large databases in 2023 requires not just an understanding of the fundamental concepts but also the utilization of the right tools and strategies. Whether it’s choosing the right database engine, normalizing your tables, or conducting routine maintenance, each step plays a crucial role in your database’s performance and scalability. Through careful planning and strategic execution, you can overcome the complexities of large database management, ensuring optimal performance and robust data integrity for your organization.

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