Tune Linux Kernel Parameters For PostgreSQL Optimization and better System Performance

Introduction

In my previous Article i explained  Tuning PostgreSQL Database Memory Configuration Parameters to Optimize Performance and as i said  Database performance does not only depend on Postgresql configurations but also on system parameters .Poorly configured OS kernel parameters can cause degradation in database server performance. Therefore, it is imperative that these parameters are configured according to the database server and its workload. In this article  i will be talking about centos/redhat  linux system specially . 

Story

I will start the article with small story where on one of our client huge amount of writes were there and customer have provided us 200 GB of RAM for that dedicated database server , So there were no problem of resources. 

Now what was happening that after sometime system loads get increased so much and on debugging we found no special query  around the time when load increases . Somewhere over internet we found if we clear the system cache  regularly then issue will be resolved . 

We then schedule a cron to clear system cache after some regular interval and issue got resolved . 

Now  the question is why issue was not coming after this ? ? ?

And the Answer is  that due to large cache size as we have so much of ram available   lots of data is collected in RAM (in GB’s) and when this whole data flushes out on to the disk   ,  system load becomes high at that time 

So from that we came to know that we also need to tune some system parameters also to optimize system and database(postgresql) performance . 

In above case we tuned vm.dirty_background_ratio and vm.dirty_ratio , these two system(os) parameters to resolve the issue . 

Kernel parameters Tuning

Now what values we set for these above two parameters described in story and what are all other  important Linux kernel parameters that can affect database server performance which we can tune are described as follows : 

vm.dirty_background_ratio / vm.dirty_background_bytes

The vm.dirty_background_ratio is the percentage of memory filled with dirty pages that need to be flushed to disk. Flushing is done in the background. The value of this parameter ranges from 0 to 100; however, a value lower than 5 may not be effective and some kernels do not internally support it. The default value is 10 on most Linux systems. You can gain performance for write-intensive operations with a lower ratio, which means that Linux flushes dirty pages in the background.

You need to set a value of vm.dirty_background_bytes depending on your disk speed.

There are no “good” values for these two parameters since both depend on the hardware. However, setting vm.dirty_background_ratio to 5 and vm.dirty_background_bytes to 25% of your disk speed improves performance by up to ~25% in most cases.

vm.dirty_ratio / dirty_bytes

This is the same as vm.dirty_background_ratio / dirty_background_bytes except that the flushing is done in the foreground, blocking the application. So vm.dirty_ratio should be higher than vm.dirty_background_ratio. This will ensure that background processes kick in before the foreground processes to avoid blocking the application, as much as possible. You can tune the difference between the two ratios depending on your disk IO

 vm.swappiness

vm.swappiness is another kernel parameter that can affect the performance of the database. This parameter is used to control the swappiness (swapping pages to and from swap memory into RAM) behavior on a Linux system. The value ranges from 0 to 100. It controls how much memory will be swapped or paged out. Zero means disable swap and 100 means aggressive swapping.

You may get good performance by setting lower values.

Setting a value of 0 in newer kernels may cause the OOM Killer (out of memory killer process in Linux) to kill the process. Therefore, you can be on the safe side and set the value to 1 if you want to minimize swapping. The default value on a Linux system is 60. A higher value causes the MMU (memory management unit) to utilize more swap space than RAM, whereas a lower value preserves more data/code in memory.

A smaller value is a good bet to improve performance in PostgreSQL.

vm.overcommit_memory / vm.overcommit_ratio

Applications acquire memory and free that memory when it is no longer needed. But in some cases, an application acquires too much memory and does not release it.  This can invoke the OOM killer. Here are the possible values for vm.overcommit_memory parameter with a description for each:

  1. Heuristic overcommit, Do it intelligently (default); based kernel heuristics
  2. Allow overcommit anyway
  3. Don’t over commit beyond the overcommit ratio.

Reference: https://www.kernel.org/doc/Documentation/vm/overcommit-accounting

vm.overcommit_ratio is the percentage of RAM that is available for overcommitment. A value of 50% on a system with 2 GB of RAM may commit up to 3 GB of RAM.

A value of 2 for vm.overcommit_memory yields better performance for PostgreSQL. This value maximizes RAM utilization by the server process without any significant risk of getting killed by the OOM killer process. An application will be able to overcommit, but only within the overcommit ratio, thus reducing the risk of having OOM killer kill the process. Hence a value to 2 gives better performance than the default 0 value. However, reliability can be improved by ensuring that memory beyond an allowable range is not overcommitted. It avoids the risk of the process being killed by OOM-killer.

On systems without swap, one may experience a problem when vm.overcommit_memory is 2.

https://www.postgresql.org/docs/current/static/kernel-resources.html#LINUX-MEMORY-OVERCOMMIT

Generally speaking almost all applications which uses more memory depends on this , For example  , In Redis setting this value 1 is best . 

Turn On Huge Pages

Linux, by default, uses 4K memory pages, BSD has Super Pages, whereas Windows has Large Pages. A page is a chunk of RAM that is allocated to a process. A process may own more than one page depending on its memory requirements. The more memory a process needs the more pages that are allocated to it. The OS maintains a table of page allocation to processes. The smaller the page size, the bigger the table, the more time required to look up a page in that page table. Therefore, huge pages make it possible to use a large amount of memory with reduced overheads; fewer page lookups, fewer page faults, faster read/write operations through larger buffers. This results in improved performance.

PostgreSQL has support for bigger pages on Linux only. By default, Linux uses 4K of memory pages, so in cases where there are too many memory operations, there is a need to set bigger pages. Performance gains have been observed by using huge pages with sizes 2 MB and up to 1 GB. The size of Huge Page can be set boot time. You can easily check the huge page settings and utilization on your Linux box using cat /proc/meminfo | grep -i huge command.

Get HugePage Info – On Linux (only)

Note: This is only for Linux, for other OS this operation is ignored
$ cat /proc/meminfo | grep -i huge
AnonHugePages:         0 kB
ShmemHugePages:        0 kB
HugePages_Total:       0
HugePages_Free:        0
HugePages_Rsvd:        0
HugePages_Surp:        0
Hugepagesize:       2048 kB

In this example, although huge page size is set at 2,048 (2 MB), the total number of huge pages has a value of 0. which signifies that huge pages are disabled.

Script to quantify Huge Pages

This is a simple script which returns the number of Huge Pages required. Execute the script on your Linux box while your PostgreSQL is running. Ensure that $PGDATA environment variable is set to PostgreSQL’s data directory.

Get Number of Required HugePages

!/bin/bash
pid=head -1 $PGDATA/postmaster.pid
echo “Pid:            $pid”
peak=grep ^VmPeak /proc/$pid/status | awk '{ print $2 }'
echo “VmPeak:            $peak kB”
hps=grep ^Hugepagesize /proc/meminfo | awk '{ print $2 }'
echo “Hugepagesize:   $hps kB”
hp=$((peak/hps))
echo Set Huge Pages:     $hp

The output of the script looks like this:

Script Output

Pid:            12737
VmPeak:         180932 kB
Hugepagesize:   2048 kB
Set Huge Pages: 88

The recommended huge pages are 88, therefore you should set the value to 88.

Set HugePages Command :

sysctl -w vm.nr_hugepages= 88

Check the huge pages now, you will see no huge page is in use (HugePages_Free = HugePages_Total).

Again Get HugePage Info – On Linux (only)

$ cat /proc/meminfo | grep -i huge
AnonHugePages:         0 kB
ShmemHugePages:        0 kB
HugePages_Total:      88
HugePages_Free:       88
HugePages_Rsvd:        0
HugePages_Surp:        0
Hugepagesize:       2048 kB

Now set the parameter huge_pages “on” in $PGDATA/postgresql.conf and restart the server.

And Again Get HugePage Info – On Linux (only)

$ cat /proc/meminfo | grep -i huge
AnonHugePages:         0 kB
ShmemHugePages:        0 kB
HugePages_Total:      88
HugePages_Free:       81
HugePages_Rsvd:       64
HugePages_Surp:        0
Hugepagesize:       2048 kB

Now you can see that a very few of the huge pages are used. Let’s now try to add some data into the database.

Some DB Operations to Utilise HugePages

postgres=# CREATE TABLE foo(a INTEGER);
CREATE TABLE
postgres=# INSERT INTO foo VALUES(generate_Series(1,10000000));
INSERT 0 10000000

Let’s see if we are now using more huge pages than before.

Once More Get HugePage Info – On Linux (only)

$ cat /proc/meminfo | grep -i huge
AnonHugePages:         0 kB
ShmemHugePages:        0 kB
HugePages_Total:      88
HugePages_Free:       18
HugePages_Rsvd:        1
HugePages_Surp:        0
Hugepagesize:       2048 kB

Now you can see that most of the huge pages are in use.

Note: The sample value for HugePages used here is very low, which is not a normal value for a big production machine. Please assess the required number of pages for your system and set those accordingly depending on your system’s workload and resources.

Now, Tuning Postgresql parameters and kernel parameters is not enough for good Postgresql performance there are many other things like

  • How you are making Query
  • Proper Indexing — For this you can follow indexing series on our blog
  • Proper partitioning and sharding accroding to business usecase
  • and many more .

Stay tuned to get more blogs on optimizing postgresql performance

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