Using MySQL in Node.js

Gajus Kuizinas

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The purpose of this article is to introduce the practices that I have adopted over the years of using Node.js and MySQL.

For all examples, I am using mysql package.

Promisify MySQL

I am using Promise.promisifyAll to create an async equivalent of each function declared in a prototype of mysql/lib/Connection and mysql/lib/Pool.

const mysql = require('mysql');
const Connection = require('mysql/lib/Connection');
const Pool = require('mysql/lib/Pool');
const Promise = require('bluebird');

Promise.promisifyAll([
    Connection,
    Pool
]);

Promise.promisifyAll does not modify the existing methods. For every method in the target function prototype, Promise.promisifyAll creates a new method affixed with Async ending, e.g. Connection.prototype.query method remains as it is. A new method Connection.prototype.queryAsync is added to the Connection.prototype. Invoking Connection.prototype.queryAsync will return a promise whose fate is decided by the callback behavior of the Connection.prototype.query function.

Creating a Connection

It is recommended to establish an explicit connection, e.g.

const connection = mysql
    .createConnection({
        host: '127.0.0.1'
    });

connection
    .connect((error) => {
        if (error) {
            console.error('Connection error.', error);

            return;
        }

        console.log('Established connection.', connection.threadId);
    });

Unlike implicit connection, using connection.connect allows to catch connection errors early in the program execution.

Since we have promisified Connection.prototype, we can use connection.connectAsync method to handle connection as a promise:

connection
    .connectAsync()
    .then((result) => {
        console.log('Established connection.', connection.threadId);
    })
    .catch((error) => {
        console.error('Connection error.', error);
    });

Creating a Connection for an Operation

If your program does most of the work without involving the database, then it is reasonable to open the database connection only when program logic requires it. The ideal scenario is: open a connection for a series of database tasks and close the connection when all tasks are completed.

Meet Promise.using:

In conjunction with .disposer, using will make sure that no matter what, the specified disposer will be called when the promise returned by the callback passed to using has settled. The disposer is necessary because there is no standard interface in node for disposing resources.

const createConnection = (connectionOptions) => {
    const connection = mysql.createConnection(connectionOptions);

    return connection
        .connectAsync()
        .then((result) => {
            return connection;
        })
        .disposer(() => {
            return connection.endAsync();
        });
};

Keep in mind that connect resolves with a value of connection status, e.g. if connection is successful, result is equivalent to:

OkPacket {
    fieldCount: 0,
    affectedRows: 0,
    insertId: 0,
    serverStatus: 2,
    warningCount: 0,
    message: '',
    protocol41: true,
    changedRows: 0
}

After establishing the connection, use the original connection object (constructed using createConnection) to make queries.

I have created a helper function createConnection that (1) creates a connection using the provided connectionOptions object and (2) ends connection upon invocation of disposer method.

This is how you use createConnection with Promise.using:

Promise
    .using(createConnection({
        host: '127.0.0.1'
    }), (connection) => {
        return Promise
            .all([
                connection.queryAsync('SELECT 1'),
                connection.queryAsync('SELECT 2'),
                connection.queryAsync('SELECT 3'),
            ]);
    });

The disposer callback is invoked as soon as all 3 queries are executed. All 3 queries share the same connection.

Creating a Connection Pool

If your program relies on constant connection to the database (e.g. an API endpoint that fetches data from a database), then it is desirable to have a connection pool:

Connection pools are used to enhance the performance of executing commands on a database. Opening and maintaining a database connection for each user, especially requests made to a dynamic database-driven website application, is costly and wastes resources. In connection pooling, after a connection is created, it is placed in the pool and it is used again so that a new connection does not have to be established. If all the connections are being used, a new connection is made and is added to the pool. Connection pooling also cuts down on the amount of time a user must wait to establish a connection to the database.

Fortunately, abstracting connection pooling is similar to abstracting mysql.createConnection:

const pool = mysql
    .createPool({
        host: '127.0.0.1'
    });

const getConnection = (pool) => {
    return pool
        .getConnectionAsync()
        .then((connection) => {
            return connection;
        })
        .disposer((connection) => {
            return connection.releaseAsync();
        });
};

Note the subtle differences:

  • connection.releaseAsync is used instead of connection.endAsync.
  • pool.getConnectionAsync is used instead of connection.connectAsync.

This is how you use getConnection with Promise.using:

Promise
    .using(getConnection(pool), (connection) => {
        return Promise
            .all([
                connection.queryAsync('SELECT 1'),
                connection.queryAsync('SELECT 2'),
                connection.queryAsync('SELECT 3'),
            ]);
    });

Leveraging Bluebird API

In all of the examples, I have used Bluebird.promisifyAll to abstract mysql API. This means that all promises have access to the Bluebird API. Keep that in mind when handling queries, e.g. use .spread method to get the first result from the array (query result is always an array):

connection
    .query('SELECT 1')
    .spread((id) => {
        assert(id === 1);
    });

Reducing Nesting using Async Functions

In general, promises are great for preventing the callback hell. However, consider an example where you have a series of queries that depend on the result of a previous query:

const getUserByEmail = (connection, userEmail) => {
    return connection
        .queryAsync('SELECT `id` FROM `user` WHERE `email` = ?', [
            userEmail
        ])
        .spread((user) => {
            if (!user) {
                return null;
            }

            return connection
                .queryAsync('SELECT `id`, `name` FROM `permission` WHERE `user_id` = ?', [
                    user.id
                ])
                .then((permissions) => {
                    return {
                        ...user,
                        permissions: permissions
                    }
                });
        });
};

Using Async Functions we can flatten the dependency structure using await keyword, e.g.

const getUserByEmail = async (connection, userEmail) => {
    const user = await connection
        .queryAsync('SELECT `id` FROM `user` WHERE `email` = ?', [
            userEmail
        ])
        .then(_.head);

    if (!user) {
        return null;
    }

    const permissions = await connection
        .queryAsync('SELECT `id`, `name` FROM `permission` WHERE `user_id` = ?', [
            user.id
        ]);

    return {
        ...user,
        permissions: permissions
    };
};

Note: _.head is a lodash function.

Named Placeholders

mysql module uses ? characters as placeholders for values, e.g.

connection
    .query('SELECT ?, ?', [
        'foo',
        'bar'
    ]);

This example is equivalent to:

connection.query('SELECT ' + connection.escape('foo') + ', ' + connection.escape('bar'));

However, this approach becomes hard to read as query becomes large and the list of values long.

There is an alternative: named placeholders.

connection
    .query('SELECT :foo, :bar', {
        foo: 'FOO',
        bar: 'BAR'
    });

The latter is equivalent to:

connection.query('SELECT ' + connection.escape('FOO') + ', ' + connection.escape('BAR'));

Placeholder names can appear multiple times, e.g.

connection
    .query('SELECT :foo, :foo', {
        foo: 'FOO'
    });

The latter is equivalent to:

connection.query('SELECT ' + connection.escape('FOO') + ', ' + connection.escape('FOO'));

As of this writing, mysql does not support named parameters.

However, it is easy to patch Connection.prototype.query prototype to add the support:

First, you need to install named-placeholders package.

Then, patch the Connection.prototype.query:

const toUnnamed = require('named-placeholders')();
const originalQuery = require('mysql/lib/Connection').prototype.query;

require('mysql/lib/Connection').prototype.query = function (...args) {
    if (Array.isArray(args[0]) || !args[1]) {
        return originalQuery.apply(this, args);
    }

    ([
        args[0],
        args[1]
    ] = toUnnamed(args[0], args[1]));

    return originalQuery.apply(this, args);
};

That's it. You can now use named placeholders.

Constructing Queries

There are several problems associated with constructing queries.

Queries That Span Multiple Lines

The problem with writing queries that span multiple lines is simple: JavaScript does not support strings that span multiple lines. The closest thing to multi-line string support is template literals. The problem with using a template literal to declare a MySQL query is that their syntaxes are incompatible:

For this reason, I store each query in a dedicated file. The added benefit of having SQL queries in a dedicated file is:

  • Makes it easy to track changes in the version control.
  • Separates code development from query writing.
  • Enforces statically typed queries (prohibits inline conditions).
  • You can load SQL queries in a dedicated IDE.

Tip: To use queries defined in a separate file, create a helper function that loads the query and caches the result.

Dynamic Expressions

First of all, I avoid use of dynamic expressions whenever possible. Reason: when queries are predictable, DBAs can optimize indexes. When you need to query data based on dynamic criteria, consider using a search server (e.g. https://www.elastic.co/).

However, there are cases (e.g. building a prototype product) when you will want to dynamically build queries simply because it is less complex than the alternatives.

In this case, I suggest using a query builder (e.g. Squel.js) to build expressions.

Note: I do not recommend building queries using a query builder. A common pro-query builder argument is that abstracting SQL code using a query builder makes it easy to migrate from one database engine to another, e.g. from MySQL to PostgresQL. This might be the case, but you got to ask yourself – how many times in your professional career did you need to migrate a project from one database to another database without rewriting most of the underlying code regardless of whether you were using a query builder/ ORM or not. Probably not that many.

Lets consider a simple example:

CREATE TABLE `person` (
  `id` int(11) unsigned NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT,
  `first_name` varchar(255) DEFAULT NULL,
  `last_name` varchar(255) DEFAULT NULL,
  `email` varchar(255) DEFAULT NULL,
  PRIMARY KEY (`id`),
  UNIQUE KEY `email` (`email`)
) ENGINE=InnoDB DEFAULT CHARSET=utf8;

A database table storing people data. The requirement: user must be able to filter data using any of the person defining columns.

Start by writing a query to get all the relevant records:

SELECT
    `id`,
    `first_name`,
    `last_name`,
    `email`
FROM
    `person`
WHERE
    1 /* expression */

WHERE 1 forces to return all results.

Now lets build an expression using squel.expr to filter only the relevant records:

const squel = require('squel');

const expression = squel.expr();

if (userQuery.firstName) {
    expression.and('`first_name` LIKE ?', userQuery.firstName);
}

if (userQuery.lastName) {
    expression.and('`last_name` LIKE ?', userQuery.lastName);
}

if (userQuery.email) {
    expression.and('`email` LIKE ?', userQuery.email);
}

Use squel.expr().toString() to convert query object to SQL expression (or an empty string if query is empty). Use String.prototype.replace to replace 1 /* expression */ with the generated expression or 1 (WHERE clause requires a specifier).

const fs = require('fs');
const selectPersonsQuery = fs.readFileSync('./selectPersonsQuery.sql', 'utf8');

const whereExpression = expression.toString();

const generatedSelectPersonsQuery = selectPersonsQuery.replace('1 /* expression */', whereExpression || 1);

connection.query(generatedSelectPersonsQuery);

Done. You have a working query builder.

This approach allows utilization of query builder without sacrificing the readability of the query body.

Debugging

mysql package documentation is a lengthy, monolithic document. As a result, it is not a surprise that the section about debugging is often overlooked.

Debugging is enabled at the time of configuring the connection, e.g.

mysql
    .createConnection({
        debug: true
    });

Enabling debugging will print all outgoing and incoming packets on stdout. You can filter the log by the packet type:

mysql
    .createConnection({
        debug: [
            'ComQueryPacket',
            'RowDataPacket'
        ]
    });

This configuration will log only the queries being sent and the result being returned, e.g.

--> ComQueryPacket
ComQueryPacket { command: 3, sql: 'SELECT \'A\', \'B\'' }

<-- RowDataPacket
RowDataPacket { A: 'A', B: 'B' }

mysql2

mysql2 is an alternative MySQL driver for Node.js. It is mostly compatible with the mysql driver.

Notable differences between mysql2 and mysql are:

  • mysql2 has a considerable performance advantage.
  • mysql2 natively supports named placeholders1.
  • mysql2 supports true prepared statements2. mysql implementation imitates3 prepared statements by escaping the values and executing the query with interpolated values.

In my eyes, the only downside to using mysql2 over mysql is its relatively small community:

mysql mysql2
GitHub Stargazers 6695 284
GitHub Forks 1087 57
Github Watchers 378 30
NPM downloads last month 462,781 11,701

Last updated: Tue Apr 26 20:53:20 2016.

Performance

mysql2 boosts considerable performance improvements over mysql. Here is a summary of the benchmark that mysql2 is using to prove its edge:

  • node-mysql: peaks 6000 rps, first timeout errors at 110 conns, latency99 60ms at 110 conns
  • node-mysql2: peak 15000 rps, first timeout errors at 150 conns, latency99 30ms at 150 conn
  • memory: peak 46000 rps, no erros, latency99 20ms at 300 conns (7ms at 120 conn)