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Does anyone have any opinions to share or could you provide me with some great technical documentation on such complex database structure designing.
Keep your directories small however, so introduce a sensible hierarchy (ie tree structure).
Well, they might not even store their photos in the database. They could have records pointing to the location of the photos on the file server.
Yes, I am aware of that. They maintain the photos on the filesystem and there are simply records in the mysql tables to reference them. I am however talking about the MySql Table structure. For eg: if there are millions of photos, the records for these millions are held in one single table or they are partitioned [dev.mysql.com]?
(I generally do not keep photo/thumbnail bulk data in memory.)
Do they use partitioning? It's hard to say although it would work. They could very well be using a fulltext text field to hold the tags. They could even just relate the tags table back to the image table. All those would work with millions of rows without any problems.
It all comes down to what the database folks there are comfortable with as long as the results come back as fast as the requirements dictate.