Use a MySQL Database

If you just want to run a quick, self-managed MySQL instance on, here’s how to do it. It’s pretty basic, with one caveat around using a Fly Volume to persist data.

Most Fly apps use a Dockerfile to define an application and its dependencies. However, in this case we can use MySQL’s official container directly - no need for a custom Dockerfile!

Here’s how to run MySQL.

Create the App

We’ll run MySQL as a new app:

# Make a directory for the mysql app
mkdir my-mysql
cd my-mysql

# Run `fly launch` to create an app
# Use the --no-deploy option since we'll make changes before first deploy
# Use the --image option to specify a MySQL Docker image
fly launch --no-deploy --image mysql:8

Type y when prompted to tweak the default app settings. Then, on the Fly Launch page:

  • Name the app whatever you’d like. The name will become a hostname our application uses to connect to the database, such as my-mysql.internal.
  • If you’re using MySQL 8, it’s a good idea to add some additional RAM to the VM: we recommend selecting 2GB of VM Memory.

Confirm the settings and return to your terminal.

Configure the App

Let’s create a volume straight-away. If you don’t create a volume, you’ll lose all of your data on each deployment.

# Create a volume named "mysqldata" within our app "my-mysql"
fly volumes create mysqldata --size 10 # gb

We also need to set some secrets required by the MySQL container:

# Set secrets:
# MYSQL_PASSWORD      - password set for user $MYSQL_USER
# MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD - password set for user "root"
fly secrets set MYSQL_PASSWORD=password MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD=password

Save these secrets somewhere, because they’re not accessible after you set them.

Finally, edit the fly.toml file that fly launch generated.

# Keep your own app name
app = 'my-mysql'
# Keep your own primary region
primary_region = "bos"

  image = 'mysql:8'

  cpu_kind = 'shared'
  cpus = 1
  memory_mb = 2048

# The [processes] section is different for 8+, 8.4, and 5.7. Use the one that matches your version.
# Use the following for versions 8 to 8.3:
  app = """--datadir /data/mysql \
    --default-authentication-plugin mysql_native_password"""

# Uncomment and use the following for 8.4:
# [processes]
#  app = """--datadir /data/mysql \
#    --mysql-native-password=ON"""

# Uncomment and use the following for 5.7:
# [processes]
#  app = "--datadir /data/mysql"

# Add the following sections for all versions
  source = "mysqldata"
  destination = "/data"

  MYSQL_DATABASE = "some_db"
  MYSQL_USER = "non_root_user"

There are a few important things to note:

  1. We deleted the [[http_service]] block and everything under it. We don’t need it!
  2. In the [env] section, we added two not-so-secret environment variables that MySQL will need to initialize itself.
    • The MYSQL_USER here should be any user but root, which already exists.
  3. We added the [processes] section for the default app process, which lets us pass custom commands (overriding Docker’s CMD).
    • For MySQL 8+, you’ll want to use the mysql_native_password authentication plugin. As shown in the fly.toml above, there are different syntax for setting this plugin based on the MySQL version.
    • If you’re using MySQL 5.7, your app process can be simplified as shown in the fly.toml example above, as it uses mysql_native_password by default.
    • MySQL 8 to 8.3 must explicitly set this with the --default-authentication-plugin flag.
    • Starting from MySQL 8.4, the --default-authentication-plugin option is deprecated. If you’re using 8.4+, you can make use of the --mysql-native-password flag instead.

Important: Set MySQL’s data directory to a subdirectory of your mounted volume. Mounting a disk in Linux usually results in a lost+found directory being created. However, MySQL won’t initialize into a data directory unless it’s completely empty. That’s why you need to use a subdirectory of the mounted location: /data/mysql.

Deploy the App

We’re now ready to deploy the MySQL app! Go ahead and run:

fly deploy

After a minute of MySQL initializing itself (on its first run), you should now have an app running MySQL!

Your other apps can access the MySQL service by its name. In my case, I would use my-mysql.internal as the hostname. Any app that needs to access the database should set the hostname and username as environment variables, and create a secret for the database password.

Debugging Possible Errors

mysqld: Table 'mysql.plugin' doesn't exist

This error is an indicator that the mysql System Schema inside the MySQL data directory is empty. This can happen due to different reasons. One of them is when a MySQL app is previously deployed with --default-authentication-plugin, and it gets re-deployed with the updated syntax --mysql-native-password=ON.

The quickest way to fix this is to revise the --datadir flag to a different directory from what was previously set:

# Please revise the MySQL data directory to another location

# For example if you had:
app = "--datadir /data/mysql"

# You can change the path to a different directory
app = "--datadir /data/mysql_

Changing the MySQL data directory will allow MySQL to completely initialize the new directory with a complete mysql system schema. Once done, redeploy your changes with fly deploy.

Access the database from outside

To connect to your MySQL database from outside of your Fly organization, you need a WireGuard connection. However, fly on your local machine can connect using user-mode WireGuard magic, without you having to set up your own WireGuard tunnel.

You can forward the MySQL server port to your local machine using fly proxy:

flyctl proxy 3306 -a my-mysql

You can also set a different local port, if your 3306 port is already in use:

flyctl proxy 13306:3306 -a my-mysql

Then connect to your MySQL server at localhost:3306 and the username and password credentials from above:

mysql -h localhost -P 3306 -u non_root_user -ppassword some_db


We’ll take a snapshot of the created volume every day. We retain 5 days of snapshots.

To restore a snapshot, make sure you have the latest version of the flyctl, and then create a new volume using the --snapshot-id flag.

# Get a volume ID
fly volumes list -a my-mysql

# List snapshots for a volume
fly volumes snapshots list vol_xxx

# Create a new volume from a snapshot
fly volumes create --snapshot-id vs_xxx --size 10