Schema migration for MySQL

Spanner migration tool makes some assumptions while performing data type conversion from MySQL to Spanner. There are also nuances to handling certain specific data types. These are captured below.

Table of contents
  1. Data Type Mapping
  4. CHAR(n) and VARCHAR(n)
  5. SET
  6. Spatial datatypes
  7. Storage Use
  8. Primary Keys
  9. NOT NULL Constraints
  10. Foreign Keys
  11. Default Values
  12. Secondary Indexes
  13. Other MySQL features

Data Type Mapping

The Spanner migration tool maps MySQL types to Spanner types as follows:

MySQL Type Spanner Type Notes
BIT BYTES(MAX) BIT(1) converts to BOOL, other cases map to BYTES
CHAR STRING(1) CHAR defaults to length 1
CHAR(N) STRING(N) differences in treatment of fixed-length character types
DATETIME TIMESTAMP differences in treatment of timezones
DECIMAL, NUMERIC NUMERIC potential changes of precision
FLOAT FLOAT64 changes in storage size
INT64 changes in storage size
SET ARRAY<STRING> SET only supports string values
VARCHAR(N) STRING(N) differences in treatment of fixed-length character types

Spanner does not support spatial datatypes of MySQL. Along with spatial datatypes, all other types map to STRING(MAX).


Spanner’s NUMERIC type can store up to 29 digits before the decimal point and up to 9 after the decimal point. MySQL’s NUMERIC type can potentially support higher precision than this, so please verify that Spanner’s NUMERIC support meets your application needs. Note that in MySQL, NUMERIC is implemented as DECIMAL, so the remarks about DECIMAL apply equally to NUMERIC.


MySQL has two timestamp types: TIMESTAMP and DATETIME. Both provide microsecond resolution, but neither actually stores a timezone with the data. The key difference between the two types is that MySQL converts TIMESTAMP values from the current time zone to UTC for storage, and back from UTC to the current time zone for retrieval. This does not occur for DATETIME and data is returned without a timezone. For TIMESTAMP, timezone can be set by time zone offset parameter.

Spanner has a single timestamp type. Data is stored as UTC (there is no separate timezone) Spanner client libraries convert timestamps to UTC before sending them to Spanner. Data is always returned as UTC. Spanner’s timestamp type is essentially the same as TIMESTAMP, except that there is no analog of MySQL’s timezone offset parameter.

In other words, mapping MySQL DATETIME to TIMESTAMP is fairly straightforward, but care should be taken with MySQL DATETIME data because Spanner clients will not drop the timezone.

CHAR(n) and VARCHAR(n)

The semantics of fixed-length character types differ between MySQL and Spanner. The CHAR(n) type in MySQL is right-padded with spaces. If a string value smaller than the limit is stored, spaces will be added to pad it out to the specified length. If a string longer than the specified length is stored, and the extra characters are all spaces, then it will be silently truncated. Moreover, trailing spaces are ignored when comparing two values. In constrast, Spanner does not give special treatment to spaces, and the specified length simply represents the maximum length that can be stored. This is close to the semantics of MySQL’s VARCHAR(n). However there are some minor differences. For example, even VARCHAR(n) has some special treatment of spaces: string with trailing spaces in excess of the column length are truncated prior to insertion and a warning is generated.


MySQL SET is a string object that can hold muliple values, each of which must be chosen from a list of permitted values specified when the table is created. SET is being mapped to Spanner type ARRAY<STRING>. Validation of SET element values will be dropped in Spanner. Thus for production use, validation needs to be done in the application.

Spatial datatypes

MySQL spatial datatypes are used to represent geographic feature. It includes GEOMETRY, POINT, LINESTRING, POLYGON, MULTIPOINT, MULTIPOLYGON and GEOMETRYCOLLECTION datatypes. Spanner does not support spatial data types. This datatype are currently mapped to standard STRING Spanner datatype.

Storage Use

The tool maps several MySQL types to Spanner types that use more storage. For example, SMALLINT is a two-byte integer, but it maps to Spanner’s INT64, an eight-byte integer.

Primary Keys

Spanner requires primary keys for all tables. MySQL recommends the use of primary keys for all tables, but does not enforce this. When converting a table without a primary key, Spanner migration tool will create a new primary key of type INT64. By default, the name of the new column is synth_id. If there is already a column with that name, then a variation is used to avoid collisions.

NOT NULL Constraints

The tool preserves NOT NULL constraints. Note that Spanner does not require primary key columns to be NOT NULL. However, in MySQL, a primary key is a combination of NOT NULL and UNIQUE, and so primary key columns from MySQL will be mapped to Spanner columns that are both primary keys and NOT NULL.

Foreign Keys

The tool maps MySQL foreign key constraints into Spanner foreign key constraints, and preserves constraint names where possible. Since Spanner doesn’t support ON DELETE and ON UPDATE actions, we drop them.

Default Values

While Spanner supports default values, Spanner migration tool currently does not support translating source DEFAULT constraints to Spanner DEFAULT constraints. We drop the DEFAULT MySQL constraint during conversion. It can be manually added to the DDL via an ALTER TABLE command.

Secondary Indexes

The tool maps MySQL secondary indexes to Spanner secondary indexes, and preserves constraint names where possible. Note that Spanner requires index key constraint names to be globally unique (within a database), but in MySQL they only have to be unique for a table, so we add a uniqueness suffix to a name if needed. The tool also maps UNIQUE constraint into UNIQUE secondary index. Note that due to limitations of our mysqldump parser, we are not able to handle key column ordering (i.e. ASC/DESC) in mysqldump files. All key columns in mysqldump files will be treated as ASC.

Other MySQL features

MySQL has many other features we haven’t discussed, including functions, sequences, procedures, triggers, (non-primary) indexes and views. The tool does not support these and the relevant statements are dropped during schema conversion.

See Migrating from MySQL to Cloud Spanner for a general discussion of MySQL to Spanner migration issues. Spanner migration tool follows most of the recommendations in that guide. The main difference is that we map a few more types to STRING(MAX).