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Read Historical Data Using the AS OF TIMESTAMP Clause

This document describes how to perform the Stale Read feature using the AS OF TIMESTAMP clause to read historical data in TiDB, including specific usage examples and strategies for saving historical data.

TiDB supports reading historical data through a standard SQL interface, which is the AS OF TIMESTAMP SQL clause, without the need for special clients or drivers. After data is updated or deleted, you can read the historical data before the update or deletion using this SQL interface.

Syntax

You can use the AS OF TIMESTAMP clause in the following three ways:

If you want to specify an exact point of time, you can set a datetime value or use a time function in the AS OF TIMESTAMP clause. The format of datetime is like "2016-10-08 16:45:26.999", with millisecond as the minimum time unit, but for most of the time, the time unit of second is enough for specifying a datetime, such as "2016-10-08 16:45:26". You can also get the current time to the millisecond using the NOW(3) function. If you want to read the data of several seconds ago, it is recommended to use an expression such as NOW() - INTERVAL 10 SECOND.

If you want to specify a time range, you can use the TIDB_BOUNDED_STALENESS() function in the clause. When this function is used, TiDB selects a suitable timestamp within the specified time range. "Suitable" means there are no transactions that start before this timestamp and have not been committed on the accessed replica, that is, TiDB can perform read operations on the accessed replica and the read operations are not blocked. You need to use TIDB_BOUNDED_STALENESS(t1, t2) to call this function. t1 and t2 are the two ends of the time range, which can be specified using either datetime values or time functions.

Here are some examples of the AS OF TIMESTAMP clause:

  • AS OF TIMESTAMP '2016-10-08 16:45:26': Tells TiDB to read the latest data stored at 16:45:26 on October 8, 2016.
  • AS OF TIMESTAMP NOW() - INTERVAL 10 SECOND: Tells TiDB to read the latest data stored 10 seconds ago.
  • AS OF TIMESTAMP TIDB_BOUNDED_STALENESS('2016-10-08 16:45:26', '2016-10-08 16:45:29'): Tells TiDB to read the data as new as possible within the time range of 16:45:26 to 16:45:29 on October 8, 2016.
  • AS OF TIMESTAMP TIDB_BOUNDED_STALENESS(NOW() - INTERVAL 20 SECOND, NOW()): Tells TiDB to read the data as new as possible within the time range of 20 seconds ago to the present.

Usage examples

This section describes different ways to use the AS OF TIMESTAMP clause with several examples. It first introduces how to prepare the data for recovery, and then shows how to use AS OF TIMESTAMP in SELECT, START TRANSACTION READ ONLY AS OF TIMESTAMP, and SET TRANSACTION READ ONLY AS OF TIMESTAMP respectively.

Prepare data sample

To prepare data for recovery, create a table first and insert several rows of data:

create table t (c int);
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.01 sec)
insert into t values (1), (2), (3);
Query OK, 3 rows affected (0.00 sec)

View the data in the table:

select * from t;
+------+ | c | +------+ | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | +------+ 3 rows in set (0.00 sec)

View the current time:

select now();
+---------------------+ | now() | +---------------------+ | 2021-05-26 16:45:26 | +---------------------+ 1 row in set (0.00 sec)

Update the data in a row:

update t set c=22 where c=2;
Query OK, 1 row affected (0.00 sec)

Confirm that the data of the row is updated:

select * from t;
+------+ | c | +------+ | 1 | | 22 | | 3 | +------+ 3 rows in set (0.00 sec)

Read historical data using the SELECT statement

You can use the SELECT ... FROM ... AS OF TIMESTAMP statement to read data from a time point in the past.

select * from t as of timestamp '2021-05-26 16:45:26';
+------+ | c | +------+ | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | +------+ 3 rows in set (0.00 sec)

Read historical data using the START TRANSACTION READ ONLY AS OF TIMESTAMP statement

You can use the START TRANSACTION READ ONLY AS OF TIMESTAMP statement to start a read-only transaction based on a time point in the past. The transaction reads historical data of the given time.

start transaction read only as of timestamp '2021-05-26 16:45:26';
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)
select * from t;
+------+ | c | +------+ | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | +------+ 3 rows in set (0.00 sec)
commit;
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)

After the transaction is committed, you can read the latest data.

select * from t;
+------+ | c | +------+ | 1 | | 22 | | 3 | +------+ 3 rows in set (0.00 sec)

Read historical data using the SET TRANSACTION READ ONLY AS OF TIMESTAMP statement

You can use the SET TRANSACTION READ ONLY AS OF TIMESTAMP statement to set the next transaction as a read-only transaction based on a specified time point in the past. The transaction reads historical data of the given time.

set transaction read only as of timestamp '2021-05-26 16:45:26';
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)
begin;
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)
select * from t;
+------+ | c | +------+ | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | +------+ 3 rows in set (0.00 sec)
commit;
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)

After the transaction is committed, you can read the latest data.

select * from t;
+------+ | c | +------+ | 1 | | 22 | | 3 | +------+ 3 rows in set (0.00 sec)

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