Table Discovery (before 10.0.2)

This page describes the old discovery API, created in MySQL for NDB Cluster. It no longer works in MariaDB. New table discovery API is documented here.

There are four parts of it.

First, when a server finds that a table (for example, mentioned in the SELECT query) does not exist, it asks every engine whether it knows anything about this table. For this it uses discover() method of the handlerton. The method is defined as

int discover(handlerton *hton, THD* thd, const char *db, const char *name,
             unsigned char **frmblob, size_t *frmlen);

It takes the database and a table name as arguments and is returns 0 if the table exists in the engine and 1 otherwise. If it returned 0, it is supposed to allocate (with my_malloc()) a buffer and store the complete binary image of the .frm file of that table. The server will write it down to disk, creating table's .frm. The output parameters frmblob and frmlen are used to return the information about the buffer to the caller. The caller is responsible for freeing the buffer with my_free().

Second, in some cases the server only wants to know if the table exists, but it does not really need to open it and will not use its .frm file image. Then using the discover() method would be an overkill, and the server uses a lightweight table_exists_in_engine() method. This method is defined as

int table_exists_in_engine(handlerton *hton, THD* thd,
                           const char *db, const char *name);

and it returns one of the HA_ERR_ codes, typically HA_ERR_NO_SUCH_TABLE or HA_ERR_TABLE_EXIST.

Third, there can be a situation when the server thinks that the table exists (it found and successfully read the .frm file), but from the engine point of view the .frm file is incorrect. For example, the table was already deleted from the engine, or its definition was modified (again, modified only in the engine). In this case the .frm file is outdated, and the server needs to re-discover the table. The engine conveys this to the server by returning HA_ERR_TABLE_DEF_CHANGED error code from the handler's open() method. On receiving this error the server will use the discover() method to get the new .frm image. This also means that after the table is opened, the server does not expect its metadata to change. The engine thus should ensure (with some kind of locking, perhaps) that a table metadata cannot be modified, as long as the table stays opened.

And fourth, a user might want to retrieve a list of tables in a specific database. With SHOW TABLES or by quering INFORMATION_SCHEMA tables. The user expects to see all tables, but the server cannot discover them one by one, because it doesnt know table names. In this case, the server uses a special discovery technique. It is find_files() method in the handlerton, defines as

int find_files(handlerton *hton, THD *thd,
               const char *db, const char *path,
               const char *wild, bool dir, List<LEX_STRING> *files);

and it, typically for Storage Engine API, returns 0 on success and 1 on failure. The arguments mean db - the name of the database, path - the path to it, wild an SQL wildcard pattern (for example, from SHOW TABLES LIKE '...', and dir, if set, means to discover databases instead of tables.


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