We’ve open sourced the database adapter we use at GitHub to connect Ruby on Rails and Active Record clients to MySQL-compatible database servers.

Trilogy is a client library for MySQL-compatible database servers, designed for performance, flexibility, and ease of embedding. We released Trilogy, with its Ruby-native wrapper, in December, and have now rounded out the set with the release of activerecord-trilogy-adapter, an Active Record adapter that allows a Ruby on Rails application to use Trilogy in place of the built-in mysql2-based adapter.

Why does Trilogy exist?

The Trilogy library is specifically designed to perform efficiently when embedded in environments like the Ruby VM, which benefits from special handling of blocking syscalls, and conscious use of dynamic memory allocation. It also aims to provide strong portability and compatibility, using a custom implementation of the network protocol to minimize dependencies needed for compilation.

After starting off on the original mysql gem, GitHub switched to mysql2 in 2011, gaining performance and reliability. But over the following years, we found it was still not quite meeting our needs. Trilogy was initially developed by Hailey Somerville and Brian Lopez to further improve GitHub’s performance and reliability, and has been backing all of our Rails monolith’s query activity since 2015. (The name is a pun: it’s the third adapter GitHub has used, and it’s used to query sequel.)

Open sourcing this adapter is the culmination of a long term effort, primarily championed first by Aaron Patterson and then by Eileen M. Uchitelle, to extract valuable database-communication behavior we’d collected and upstream it into other layers of Active Record—most recently, deferred connection verification and automatic reconnection.

Should you use Trilogy?

Compared to the mysql2 gem, Trilogy avoids a dependency on the libmariadb / libmysqlclient library, which can simplify gem installation and eliminate version mismatch issues, and minimizes the number of times data must be copied in memory when building and parsing network packets. It should simplify gem installation and be more efficient under heavy query loads.

Trilogy is thoroughly production-tested to work well for our applications, but there may be protocol features it doesn’t support (yet?) that other database configurations might require. For that reason, while we do encourage other Rails applications to try using Trilogy to interface with their MySQL-compatible database servers, it would be prudent to check things out in a staging environment first. Other than that, it should be a drop-in compatible change.

The Trilogy adapter is currently only compatible with the version of Rails that we use to run GitHub: the in-development main branch of rails/rails. After Active Record 7.1.0 is released, we will maintain a release that is compatible with the current supported release series.

Trilogy is a strong option when connecting to a MySQL-compatible database server, and we would love to hear from you if you give it a try.