Different MySQL Results but Same Query & Data

I was recently asked to look at an issue causing results on two MySQL servers (hosted on different machines: local environment and production environment) to be inconsistent with one another – even though the dataset and query used were identical.

Here is the problematic SQL:

    COUNT(DISTINCT `order_items`.`id`) as `item_count`,
    ROUND(SUM(DISTINCT `products`.`price` * `order_items`.`quantity`), 2) as `sub_total`,
    ROUND(`vat_rate`.`rate` * SUM(
		DISTINCT `products`.`price` * `order_items`.`quantity`
	) / 100, 2) as `vat`,
		DISTINCT `products`.`price` * `order_items`.`quantity`
	) + `vat_rate`.`rate` * SUM(
		DISTINCT `products`.`price` * `order_items`.`quantity`
	) / 100, 2)  as `total_incl_vat`,
	`vat_rate`.`rate` AS `vat_rate`
FROM `orders`
LEFT JOIN `order_items` ON `order_items`.`order_id` = `orders`.`id`
    AND `order_items`.`status` = 1
LEFT JOIN `products` ON `products`.`id` = `order_items`.`product_id`
    AND `products`.`status` = 1
LEFT JOIN `vat_rate` on `vat_rate`.`id` = `products`.`vat_rate_id`
    WHERE `orders`.`id` = 205861
ORDER BY `products`.`id`;

Firstly, we must establish the differences between the two environments we are executing this query on. It is probably not beneficial to look for similarities (we know what is similar: the dataset and the query) and instead we should be looking for other differences which might not be immediately obvious. Things to look out for are a discrepancy in:

  • MySQL versions (different versions may cause different query optimisation or syntax);
  • database software itself (MySQL vs. MariaDB); or
  • environment variables (particularly sql_mode – you can check this with SHOW VARIABLES LIKE `sql_mode`.

Try to ensure the two environments are as the same as possible.

The Fix

In the example query given above, there was a logic error in the query meaning `vat_rate`.`rate` was being used outwith the SUM() aggregate function. This meant that, due to discrepancies in server software/versions, the query was being executed differently. This is perhaps due to differences in how the query optimiser orders or groups results.

Incorrect SQL:

ROUND(`vat_rate`.`rate` * SUM(
	DISTINCT `products`.`price` * `order_items`.`quantity`
) / 100, 2) as `vat`,

The fix was to put the joined table’s columns within the aggregate function so that the `vat_rate`.`rate` value used is specific to the current row (before it is aggregated) rather than a seemingly random one.

Correct SQL:

	DISTINCT `products`.`price` * `order_items`.`quantity` * `vat_rate`.`rate`
) / 100, 2) as `vat`,


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