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If you don't brush and floss, you're gonna get an abscess – same with MySQL updates

Database hygiene matters, says Percona expert

With less than six months to go before support for version 5.7 of relational database MySQL runs out, it appears users are ignoring recommendations to upgrade.

Figures from Percona Monitoring and Management show that between 40 and 50 percent of MySQL users remain on version 5.7 despite mainstream support ending on 31 October, 2023.

Users who feel version 5.7 is not broken so doesn't need fixing could be in for some nasty shocks in the long term, said Dave Stokes, technology evangelist at Percona.

"It is like the people who don't brush and floss every day: eventually they're going to get abscesses. It's going to be a lot more painful down the road even if the intermediate results may not be apparent," he told The Register.

According to marketing and sales research company 6Sense, MySQL has about 45 percent share of the relational database market, with around 176,000 customers. It sits second only to Oracle on the DB Engines ranking, above Microsoft's SQL Server.

For users considering the upgrade, there are some technical differences between the 5.7 and 8.0 (the next iteration) that users should be aware of, Stokes said. "The 'group-by' statement was rewritten. A lot of customers struggle with rewriting those. The original version of MySQL didn't really follow the SQL standard. It kind of on its own made some assumptions that weren't always true. Now, if you're making those old assumptions, and they're not true anymore, and some of you are getting different results, that's kind of a shock," he said.

He recommended customers use MySQL Shell and the util.checkforserverupgrade function checks to flag out-of-date features or settings.

"Sticking with 5.7 is OK, but it is a technical debt you really don't have to sign up for and 8.0 features are more than enough to make you want to switch over," Stokes said.

MySQL was authored by Swedish computer scientist Michael "Monty" Widenius in 1995. It became part of Sun Microsystems in 2008 and then moved to Oracle when it bought Sun in 2010. Oracle has declined the opportunity to take part in this piece.

Peter Zaitsev was an early MySQL employee who went on to found Percona. He has literally written the book on high-performance MySQL, working with high-profile users including Facebook. Other prominent MySQL fans include Uber, Twitter and Netflix.

"In recent years, security scares around unsupported versions, saying that it can be a serious problem, get a lot of attention among high-end from enterprises," said Zaitsev. "But a lot of other users seem to feel free to lapse. They start thinking about upgrades months, even years after the software has gone past its end of life. It is not very good, but that is reality. But with MySQL 5.7, unfortunately, that is going to be even worse because the lift to upgrade to eight is kind of higher."

The differences are, compared with moving from 5.6 to 5.7, that MySQL will allow more incompatibility and remove more features. It also changes whether users can revert back to earlier iterations should something go wrong.

"MySQL 5.7, it was unlikely there are any breaking changes in the minor release," Zaitsev said. "But that is not the case with MySQL 8. You may find certain things which were there before don't work or work differently. As you upgrade to MySQL 8, you not only have to do the upgrade in terms of software, you also need to upgrade your processes to deal with that situation."

Carl Olofson, research vice president at IDC, said users looking to shift from MySQL 5.7 to 8 might present an opportunity for MariaDB, the MySQL fork.

"Any kind of change like that, no matter how trivial it may seem, it's going to involve installing the new version on parallel servers, running parallel testing, checking to see if there's any data conversion that needs to be done. That's a lot of work. If you're going to go through that much work, it's not that much more work to shift providers," he told The Register.

Inevitably, MariaDB agreed. Manjot Singh, field CTO, said: "We're probably the most compatible alternative database. But I would differentiate us and say we haven't been a fork [of MySQL] for a very long time."

He said the company had won customers through the migration but was getting them equally from AWS Aurora, from Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server. MariaDB's SkySQL DBaaS could back up MySQL databases during the transition, he pointed out.

On the other hand, Zaitsev said he was not expecting a lot of SQL users to shift from 5.7 to MariaDB instead of MySQL 8.0.

Whoever is right, the deadline is unlikely to change, so users have a decision to make or risk experiencing some painful decay. ®

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