I wrote a program to generate large .SQL files for quickly populating very large databases. I scripted it in PHP. When I started coding I was using fopen() and fwrite(). When files got too large the program would return control to the shell and the file would be incomplete.
Unfortunately I'm not sure exactly how large is 'too large'. I think it may have been around 4GB.
To solve this problem I had the file echo to stdout. I redirected it when I called the program like so:
[root@localhost]$ php generatesql.php > myfile.sql
What's probably occuring is the underlying PHP build is 32bit and can't handle file pointers >4GB - see this related question.
Your underlying OS is obviously capable of storing large files, which why you're able to redirect stdout to a large file.
Incidentally, an SQL file is likely to be highly compressible, so you might like to consider using the gzip fopen wrapper to compress the file as you write it.
$file = 'compress.zlib:///path/to/my/file.sql.gz'; $f = fopen($file, 'wb'); //just write as normal... fwrite($f, 'CREATE TABLE foo (....)'); fclose($f);
Your dump will be a fraction of the original size, and you can restore it simply piping the output from zcat into an SQL client, e.g. for mysql
zcat /path/to/my/file.sql.gz | mysql mydatabase