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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.

Warning:

Currently, you cannot use Stale Read together with TiFlash. If your SQL query contains the AS OF TIMESTAMP clause and TiDB might read data from TiFlash replicas, you might encounter an error with a message like ERROR 1105 (HY000): stale requests require tikv backend.

To fix the problem, disable TiFlash replicas for your Stale Read query. To do that, perform one of the following operations:

  • Use the set session tidb_isolation_read_engines='tidb,tikv' variable.
  • Use the hint to enforce TiDB to read data from TiKV.

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.

Note:

When reading historical data, TiDB returns the data with the old table structure even if the current table structure is different.

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.

Note:

In addition to specifying a timestamp, the most common use of the AS OF TIMESTAMP clause is to read data that is several seconds old. If this approach is used, it is recommended to read historical data older than 5 seconds.

You need to deploy the NTP service for your TiDB and PD nodes when you use Stale Read. This avoids the situation where the specified timestamp used by TiDB goes ahead of the latest TSO allocating progress (such as a timestamp several seconds ahead), or is later than the GC safe point timestamp. When the specified timestamp goes beyond the service scope, TiDB returns an error.

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)

Note:

When reading multiple tables using one SELECT statement, you need to make sure that the format of TIMESTAMP EXPRESSIONs is consistent. For example, select * from t as of timestamp NOW() - INTERVAL 2 SECOND, c as of timestamp NOW() - INTERVAL 2 SECOND;. In addition, you must specify the AS OF information for the relevant table in the SELECT statement; otherwise, the SELECT statement reads the latest data by default.

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)

Note:

If you start a transaction with the statement START TRANSACTION READ ONLY AS OF TIMESTAMP, it is a read-only transaction. Write operations are rejected in this transaction.

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)

Note:

If you start a transaction with the statement SET TRANSACTION READ ONLY AS OF TIMESTAMP, it is a read-only transaction. Write operations are rejected in this transaction.