Use TiDB to Read TiFlash Replicas

This document introduces how to use TiDB to read TiFlash replicas.

TiDB provides three ways to read TiFlash replicas. If you have added a TiFlash replica without any engine configuration, the CBO (cost-based optimization) mode is used by default.

Smart selection

For tables with TiFlash replicas, the TiDB optimizer automatically determines whether to use TiFlash replicas based on the cost estimation. You can use the desc or explain analyze statement to check whether or not a TiFlash replica is selected. For example:

desc select count(*) from test.t;
| id                       | estRows | task         | access object | operator info                  |
| StreamAgg_9              | 1.00    | root         |               | funcs:count(1)->Column#4       |
| └─TableReader_17         | 1.00    | root         |               | data:TableFullScan_16          |
|   └─TableFullScan_16     | 1.00    | cop[tiflash] | table:t       | keep order:false, stats:pseudo |
3 rows in set (0.00 sec)
explain analyze select count(*) from test.t;
| id                       | estRows | actRows | task         | access object | execution info                                                       | operator info                  | memory    | disk |
| StreamAgg_9              | 1.00    | 1       | root         |               | time:83.8372ms, loops:2                                              | funcs:count(1)->Column#4       | 372 Bytes | N/A  |
| └─TableReader_17         | 1.00    | 1       | root         |               | time:83.7776ms, loops:2, rpc num: 1, rpc time:83.5701ms, proc keys:0 | data:TableFullScan_16          | 152 Bytes | N/A  |
|   └─TableFullScan_16     | 1.00    | 1       | cop[tiflash] | table:t       | time:43ms, loops:1                                                   | keep order:false, stats:pseudo | N/A       | N/A  |

cop[tiflash] means that the task will be sent to TiFlash for processing. If you have not selected a TiFlash replica, you can try to update the statistics using the analyze table statement, and then check the result using the explain analyze statement.

Note that if a table has only a single TiFlash replica and the related node cannot provide service, queries in the CBO mode will repeatedly retry. In this situation, you need to specify the engine or use the manual hint to read data from the TiKV replica.

Engine isolation

Engine isolation is to specify that all queries use a replica of the specified engine by configuring the corresponding variable. The optional engines are "tikv", "tidb" (indicates the internal memory table area of TiDB, which stores some TiDB system tables and cannot be actively used by users), and "tiflash", with the following two configuration levels:

  • TiDB instance-level, namely, INSTANCE level. Add the following configuration item in the TiDB configuration file:

    engines = ["tikv", "tidb", "tiflash"]

    The INSTANCE-level default configuration is ["tikv", "tidb", "tiflash"].

  • SESSION level. Use the following statement to configure:

    set @@session.tidb_isolation_read_engines = "engine list separated by commas";


    set SESSION tidb_isolation_read_engines = "engine list separated by commas";

    The default configuration of the SESSION level inherits from the configuration of the TiDB INSTANCE level.

The final engine configuration is the session-level configuration, that is, the session-level configuration overrides the instance-level configuration. For example, if you have configured "tikv" in the INSTANCE level and "tiflash" in the SESSION level, then the TiFlash replicas are read. If the final engine configuration is "tikv" and "tiflash", then the TiKV and TiFlash replicas are both read, and the optimizer automatically selects a better engine to execute.


Because TiDB Dashboard and other components need to read some system tables stored in the TiDB memory table area, it is recommended to always add the "tidb" engine to the instance-level engine configuration.

If the queried table does not have a replica of the specified engine (for example, the engine is configured as "tiflash" but the table does not have a TiFlash replica), the query returns an error.

Manual hint

Manual hint can force TiDB to use specified replicas for specific table(s) on the premise of satisfying engine isolation. Here is an example of using the manual hint:

select /*+ read_from_storage(tiflash[table_name]) */ ... from table_name;

If you set an alias to a table in a query statement, you must use the alias in the statement that includes a hint for the hint to take effect. For example:

select /*+ read_from_storage(tiflash[alias_a,alias_b]) */ ... from table_name_1 as alias_a, table_name_2 as alias_b where alias_a.column_1 = alias_b.column_2;

In the above statements, tiflash[] prompts the optimizer to read the TiFlash replicas. You can also use tikv[] to prompt the optimizer to read the TiKV replicas as needed. For hint syntax details, refer to READ_FROM_STORAGE.

If the table specified by a hint does not have a replica of the specified engine, the hint is ignored and a warning is reported. In addition, a hint only takes effect on the premise of engine isolation. If the engine specified in a hint is not in the engine isolation list, the hint is also ignored and a warning is reported.


The MySQL client of 5.7.7 or earlier versions clears optimizer hints by default. To use the hint syntax in these early versions, start the client with the --comments option, for example, mysql -h -P 4000 -uroot --comments.

The relationship of smart selection, engine isolation, and manual hint

In the above three ways of reading TiFlash replicas, engine isolation specifies the overall range of available replicas of engines; within this range, manual hint provides statement-level and table-level engine selection that is more fine-grained; finally, CBO makes the decision and selects a replica of an engine based on cost estimation within the specified engine list.


Before v4.0.3, the behavior of reading from TiFlash replica in a non-read-only SQL statement (for example, INSERT INTO ... SELECT, SELECT ... FOR UPDATE, UPDATE ..., DELETE ...) is undefined. In v4.0.3 and later versions, internally TiDB ignores the TiFlash replica for a non-read-only SQL statement to guarantee the data correctness. That is, for smart selection, TiDB automatically selects the non-TiFlash replica; for engine isolation that specifies TiFlash replica only, TiDB reports an error; and for manual hint, TiDB ignores the hint.

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