Merge and Migrate Data from Sharded Tables in Optimistic Mode

This document introduces the sharding support feature provided by Data Migration (DM) in the optimistic mode. This feature allows you to merge and migrate the data of tables with the same or different table schema(s) in the upstream MySQL or MariaDB instances into one same table in the downstream TiDB.


If you do not have an in-depth understanding of the optimistic mode and its restrictions, it is NOT recommended to use this mode. Otherwise, migration interruption or even data inconsistency might occur.


DM supports executing DDL statements on sharded tables online, which is called sharding DDL, and uses the "pessimistic mode" by default. In this mode, when a DDL statement is executed in an upstream sharded table, data migration of this table is paused until the same DDL statement is executed in all other sharded tables. Only by then this DDL statement is executed in the downstream and data migration resumes.

The pessimistic mode guarantees that the data migrated to the downstream is always correct, but it pauses the data migration, which is bad for making A/B changes in the upstream. In some cases, users might spend a long time executing DDL statements in a single sharded table and change the schemas of other sharded tables only after a period of validation. In the pessimistic mode, these DDL statements block data migration and cause many binlog events to pile up.

Therefore, an "optimistic mode" is needed. In this mode, a DDL statement executed on a sharded table is automatically converted to a statement that is compatible with other sharded tables, and then immediately migrated to the downstream. In this way, the DDL statement does not block any sharded table from executing DML migration.

Configuration of the optimistic mode

To use the optimistic mode, specify the shard-mode item in the task configuration file as optimistic. For the detailed sample configuration file, see DM Advanced Task Configuration File.


It takes some risks to use the optimistic mode. Follow these rules when you use it:

  • Ensure that the schema of every sharded table is consistent with each other before and after you execute a batch of DDL statements.

  • If you perform an A/B test, perform the test ONLY on one sharded table.

  • After the A/B test is finished, migrate only the most direct DDL statement(s) to the final schema. Do not re-execute every right or wrong step of the test.

    For example, if you have executed ADD COLUMN A INT; DROP COLUMN A; ADD COLUMN A FLOAT; in a sharded table, you only need to execute ADD COLUMN A FLOAT in other sharded tables. You do not need to executed all of the three DDL statements again.

  • Observe the status of the DM migration when executing the DDL statement. When an error is reported, you need to determine whether this batch of DDL statements will cause data inconsistency.

Currently, the following statements are not supported in the optimistic mode:

  • ALTER TABLE table_name ADD COLUMN column_name datatype NOT NULL (To add a NOT NULL column without a default value).
  • ALTER TABLE table_name ADD COLUMN column_name datetime DEFAULT NOW() (To add a column with a varying value).
  • ALTER TABLE table_name ADD COLUMN col1 INT, DROP COLUMN col2 (Contains both ADD COLUMN and DROP COLUMN in one DDL statement).
  • ALTER TABLE table_name RENAME COLUMN column_1 TO column_2; (To rename a column).
  • ALTER TABLE table_name RENAME INDEX index_1 TO index_2; (To rename an index).

In addition, the following restrictions apply to both the optimistic mode and the pessimistic mode:

  • In an incremental replication task, ensure that each sharded table's schema that corresponds to the binlog position at the start of the task is consistent with each other.
  • The new table added to a sharding group must have a consistent table schema with that of other members. The CREATE/RENAME TABLE statement is forbidden when a batch of DDL statements is being executed.
  • DROP TABLE or DROP DATABASE is not supported.
  • TRUNCATE TABLE is not supported.
  • Each DDL statement must involve operations on only one table.
  • The DDL statement that is not supported in TiDB is also not supported in DM.
  • The default value of a newly added column must not contain current_timestamp, rand(), uuid(); otherwise, data inconsistency between the upstream and the downstream might occur.


When you use the optimistic mode for a migration task, a DDL statement is migrated to the downstream immediately. If this mode is misused, data inconsistency between the upstream and the downstream might occur.

Operations that cause data inconsistency

  • The schema of each sharded table is incompatible with each other. For example:

    • Two columns of the same name are added to two sharded tables respectively, but the columns are of different types.
    • Two columns of the same name are added to two sharded tables respectively, but the columns have different default values.
    • Two generated columns of the same name are added to two sharded tables respectively, but the columns are generated using different expressions.
    • Two indexes of the same name are added to two sharded tables respectively, but the keys are different.
    • Other different table schemas with the same name.
  • Execute the DDL statement that can corrupt data in the sharded table and then try to roll back.

    For example, drop a column X and then add this column back.


Merge and migrate the following three sharded tables to TiDB:


Add a new column Age in tbl01 and set the default value of the column to 0:



Add a new column Age in tbl00 and set the default value of the column to -1:



By then, the Age column of tbl00 is inconsistent because DEFAULT 0 and DEFAULT -1 are incompatible with each other. In this situation, DM will report the error, but you have to manually fix the data inconsistency.

Implementation principle

In the optimistic mode, after DM-worker receives the DDL statement from the upstream, it forwards the updated table schema to DM-master. DM-worker tracks the current schema of each sharded table, and DM-master merges these schemas into a composite schema that is compatible with DML statements of every sharded table. Then DM-master migrates the corresponding DDL statement to the downstream. DML statements are directly migrated to the downstream.



Assume the upstream MySQL has three sharded tables (tbl00, tbl01, and tbl02). Merge and migrate these sharded tables to the tbl table in the downstream TiDB. See the following image:


Add a Level column in the upstream:



Then TiDB will receive the DML statement from tbl00 (with the Level column) and the DML statement from the tbl01 and tbl02 tables (without the Level column).


The following DML statements can be migrated to the downstream without any modification:

UPDATE `tbl00` SET `Level` = 9 WHERE `ID` = 1;
INSERT INTO `tbl02` (`ID`, `Name`) VALUES (27, 'Tony');


Also add a Level column in tbl01:



At this time, the downstream already have had the same Level column, so DM-master performs no operation after comparing the table schemas.

Drop a Name column in tbl01:



Then the downstream will receive the DML statements from tbl00 and tbl02 with the Name column, so this column is not immediately dropped.

In the same way, all DML statements can still be migrated to the downstream:

INSERT INTO `tbl01` (`ID`, `Level`) VALUES (15, 7);
UPDATE `tbl00` SET `Level` = 5 WHERE `ID` = 5;


Add a Level column in tbl02:



By then, all sharded tables have the Level column.

Drop the Name columns in tbl00 and tbl02 respectively:



By then, the Name columns are dropped from all sharded tables and can be safely dropped in the downstream:



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