Spin up a Cluster on MemSQL Helios in 10 Minutes

Rob Richardson

You can run MemSQL Helios, with a 48-hour time limit, in the cloud for free. We tell you how in this blog post. The combination of free access, and not needing to worry about infrastructure maintenance, can be extremely convenient for demos, software testing, developer productivity, brief proof of concept (PoC) tests, and brief tests of production workloads. 

Many Ways to Run MemSQL for Free

Because there are significant costs to MemSQL, free trials of MemSQL Helios in the cloud are limited to 48 hours of time – two full days. You can also download and run MemSQL software for free, in the cloud (you pay the cloud costs), or on your own services, without a time limit. The only restriction is a limit to four nodes (servers or server instances) with up to 32GB RAM, which is enough for many of our customers to do a great deal of meaningful work. 

And, if you wish to try running MemSQL for free on your laptop, rather than across multiple servers, you can easily do that too. We’ve developed instructions for running MemSQL for free on Docker Desktop (recommended if you don’t have specialized knowledge of the other methods listed here); on Kubernetes (which is great if you know, or want to use, Kubernetes); directly on Linux; or on Vagrant

You should run your cluster on MemSQL Helios for the greatest ease of use and management if you’re sure that you will want to use MemSQL Helios, or if you want to compare the fully managed MemSQL Helios in the cloud to MemSQL software that you manage yourself, whether in the cloud of on-premises. 

In this post you’ll quickly build a 4-node MemSQL cluster running on MemSQL Helios, the managed, infinite scale database in the cloud, for free. There is no hardware to provision, no software to install, no fuss, no mess.

The steps here are: get a free MemSQL license; login to the cloud portal; create the MemSQL Helios cluster; and browse to MemSQL Studio. You’ll have a solid 4-node, distributed, partitioned cluster running in the cloud in about ten minutes.

Why Move to the Cloud?

In traditional database projects, you first need to acquire hardware, then provision the hardware by installing the operating system, install the MemSQL software, and finally provision the database. In the event of hardware failure, you need to diagnose the failure, contain the failing parts, and replace or reconfigure to compensate for failure. 

When running in the cloud, all this infrastructure management is outsourced to MemSQL’s managed cloud platform. The only things you’ll need to specify are the size of our cluster and which public cloud you’d like to use.

In non-trial configurations, the cost of MemSQL Helios includes both the software and hardware. Compare this to the cost of your legacy database and the cloud or on-prem machines you’ll need to manage. MemSQL Helios contains the costs, offering a single, easy-to-read bill that covers all your data storage and processing needs. And customers tell us that the cost of MemSQL Helios, which includes the cloud provider costs, is almost identical to the cost of an Enterprise license for MemSQL software, plus the cloud costs to run it. The only difference is that, with MemSQL Helios, the service is managed by MemSQL, rather than by you. You save the time, effort, and cost of managing your cluster. Your database management tasks and support requirements from MemSQL are simplified. 

With MemSQL Helios, once you know how MemSQL works, you can take these experiments and quickly scale up to assess MemSQL against your service-level agreements (SLAs) and your need for high availability needs. That’s when you can really open up the throttle, learn how your data performs on MemSQL, and dial in system performance for your production workloads. 

  Cluster-in-a-Box Multi-Node Cluster
Hardware 💻
Laptop computer
Many hefty machines
Best use case
  • Try out MemSQL
  • Test MemSQL capabilities
  • Prototyping
  • Proof of concept (PoC)
  • Production workloads
  • High availability
  • Performance testing
Cost Free, up to four nodes with 32GB RAM each Free, up to four nodes with 32GB RAM each
Support Community support Community support

Sign Up For MemSQL

To get a free license for MemSQL, register at memsql.com/helios-trial/ and click the link in the confirmation email. Then go to the MemSQL customer portal at portal.memsql.com and login. On the Licenses page, you also see the free-tier license. This license never expires, and is good for clusters up to four machines and 128GB of combined RAM. This is not the license you’ll want for a production cluster, but it’s great for these “kick the tires” scenarios. You could use this license key to spin up a single-node cluster-in-a-box in Docker Desktop, on Kubernetes, or on a Linux VM. You could also use this to spin up a 4-node cluster with up to 32-gigs ram on a Linux VM, in containers, or using the Kubernetes operator.

Spin Up a Cluster

Spinning up a cloud-native trial database is easy. You’ll log in to the portal, click through a few dialogs, and in no time you’ll have a cluster of machines working to store and serve our data quickly.

  1. Login to the customer portal at portal.memsql.com.
  2. Click Clusters on the far left.
  3. Click Create a Managed Cluster.
  4. Set the cluster’s name.
    Setting up a MemSQL Helios cluster is easy.
  5. Choose the cluster’s environment. This is merely a description and doesn’t affect the responsiveness or availability of the cluster.
  6. Choose the Cloud Provider and Region. Don’t see the region you want yet? Contact us, and let us know.
  7. The Cluster Size only gives you a single option. In non-trial environments, you could scale up, but like MemSQL’s free tier, in the MemSQL Helios trial, you’re limited to 4 nodes.
  8. Click “Next.”
    Setting up a MemSQL Helios cluster requires a password.
  9. Set the database admin password. This is the password you’ll use as you connect applications and dashboards to the data store.
  10. Set database access restrictions. Best practice is to limit the database to a few key IP addresses, so there’s no more attack surface than necessary. Click “Add My Current IP Address.”
  11. Click “Create Cluster.”

With that, the cluster is provisioned. Within a few minutes, it’ll be ready to use. There was no software to install, no hardware to provision, no fuss, no mess.

Start MemSQL Studio

As soon as the cluster says it’s ready, let’s dive in. MemSQL Studio is the browser-based SQL editor and database administration tool. You get MemSQL Studio access for free as part of any MemSQL Helios cluster.

  1. Login to the customer portal at portal.memsql.com.
  2. Click Clusters on the far left.
  3. Scroll down through the information page. Note that the username is “admin.”
  4. Two IP addresses are listed for the cluster. The first is the Admin connection for changing schema. The second is for querying and altering data.
  5. Click on “Open MemSQL Studio.”
  6. Login to the cluster using the username “admin” and the password you entered when creating the cluster.

Down the left side we see all the available tools in MemSQL Studio including the SQL Editor, the list of databases, and the Query Profiler.

On the main page, we see 7 healthy nodes. Wait a minute – we provisioned a four-node cluster. How did we get seven nodes? Click on the nodes tab on the left, and you’ll see the nodes in your cluster. You will have one master aggregator, two other aggregators, and four leaf nodes. Data is stored in partitions on the leaf nodes. Users and applications connect to any aggregator node and issue queries. The aggregator splits the query into pieces for each leaf and collects, assembles, and sorts the results into a deterministic result set.

So you paid for four nodes, and you got seven nodes. You see that you only pay for the nodes that are storing your data. Excellent!

Click on the SQL Editor page, and you see the query window. In the query window, type each command, select the line, then push the execute button on the top-right. 

For more details on MemSQL Studio, check out the docs or watch the MemSQL Studio tour video.

Note. There are some MemSQL Studio features that don’t make sense in a managed cloud scenario, so they’re absent when Studio is used with MemSQL Helios. This is only because those features apply to aspects of MemSQL that are managed for you in MemSQL Helios, but that you have to manage yourself (with the help of MemSQL Studio) in self-managed MemSQL software, whether you run it in the cloud or on-premises. This makes your work simpler. 

Where Can You Go From Here?

MemSQL is now ready for all the “kick the tires” tasks you need. You could:

  1. Hook up your analytics dashboard to MemSQL, connecting to the cloud’s IP on port 3306.
  2. Start your application and connect it to MemSQL using any MySQL connector. (MemSQL has native support for the MySQL wire protocol, easing connectivity.)
  3. Create an ingest pipeline from Kafka, S3, or other data source.

Being able to run these tasks from such a simple cloud-native setup is a real time-saver. It’s simple to scale this trial up to accomodate large data workloads. But whether it’s a memSQL Helios trial, a Helios dev cluster, or a Helios production cluster, you get the same always-on, cloud-native experience.


You’ve finished your experiment today. To stop the database:

  1. Login to the customer portal at portal.memsql.com.
  2. Click Clusters on the far left.
  3. Choose your cluster and click “Delete Cluster”.

This will delete the cluster and all the data stored in it. When you’re ready for your next experiment, come here and create a new trial database.


With MemSQL Helios, you can spin up a fully distributed, cloud-native SQL database in minutes. There was no software to install, and no hardware to provision. You saw how easy it is to spin up a cluster, connect to it with MemSQL Studio, and start being productive. You can try MemSQL for free today, using MemSQL Helios or self-managed MemSQL software, or contact us for a personalized demo. Now go build great things! 


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