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Chapter 23. The INFORMATION_SCHEMA Database

INFORMATION_SCHEMA provides access to database metadata.

Metadata is data about the data, such as the name of a database or table, the data type of a column, or access privileges. Other terms that sometimes are used for this information are data dictionary and system catalog.

INFORMATION_SCHEMA is the information database, the place that stores information about all the other databases that the MySQL server maintains. Inside INFORMATION_SCHEMA there are several read-only tables. They are actually views, not base tables, so there are no files associated with them.

In effect, we have a database named INFORMATION_SCHEMA, although the server does not create a database directory with that name. It is possible to select INFORMATION_SCHEMA as the default database with a USE statement, but it is possible only to read the contents of tables. You cannot insert into them, update them, or delete from them.

Here is an example of a statement that retrieves information from INFORMATION_SCHEMA:

mysql> SELECT table_name, table_type, engine
    -> FROM information_schema.tables
    -> WHERE table_schema = 'db5'
    -> ORDER BY table_name DESC;
| table_name | table_type | engine |
| v56        | VIEW       | NULL   |
| v3         | VIEW       | NULL   |
| v2         | VIEW       | NULL   |
| v          | VIEW       | NULL   |
| tables     | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| t7         | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| t3         | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| t2         | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| t          | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| pk         | BASE TABLE | InnoDB |
| loop       | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| kurs       | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| k          | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| into       | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| goto       | BASE TABLE | MyISAM |
| fk2        | BASE TABLE | InnoDB |
| fk         | BASE TABLE | InnoDB |
17 rows in set (0.01 sec)

Explanation: The statement requests a list of all the tables in database db5, in reverse alphabetical order, showing just three pieces of information: the name of the table, its type, and its storage engine.

Each MySQL user has the right to access these tables, but can see only the rows in the tables that correspond to objects for which the user has the proper access privileges.

The SELECT ... FROM INFORMATION_SCHEMA statement is intended as a more consistent way to provide access to the information provided by the various SHOW statements that MySQL supports (SHOW DATABASES, SHOW TABLES, and so forth). Using SELECT has these advantages, compared to SHOW:

  • It conforms to Codd's rules. That is, all access is done on tables.

  • Nobody needs to learn a new statement syntax. Because they already know how SELECT works, they only need to learn the object names.

  • The implementor need not worry about adding keywords.

  • There are millions of possible output variations, instead of just one. This provides more flexibility for applications that have varying requirements about what metadata they need.

  • Migration is easier because every other DBMS does it this way.

However, because SHOW is popular with MySQL employees and users, and because it might be confusing were it to disappear, the advantages of conventional syntax are not a sufficient reason to eliminate SHOW. In fact, along with the implementation of INFORMATION_SCHEMA, there are enhancements to SHOW as well. These are described in Section 23.24, “Extensions to SHOW Statements”.

There is no difference between the privileges required for SHOW statements and those required to select information from INFORMATION_SCHEMA. In either case, you have to have some privilege on an object in order to see information about it.

The implementation for the INFORMATION_SCHEMA table structures in MySQL follows the ANSI/ISO SQL:2003 standard Part 11 Schemata. Our intent is approximate compliance with SQL:2003 core feature F021 Basic information schema.

Users of SQL Server 2000 (which also follows the standard) may notice a strong similarity. However, MySQL has omitted many columns that are not relevant for our implementation, and added columns that are MySQL-specific. One such column is the ENGINE column in the INFORMATION_SCHEMA.TABLES table.

Although other DBMSs use a variety of names, like syscat or system, the standard name is INFORMATION_SCHEMA.

The following sections describe each of the tables and columns that are in INFORMATION_SCHEMA. For each column, there are three pieces of information:

  • INFORMATION_SCHEMA Name” indicates the name for the column in the INFORMATION_SCHEMA table. This corresponds to the standard SQL name unless the “Remarks” field says “MySQL extension.

  • SHOW Name” indicates the equivalent field name in the closest SHOW statement, if there is one.

  • Remarks” provides additional information where applicable. If this field is NULL, it means that the value of the column is always NULL. If this field says “MySQL extension,” the column is a MySQL extension to standard SQL.

To avoid using any name that is reserved in the standard or in DB2, SQL Server, or Oracle, we changed the names of some columns marked “MySQL extension”. (For example, we changed COLLATION to TABLE_COLLATION in the TABLES table.) See the list of reserved words near the end of this article:

The definition for character columns (for example, TABLES.TABLE_NAME), is generally VARCHAR(N) CHARACTER SET utf8 where N is at least 64.

Each section indicates what SHOW statement is equivalent to a SELECT that retrieves information from INFORMATION_SCHEMA, if there is such a statement.

Note: At present, there are some missing columns and some columns out of order. We are working on this and update the documentation as changes are made.

  Published under the terms of the GNU General Public License Design by Interspire