Pumping Up Performance with Linux Hugepages – Part 2

optimizedhuge_book

In my previous article on hugepages, I discussed what hugepages are and talked about the page table, the Translation Lookaside Buffer (TLB) and TLB Misses, Page Walks and Page Faults. I also discussed how using hugepages reduces the amount of memory used and the also reduces the number of CPU cycles needed to do the logical to physical memory mapping.

In this post, I’d like to talk about how to use Hugepages with the Oracle database and with JVMs. I’ll also talk about Transparent Hugepages (THP) and why you should turn off this new Linux “feature”.

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Pumping Up Performance with Linux Hugepages – Part 1

optimizedHans_and_Franz

Hans and Franz

As memory becomes cheaper, servers are delivered with larger memory configurations and applications are starting to address more of it. This is generally a good thing from a performance standpoint. However, this can create performance issues when you’re using the default memory page size of 4 KB on x86-based systems.

 

To address this, Linux has a feature called “hugepages” that allows applications (databases, JVMs, etc.) to allocate larger memory pages than the 4 KB default. Applications using hugepages can benefit from these larger page sizes because they have a greater chance of finding memory mapping info in cache and thereby avoid more expensive operations.

In order to understand the benefits of hugepages, it helps to know a bit more about memory mapping, page tables and the TLB (translation lookaside buffer).

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Lies, Damned Lies and Metrics

(Apologies to Mark Twain…)

I’ve long subscribed to the principle of “Follow the Data” when it comes to troubleshooting performance. However, sometimes the data can be misleading (“lie” is an awful strong word) and sometimes the metrics you need just aren’t there. I was reminded of that this week while looking into a production performance issue with one of our critical applications.

The issue was presenting itself as an I/O problem in the database layer. Oracle wait event metrics from ASH (Active Session History) were indicating that I/O operations were taking longer than normal. Normally when we see this, we gather data about the I/O subsystem using utilities like iostat. Since this was on an Exadata, we also used the cellcli utility to report on storage cell information. However – this time – neither of these utilities was showing long I/O waits corresponding to our issue.

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