A Follow Up on the SQL Puzzle

Or…What the Heck is Wrong with CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS ... SELECT?

So, earlier this week, I blogged about an SQL puzzle that had come up in my current work on Drizzle’s new transaction log.

I posed the question to readers what the “correct” result of the following would be:

INSERT INTO t1 VALUES (1,1),(1,2);
INSERT INTO t2 VALUES (100,100);
# The above statement will correctly produce an ERROR 23000: Duplicate entry '1' FOR KEY 'PRIMARY'
# What should the below RESULT be?

A number of readers responded, and, to be fair, most everyone was “correct” in their own way. Why? Well, because the way that MySQL deals with calls to CREATE TABLE ... SELECT, CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS ... SELECT and their temporary-table counterparts is completely stupid, as I learned this week. Rob Wultsch essentially sums up my feelings about the behaviour of DDL statements in regards to transactions in a session:

Implicit commit is evil and stupid. Ideally we the server should error and roll back, imho.

The Officially Correct Answer (at least in MySQL)

OK, so here’s the “official” correct answer:

CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS ... SELECT does not first check for the existence of the table in question. Instead, if the table in question does exist, CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS ... SELECT behaves like an INSERT INTO ... SELECT statement. Yep, you heard right. So, instead of throwing a warning when it notices that the table exists, MySQL instead attempts to insert rows from the SELECT query into the existing table.

Here is the official MySQL explanation:

For CREATE TABLE … SELECT, if IF NOT EXISTS is given and the table already exists, MySQL handles the statement as follows:
* The table definition given in the CREATE TABLE part is ignored. No error occurs, even if the definition does not match that of the existing table.
* If there is a mismatch between the number of columns in the table and the number of columns produced by the SELECT part, the selected values are assigned to the rightmost columns. For example, if the table contains n columns and the SELECT produces m columns, where m < n, the selected values are assigned to the m rightmost columns in the table. Each of the initial n – m columns is assigned its default value, either that specified explicitly in the column definition or the implicit column data type default if the definition contains no default. If the SELECT part produces too many columns (m > n), an error occurs.
* If strict SQL mode is enabled and any of these initial columns do not have an explicit default value, the statement fails with an error.

So, given the above manual explanation, the correct answer to the original blog post is:

  a  |  b
100 | 100

partly because there is an implicit COMMIT directly before the CREATE TABLE is executed (committing the 100,100 record to the table) and the primary key violation kills off the INSERTs of 1,1 in InnoDB. For a MyISAM table, the 1,1 record would be in the table, since MyISAM has no idea what a ROLLBACK is.

I Think Drizzle Should Follow PostgreSQL’s Example Here

On implicit commits before DDL operations, I believe they should all go bye-bye. DDL should be transactional in Drizzle and if a statement cannot be executed in a transaction, it should throw an error if there is an active transaction. Period.

For behaviour of CREATE TABLE ... SELECT acting like an INSERT INTO ... SELECT, that entire code path should be ripped out.

PostgreSQL’s DDL operations, IMHO, are sane. Sane is good. PostgreSQL allows quite a bit of flexibility by implementing the SQL standard’s CREATE TABLE and CREATE TABLE AS statements. I believe Drizzle should scrap all the DDL table-creation code and instead implement PostgreSQL’s much-nicer DDL methods. There, I said it. Slashdot MySQL haters, there ya go.