Mar
06
2019
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Settling the Myth of Transparent HugePages for Databases

The concept of Linux HugePages has existed for quite a while: for more than 10 years, introduced to Debian in 2007 with kernel version 2.6.23. Whilst a smaller page size is useful for general use, some memory intensive applications may gain performance by using bigger memory pages. By having bigger memory chunks available to them, they can reduce lookup time as well as improve the performance of read/write operations. To be able to make use of HugePages, applications need to carry the specific code directive, and changing applications across the board is not necessarily a simple task. So enter Transparent HugePages (THP).

By reputation, THPs are said to have a negative impact on performance. For this post, I set out to either prove or debunk the case for the use of THPs for database applications.

The Linux context

On Linux – and for that matter all operating systems that I know of – memory is divided into small chunks called pages. A typical memory page size is set to 4k. You can obtain the value of page size on Linux using getconf.

# getconf PAGE_SIZE
4096

Generally, the latest processors support multiple page sizes. However, Linux defaults to a minimal 4k page size. For a system with 64GB physical memory, this memory will be divided into more than 16 million pages. Linking between these pages and physical memory (which is called page table walking) is undertaken by the CPU’s memory management unit (MMU). To optimize page lookup, CPU maintains a cache of recently used pages called the Table Lookaside Buffer (TLB). The higher the number of pages, the lower the percentage of pages that are maintained in TLB. This translates to a higher cache miss ratio. With every cache miss, a more expensive search must be done via page table walking. In effect, that leads to a degradation in performance.

So what if we could increase the page size? We could then reduce the number of pages accessed, and reduce the cost of page walking. Cache hit ratio might then improve because more relevant data now fits in one page rather than multiple pages.

The Linux kernel will always try to allocate a HugePage (if enabled) and will fall back to the default 4K if a contiguous chunk of the required memory size is not available in the required memory space.

The implication for applications

As mentioned, for an application to make use of HugePages it has to contain an explicit instruction to do so. It’s not always practical to change applications in this way so there’s another option.

Transparent HugePages provides a layer within the Linux kernel – probably since version 2.6.38 – which if enabled can potentially allocate HugePages for applications without them actually “knowing” it; hence the transparency. The expectation is that this will improve application performance.

In this blog, I’ll attempt to find the reasons why THP might help improve database performance. There’s a lot of discussion amongst database experts that classic HugePages give a performance gain, but you’ll see a performance hit with Transparent HugePages. I decided to take up the challenge and perform various benchmarks, with different settings, and with different workloads.

So do Transparent HugePages (THP) improve application performance? More specifically, do they improve performance for database workloads? Most industry standard databases recommend disabling THP and enabling HugePages alone.

So is this a myth or does THP degrade performance for databases? Time to break this myth.

Enabling THP

The current setting can be seen using the command line

# cat /sys/kernel/mm/transparent_hugepage/enabled
[always] madvise never

Temporary Change

It can be enabled or disabled using the command line.

# echo never > /sys/kernel/mm/transparent_hugepage/enabled

Permanent Change via grub

Or by setting grub parameter  in 

/etc/default/grub

 . 

You can choose one of the three configurations for THP; enable, disable, or “madvise”. Whilst enable and disable options are self-explanatory, madvise allows applications that are optimized for HugePages to use THP.  Applications can use Transparent HugePages by making the madvise system call.

Why was the madvise option added? We will discuss that in a later section.

Transparent HugePages problems

The khugepaged CPU usage

The allocation of a HugePage can be tricky. Whilst traditional HugePages are reserved in virtual memory, THPs are not. In the background, the kernel attempts to allocate a THP, and if it fails, will default to the standard 4k page. This all happens transparently to the user.

The allocation process can potentially involve a number of kernel processes which may include kswapd, defrag, and kcompactd. All of these are responsible for making space in the virtual memory for a future THP. When required, the allocation is made by another kernel process; khugepaged. This process manages Transparent HugePages.

Spikes

It depends on how khugepaged is configured, but since no memory is reserved beforehand, there is potential for performance degradation. With every attempt to allocate a HugePage, potentially a number of kernel processes are invoked. These carry out certain actions to make enough room in the virtual memory for a THP allocation. Although no notifications are provided to the application, precious resources are spent, and this can lead to spikes in performance with any dips indicating an attempt to allocate THP.

Memory Bloating

HugePages are for not for every application. For example, an application that wants to allocate only one byte of data would be better off using a 4k page rather than a huge one. That way, memory is more efficiently used. To prevent this, one option is to configure THP to “madvise”. By doing this, HugePages are disabled system-wide but are available to applications that make a madvise call to allocate THP in the madvise memory region.

Swapping

Linux kernel keeps track of memory pages and differentiates between pages are that are actively being used and the ones that are not immediately required. It may load or unload a page from active memory to disk if that page is no longer required or vice versa.

When page size is 4k, these memory operations are understandably fast. However, consider a 1GB page size: there will a significant performance hit when such a page is swapped out. When a THP is swapped out, it is split in standard page sizes. Unlike conventional HugePages which are reserved in RAM and are never swapped, THPs are swappable pages. They could, therefore, potentially be swapped causing a dip in performance. Although in recent years, there have been loads of performance improvements around swapping out the THPs process, it still does impact performance negatively.

Benchmark

I decided to benchmark with and without Transparent HugePages enabled. Initially, I used pgbench – a PostgreSQL benchmarking tool based on TPCB – for a duration of ten minutes. The benchmark used a mixed mode of READ/WRITE. The results with and without the Transparent HugePages show no degradation or improvement in the benchmark. To be sure, I repeated the same benchmark for 60 minutes and got almost the same results.  I performed another benchmark with a TPCC workload using the sysbench benchmarking tool. The results are almost the same.

Benchmark Machine

  • Supermicro server:
    • Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E5-2683 v3 @ 2.00GHz
    • 2 sockets / 28 cores / 56 threads
    • Memory: 256GB of RAM
    • Storage: SAMSUNG  SM863 1.9TB Enterprise SSD
    • Filesystem: ext4/xfs
  • OS: Ubuntu 16.04.4, kernel 4.13.0-36-generic
  • PostgreSQL: version 11

Benchmark TPCB (pgbench) – 10 Minute duration

The following graphs show results for two different database sizes; 48GB and 112GB with 64, 128 and 256 clients each. All other settings were kept unchanged for these benchmarks to ensure that our results are comparable. It is evident that both lines — representing execution with or without THP — are almost overlapping one another. This suggests no performance gains.

Figure 1.1 PostgreSQL' s Benchmark, 10 minutes execution time where database workload(48GB) < shared_buffer (64GB)

Figure 1.1 PostgreSQL’ s Benchmark, 10 minutes execution time where database workload(48GB) < shared_buffer (64GB)

 

Figure 1.2 PostgreSQL' s Benchmark, 10 minutes execution time where database workload (48GB) > shared_buffer (64GB)

Figure 1.2 PostgreSQL’ s Benchmark, 10 minutes execution time where database workload (48GB) > shared_buffer (64GB)

 

Figure 1.3 PostgreSQL' s Benchmark, 10 minutes execution time where database workload (48GB) < shared_buffer (64GB)

Figure 1.3 PostgreSQL’ s Benchmark, 10 minutes execution time where database workload (48GB) < shared_buffer (64GB) -dTLB-misses

 

Figure 1.4 PostgreSQL' s Benchmark, 10 minutes execution time where database workload (112GB) > shared_buffer (64GB)

Figure 1.4 PostgreSQL’ s Benchmark, 10 minutes execution time where database workload (112GB) > shared_buffer (64GB)-dTLB-misses

 

Benchmark TPCB (pgbench) – 60 Minute duration

Figure 2.1 PostgreSQL' s Benchmark, 60 minutes execution time where database workload (48GB) < shared_buffer (64GB)

Figure 2.1 PostgreSQL’ s Benchmark, 60 minutes execution time where database workload (48GB) < shared_buffer (64GB)

 

Figure 2.2 PostgreSQL' s Benchmark, 60 minutes execution time where database workload (112GB) &gt; shared_buffer (64GB)

Figure 2.2 PostgreSQL’ s Benchmark, 60 minutes execution time where database workload (112GB) > shared_buffer (64GB)

 

Figure 2.3 PostgreSQL' s Benchmark, 60 minutes execution time where database workload (48GB) < shared_buffer (64GB)

Figure 2.3 PostgreSQL’ s Benchmark, 60 minutes execution time where database workload (48GB) < shared_buffer (64GB) -dTLB-misses

 

Figure 2.4 PostgreSQL' s Benchmark, 60 minutes execution time where database workload (112GB) > shared_buffer (64GB)

Figure 2.4 PostgreSQL’ s Benchmark, 60 minutes execution time where database workload (112GB) > shared_buffer (64GB) -dTLB-misses

 

Benchmark TPCC (sysbecnch) – 10 Minute duration

Figure 3.1 PostgreSQL' s Benchmark, 10 minutes execution time where database workload (48GB) &lt; shared_buffer (64GB)

Figure 3.1 PostgreSQL’ s Benchmark, 10 minutes execution time where database workload (48GB) < shared_buffer (64GB)

Figure 3.2 PostgreSQL' s Benchmark, 10 minutes execution time where database workload (112GB) &gt; shared_buffer (64GB)

Figure 3.2 PostgreSQL’ s Benchmark, 10 minutes execution time where database workload (112GB) > shared_buffer (64GB)

 

Figure 3.3 PostgreSQL' s Benchmark, 10 minutes execution time where database workload (48GB) < shared_buffer (64GB)

Figure 3.3 PostgreSQL’ s Benchmark, 10 minutes execution time where database workload (48GB) < shared_buffer (64GB) -dTLB-misses

 

Figure 3.4 PostgreSQL' s Benchmark, 10 minutes execution time where database workload 112GB) > shared_buffer (64GB)

Figure 3.4 PostgreSQL’ s Benchmark, 10 minutes execution time where database workload 112GB) > shared_buffer (64GB) -dTLB-misses

 

Conclusion

I attained these results by running different benchmarking tools and evaluating different OLTP benchmarking standards. The results clearly indicate that for these workloads, THP has a negative impact on the overall database performance. Although the performance degradation is negligible, it is, however, clear that there is no performance gain as one might expect. This is very much in line with all the different databases’ recommendation which suggests disabling the THP.

THP may be beneficial for various applications, but it certainly doesn’t give any performance gains when handling an OLTP workload.

We can safely say that the “myth” is derived from experience and that the rumors are true.

Summary

  • The complete benchmark data is available at GitHub[1]
  • The complete “nmon” reports, which include CPU, memory etc usage can be found at GitHub[2]
  • This whole benchmark is based around OLTP. Watch out for the OLAP benchmark. Maybe THP will have more effect on this type of workload.

[1] – https://github.com/Percona-Lab-results/THP-POSTGRESQL-2019/blob/master/results.xlsx

[2] – https://github.com/Percona-Lab-results/THP-POSTGRESQL-2019/tree/master/results

 

 

Dec
20
2018
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Benchmark PostgreSQL With Linux HugePages

Benchmarking HugePages and PostgreSQL

Linux kernel provides a wide range of configuration options that can affect performance. It’s all about getting the right configuration for your application and workload. Just like any other database, PostgreSQL relies on the Linux kernel to be optimally configured. Poorly configured parameters can result in poor performance. Therefore, it is important that you benchmark database performance after each tuning session to avoid performance degradation. In one of my previous posts, Tune Linux Kernel Parameters For PostgreSQL Optimization, I described some of the most useful Linux kernel parameters and how those may help you improve database performance. Now I am going to share my benchmark results with you after configuring Linux Huge Page with different PostgreSQL workload. I have performed a comprehensive set of benchmarks for many different PostgreSQL load sizes and different number concurrent clients.

Benchmark Machine

  • Supermicro server:
    • Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E5-2683 v3 @ 2.00GHz
    • 2 sockets / 28 cores / 56 threads
    • Memory: 256GB of RAM
    • Storage: SAMSUNG  SM863 1.9TB Enterprise SSD
    • Filesystem: ext4/xfs
  • OS: Ubuntu 16.04.4, kernel 4.13.0-36-generic
  • PostgreSQL: version 11

Linux Kernel Settings

I have used default kernel settings without any optimization/tuning except for disabling Transparent HugePages. Transparent HugePages are by default enabled, and allocate a page size that may not be recommended for database usage. For databases generally, fixed sized HugePages are needed, which Transparent HugePages do not provide. Hence, disabling this feature and defaulting to classic HugePages is always recommended.

PostgreSQL Settings

I have used consistent PostgreSQL settings for all the benchmarks in order to record different PostgreSQL workloads with different settings of Linux HugePages. Here is the PostgreSQL setting used for all benchmarks:

shared_buffers = '64GB'
work_mem = '1GB'
random_page_cost = '1'
maintenance_work_mem = '2GB'
synchronous_commit = 'on'
seq_page_cost = '1'
max_wal_size = '100GB'
checkpoint_timeout = '10min'
synchronous_commit = 'on'
checkpoint_completion_target = '0.9'
autovacuum_vacuum_scale_factor = '0.4'
effective_cache_size = '200GB'
min_wal_size = '1GB'
wal_compression = 'ON'

Benchmark scheme

In the benchmark, the benchmark scheme plays an important role. All the benchmarks are run three times with thirty minutes duration for each run. I took the median value from these three benchmarks. The benchmarks were carried out using the PostgreSQL benchmarking tool pgbench.  pgbench works on scale factor, with one scale factor being approximately 16MB of workload. 

HugePages

Linux, by default, uses 4K memory pages along with HugePages. BSD has Super Pages, whereas Windows has Large Pages. PostgreSQL has support for HugePages (Linux) only. In cases where there is a high memory usage, smaller page sizes decrease performance. By setting up HugePages, you increase the dedicated memory for the application and therefore reduce the operational overhead that is incurred during allocation/swapping; i.e. you gain performance by using HugePages.

Here is the Hugepage setting when using Hugepage size of 1GB. You can always get this information from /proc.

AnonHugePages:         0 kB
ShmemHugePages:        0 kB
HugePages_Total:     100
HugePages_Free:       97
HugePages_Rsvd:       63
HugePages_Surp:        0
Hugepagesize:    1048576 kB

For more detail about HugePages please read my previous blog post.

https://www.percona.com/blog/2018/08/29/tune-linux-kernel-parameters-for-postgresql-optimization/

Generally, HugePages comes in sizes 2MB and 1GB, so it makes sense to use 1GB size instead of the much smaller 2MB size.

https://access.redhat.com/documentation/en-us/red_hat_enterprise_linux/6/html/performance_tuning_guide/s-memory-transhuge
https://kerneltalks.com/services/what-is-huge-pages-in-linux/

Benchmark Results

This benchmark shows the overall impact of different sizes of HugePages. The first set of benchmarks was created with the default Linux 4K page size without enabling HugePages. Note that Transparent Hugepages were also disabled, and remained disabled throughout these benchmarks.

Then the second set of benchmarks was performed with 2MB HugePages. Finally, the third set of benchmarks is performed with HugePages set to 1GB in size.

All these benchmarks were executed with PostgreSQL version 11. The sets include a combination of different database sizes and clients. The graph below shows comparative performance results for these benchmarks with TPS (transactions per seconds) on the y-axis, and database size and the number of clients per database size on the x-axis.

 

Clearly, from the graph above, you can see that the performance gain with HugePages increases as the number of clients and the database size increases, as long as the size remains within the pre-allocated shared buffer.

This benchmark shows TPS versus clients. In this case, the database size is set to 48GB. On the y-axis, we have TPS and on the x-axis, we have the number of connected clients. The database size is small enough to fit in the shared buffer, which is set to 64GB.

With HugePages set to 1GB, the higher the number of clients, the higher the comparative performance gain.

The next graph is the same as the one above except for a database size of 96GB. This exceeds the shared buffer size, which is set to 64GB.

 

The key observation here is that the performance with 1GB HugePages improves as the number of clients increases and it eventually gives better performance than 2MB HugePages or the standard 4KB page size.

This benchmark shows the TPS versus database size. In this case, the number of connected clients it set to 32. On the y-axis, we have TPS and on the x-axis, we have database sizes.

As expected, when the database spills over the pre-allocated HugePages, the performance degrades significantly.

Summary

One of my key recommendations is that we must keep Transparent HugePages off. You will see the biggest performance gains when the database fits into the shared buffer with HugePages enabled. Deciding on the size of huge page to use requires a bit of trial and error, but this can potentially lead to a significant TPS gain where the database size is large but remains small enough to fit in the shared buffer.

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