Why should you convert myisam tables to innodb ?
For the perfectly simple reason that innodb tables do not get locked by concurrent selects & inserts. So if you find that your myisam table is suffering for too many locks - due to concurrent selects and inserts, it is time for you to covert the table to innodb.
The simple query which does the trick is
Alter table myisam_table_name engine = innodb;
This query is good for small tables, which get converted in a flash (I am refering to tables smaller than 1 GB). But when you try to run this query to alter bigger tables, it takes a huge amount of time. You have to wait - maybe hours if not days to get your job done.
Recently I had a 30 GB table which i wanted to convert to innodb and the alter query went on for 3 days after which i gave up and killed the query. And then went on finding ways to make this alter happen fast.
There are multiple ways to make your alter fast -
1. create a temporary table with engine = innodb, disable unique checks and insert into the table in batches. The sequence of sql statements for this are
create table new_table_name like old_table_name;
alter table new_table_name engine = innodb;
// loop till all records are ported
insert into new_table_name select * from old_table_name where key > something and key <= something;
If you have UNIQUE constraints on secondary keys, this speeds up a table import by turning off the uniqueness checks temporarily during the import operation.
2. Increase the buffers. In order to achieve higher I/O, you can increase the buffers - innodb_buffer_pool and innodb_log_file_size. If you are using a 64 bit machine - make the innodb_buffer_pool almost 50% of your available memory and innodb_log_file_size to around 128 MB (atleast) - you can make it 256MB to be a little more aggressive and 512 MB to be very aggressive. But it should be less than 25% of your innodb_buffer_pool size.
in my.cnf enter
innodb_buffer_pool = 2048M
innodb_log_file_size = 256M
innodb_log_buffer_size = 16M
Delete the ib_logfile0 & ib_logfile1.
Now running the alter query should be much faster.
A combination of both the above methods could be even more beneficial. Remember to re-tune your innodb settings - as per your requirement before putting live load on the server.
BTW, i tried using the second method to alter the 30 GB table, and looking at its speed, it seems that it will be done in around 10 hours - instead of the 3 days it took earlier.