16.5. Server tuningIf the server is not able to field new requests or efficiently schedule and handle those that it does receive, then overall performance suffers. In some cases, the only way to rectify the problem is to add a new server or upgrade existing hardware. However, identification of the problem areas should be a prerequisite for any hardware changes, and some analyses may point to software configuration changes that provide sufficient relief. The first area to examine is the server's CPU utilization.
16.5.1. CPU loadingThe CPU speed of a pure NFS server is rarely a constraining factor. Once the nfsd thread gets scheduled, and has read and decoded an RPC request, it doesn't do much more within the NFS protocol that requires CPU cycles. Other parts of the system, such as the Unix filesystem and cache management code, may use CPU cycles to perform work given to them by NFS requests. NFS usually poses a light load on a server that is providing pure NFS service. However, very few servers are used solely for NFS service. More common is a central server that performs mail spool and delivery functions, serves telnet, and provides NFS file service. There are two aspects to CPU loading: increased nfsd thread scheduling latency, and decreased performance of server-resident, CPU-bound processes. Normally, the nfsd threads will run as soon as a request arrives, because they are running with a kernel process priority that is higher than that of all user processes. However, if there are other processes doing I/O, or running in the kernel (doing system calls) the latency to schedule the nfsd threads is increased. Instead of getting the CPU as soon as a request arrives, the nfsd thread must wait until the next context switch, when the process with the CPU uses up its time slice or goes to sleep. Running an excessive number of interactive processes on an NFS server will generate enough I/O activity to impact NFS performance. These loads affect a server's ability to schedule its nfsd threads; latency in scheduling the threads translates into decreased NFS request handling capacity since the nfsd threads cannot accept incoming requests as quickly. Systems with more than one CPU have additional horse-power to schedule and run its applications and nfsd threads. Many SMP NFS servers scale very well as CPUs are added to the configuration. In many cases doubling the number of CPUs nearly doubles the maximum throughput provided by the NFS server. The other aspect of CPU loading is the effect of nfsd threads on other user-level processes. The nfsd threads run entirely in the kernel, and therefore they run at a higher priority than other user-level processes. nfsd threads take priority over other user-level processes, so CPU cycles spent on NFS activity are taken away from user processes. If you are running CPU-bound (computational) processes on your NFS servers, they will not impact NFS performance. Instead, handling NFS requests cripples the performance of the CPU-bound processes, since the nfsd threads always get the CPU before they do. CPU loading is easy to gauge using any number of utilities that read the CPU utilization figures from the kernel. vmstat is one of the simplest tools that breaks CPU usage into user, system, and idle time components:
The last three columns show where the CPU cycles are expended. If the server is CPU bound, the idle time decreases to zero. When nfsd threads are waiting for disk operations to complete, and there is no other system activity, the CPU is idle, not accumulating cycles in system mode. The system column shows the amount of time spent executing system code, exclusive of time waiting for disks or other devices. If the NFS server has very little (less than 10%) CPU idle time, consider adding CPUs, upgrading to a faster server, or moving some CPU-bound processes off of the NFS server. The "pureness" of NFS service provided by a machine and the type of other work done by the CPU determines how much of an impact CPU loading has on its NFS response time. A machine used for print spooling, hardwire terminal server, or modem line connections, for example, is forced to handle large numbers of high-priority interrupts from the serial line controllers. If there is a sufficient level of high-priority activity, the server may miss incoming network traffic. Use iostat, vmstat, or similar tools to watch for large numbers of interrupts. Every interrupt requires CPU time to service it, and takes away from the CPU availability for NFS. If an NFS server must be used as a home for terminals, consider using a networked terminal server instead of hardwired terminals. The largest advantage of terminal servers is that they can accept terminal output in large buffers. Instead of writing a screenful of output a character at a time over a serial line, a host writing to a terminal on a terminal server sends it one or two packets containing all of the output. Streamlining the terminal and NFS input and output sources places an additional load on the server's network interface and on the network itself. These factors must be considered when planning or expanding the base of terminal service.% vmstat 10 procs memory page disk faults cpu r b w swap free re mf pi po fr de sr dd f0 s0 -- in sy cs us sy id ...Ignore first line of output 0 0 34 667928 295816 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 174 126 73 0 1 99
A terminal server has RS-232 ports for terminal connections and runs a simple ROM monitor that connects terminal ports to servers over telnet sessions. Terminal servers vary significantly: some use RS-232 DB-25 connectors, while others have RJ-11 phone jacks with a variable number of ports.Along these lines, NFS servers do not necessarily make the best gateway hosts. Each fraction of its network bandwidth that is devoted to forwarding packets or converting protocols is taken away from NFS service. If an NFS server is used as a router between two or more networks, it is possible that the non-NFS traffic occludes the NFS packets. The actual performance effects, if any, will be determined by the bandwidth of the server's network interfaces and other CPU loading factors.
16.5.2. NFS server threadsThe default number of nfsd threads is chosen empirically by the system vendor, and provides average performance under average conditions. The number of threads is specified as an argument to the nfsd daemon when it is started from the boot scripts:
This example starts 16 kernel nfsd threads. In Solaris, the nfsd daemon creates multiple kernel threads that perform the actual filesystem operations. It exists as a user-level process in order to establish new connections to clients, allowing a server to accept more NFS requests while other nfsd threads are waiting for a disk operation to complete. Increasing the number of server-side threads improves NFS performance by allowing the server to grab incoming requests more quickly. Increasing nfsd threads without bound can adversely affect other system resources by dedicating excessive compute resources to NFS, making the optimal choice an exercise in observation and tuning./usr/lib/nfs/nfsd -a 16
188.8.131.52. Context switching overheadAll nfsd threads run in the kernel and do not context switch in the same way as user-level processes do. The two major costs associated with a context switch are loading the address translation cache and resuming the newly scheduled task on the CPU. In the case of NFS server threads, both of these costs are near zero. All of the NFS server code lives in the kernel, and therefore has no user-level address translations loaded in the memory management unit. In addition, the task-to-task switch code in most kernels is on the order of a few hundred instructions. Systems can context switch much faster than the network can deliver NFS requests. NFS server threads don't impose the "usual" context switching load on a system because all of the NFS server code is in the kernel. Instead of using a per-process context descriptor or a user-level process "slot" in the memory management unit, the nfsd threads use the kernel's address space mappings. This eliminates the address translation loading cost of a context switch.
184.108.40.206. Choosing the number of server threadsThe maximum number of server threads can be specified as a parameter to the nfsd daemon:
The -a directive indicates that the daemon should listen on all available transports. In this example the daemon allows a maximum of 16 NFS requests to be serviced concurrently. The nfsd threads are created on demand, so you are only setting a high water mark, not the actual number of threads. If you configure too many threads, the unused threads will not be created. You can throttle NFS server usage by limiting the maximum number of nfsd threads, allowing the NFS server to concentrate on performing other tasks. It is hard to come up with a magic formula to compute the ideal number of nfsd threads, since hardware and NFS implementations vary considerably between vendors. For example, at the time of this writing, Sun servers are recommended to use the maximum of:# /usr/lib/nfs/nfsd -a 16
16.5.3. Memory usageNFS uses the server's page cache (in SunOS 4.x, Solaris and System V Release 4) for file blocks read in NFS read requests. Because these systems implement page mapping, the NFS server will use available page frames to cache file pages, and use the buffer cache to store UFS inode and file metadata (direct and indirect blocks).
In Solaris, SunOS 4.x, and SVR4, the buffer cache stores only UFS metadata. This in contrast to the "traditional" buffer cache used by other Unix systems, where file data is also stored in the buffer cache. The Solaris buffer cache consists of disk blocks full of inodes, indirect blocks, and cylinder group information only.In Solaris, you can view the buffer cache statistics by using sar -b. This will show you the number of data transfers per second between system buffers and disk (bread/s & bwrite/s), the number of accesses to the system buffers (logical reads and writes identified by lread/s & lwrit/s), the cache hit ratios (%rcache & %wcache), and the number of physical reads and writes using the raw device mechanism (pread/s & pwrit/s):
In practice, a cache hit ratio of 100% is hard to achieve due to lack of access locality by the NFS clients, consequently a cache hit ratio of around 90% is considered acceptable. By default, Solaris grows the dynamically sized buffer cache, as needed, until it reaches a high watermark specified by the bufhwm kernel parameter. By default, Solaris limits this value to 2% of physical memory in the system. In most cases, this 2% ceiling is more than enough since the buffer cache is only used to cache inode and metadata information. You can use the sysdef command to view its value:# sar -b 20 5 SunOS bunker 5.8 Generic sun4u 12/06/2000 10:39:01 bread/s lread/s %rcache bwrit/s lwrit/s %wcache pread/s pwrit/s 10:39:22 19 252 93 34 103 67 0 0 10:39:43 21 612 97 46 314 85 0 0 10:40:03 20 430 95 35 219 84 0 0 10:40:24 35 737 95 49 323 85 0 0 10:40:45 21 701 97 60 389 85 0 0 Average 23 546 96 45 270 83 0 0
2% of total memory can be too much buffer cache for some systems, such as the Sun Sparc Center 2000 with very large memory configurations. You may need to reduce the size of the buffer cache to avoid starving the kernel of memory resources, since the kernel address space is limited on Super Sparc-based systems. The newer Ultra Sparc-based systems do not suffer from this limitation.
If you need to modify the default value of bufhwm, set its new value in /etc/system, or use adb as described in Chapter 15, "Debugging Network Problems". The actual file contents are cached in the page cache, and by default the filesystem will cache as many pages as possible. There is no high watermark, potentially causing the page cache to grow and consume all available memory. This means that all process memory that has not been used recently by local applications may be reclaimed for use by the filesystem page cache, possibly causing local processes to page excessively. If the server is used for non-NFS purposes, enable priority paging to ensure that it has enough memory to run all of its processes without paging. Priority paging prevents the filesystem from consuming excessive memory by limiting the file cache so that filesystem I/O does not cause unnecessary paging of applications. The filesystem can still grow to use free memory, but cannot take memory from other applications on the system. Enable priority paging by adding the following line to /etc/system and reboot:# sysdef ... * * Tunable Parameters * 41385984 maximum memory allowed in buffer cache (bufhwm) ...
Priority paging can also be enabled on a live system. Refer to the excellent Solaris Internals book written by Mauro and McDougall and published by Sun Microsystems Press for an in-depth explanation of Priority Paging and File System Caching in Solaris. The following procedure for enabling priority paging on a live 64-bit system originally appeared on their book:* * Enable Priority Paging * set priority_paging=1
Setting priority_ paging=1 in /etc/system causes a new memory tunable, cachefree, to be set to twice the old paging high watermark, lotsfree, when the system boots. The previous adb procedure does the equivalent work on a live system. cachefree scales proportionally to other memory parameters used by the Solaris Virtual Memory System. Again, refer to the Solaris Internals book for an in-depth explanation. The same adb procedure can be performed on a 32-bit system by replacing the /E directives with /D to print the value of a 32-bit quantity and /Z with /W to set the value of the 32-bit quantity.# adb -kw /dev/ksyms /dev/mem physmem 3ac8 lotsfree/E lotsfree: lotsfree: 234 /* value of lotsfree is printed */ cachefree/Z 0t468 /* set to twice the value of lotsfree */ cachefree: ea = 1d4 dyncachefree/Z 0t468 /* set to twice the value of lotsfree */ dyncachefree: ea = 1d4 cachefree/E cachefree: cachefree: 468 dyncachefree/E dyncachefree: dyncachefree: 468
16.5.4. Disk and filesystem throughputFor NFS requests requiring disk access, the constraining performance factor can often be the server's ability to turn around disk requests. A well-conditioned network feels sluggish if the file server is not capable of handling the load placed on it. While there are both network and client-side NFS parameters that may be tuned, optimizing the server's use of its disks and filesystems can deliver large benefit. Efficiency in accessing the disks, adequate kernel table sizes, and an equitable distribution of requests over all disks providing NFS service determine the round-trip filesystem delay. A basic argument about NFS performance centers on the overhead imposed by the network when reading or writing to a remote disk. If identical disks are available on a remote server and on the local host, total disk throughput will be better with the local disk. This is not grounds for an out-of-hand rejection of NFS for two reasons: NFS provides a measure of transparency and ease of system administration that is lost with multiple local disks, and centralized disk resources on a server take advantage of economies of scale. A large, fast disk or disk array on a server provides better throughput, with the network overhead, than a slower local disk if the decrease in disk access time outweighs the cost of the network data transfer.
220.127.116.11. Unix filesystem effectsNFS Version 2 write operations are not often able to take advantage of disk controller optimizations or caching when multiple clients write to different areas on the same disk. Many controllers use an elevator-seek algorithm to schedule disk operations according to the disk track number accessed, minimizing seek time. These optimizations are of little value if the disk request queue is never more than one or two operations deep. Read operations suffer from similar problems because read-ahead caching done by the controller is wasted if consecutive read operations are from different clients using different parts of the disk. NFS Version 3 enables the server to take better advantage of controller optimizations through the use of the two-phase commit write. Writing large files multiplies the number of NFS write operations that must be performed. As a file grows beyond the number of blocks described in its inode, indirect and double indirect blocks are used to point to additional arrays of data blocks. A file that has grown to several megabytes, for example, requires three write operations to update its indirect, double indirect, and data blocks on each write operation. The design of the Unix filesystem is ideal for small files, but imposes a penalty on large files. Large directories also adversely impact NFS performance. Directories are searched linearly during an NFS lookup operation; the time to locate a named directory component is directly proportional to the size of the directory and the position of a name in the directory. Doubling the number of entries in a directory will, on average, double the time required to locate any given entry. Furthermore, reading a large directory from a remote host may require the server to respond with several packets instead of a single packet containing the entire directory structure.
18.104.22.168. Disk array caching and PrestoserveAs described in Section 22.214.171.124, "NFS writes (NFS Version 2 versus NFS Version 3)", synchronous NFS Version 2 writes are slow because the server needs to flush the data to disk before an acknowledgment to the client can be generated. One way of speeding up the disk access is by using host-based fast nonvolatile memory. This battery-backed nonvolatile memory serves as temporary cache for the data before it is written to the disk. The server can acknowledge the write request as soon as the request is placed in the cache, since the cache is considered permanent storage (since it's memory-backed and it can survive reboots). Examples of host-based accelerators include the Sun StorEdge Fast Write Cache product from Sun Microsystems, Inc., and the Prestoserve board from Legato Systems, Inc. They both intercept the synchronous filesystem write operations to later flush the data to the disk drive; significantly improving synchronous filesystem write performance. Newer disk array systems provide similar benefits by placing the data written in the disk array's NVRAM before the data is written to the actual disk platters. In addition, disk arrays provide extra features that increase data availability through the use of mirroring and parity bits, and increased throughput through the use of striping. There are many good books describing the Berkeley RAID concepts. Refer to Brian Wong's Configuration and Capacity Planning for Solaris Servers book, published by Sun Microsystems Press, for a thorough description of disk array caching and Prestoserve boards in the Sun architecture.
RAID stands for Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks. Researchers at Berkeley defined different types of RAID configurations, where lots of small disks are used in place of a very large disk. The various configurations provide the means of combining disks to distribute data among many disks (striping), provide higher data availability (mirroring), and provide partial data loss recovery (with parity computation).
126.96.36.199. Disk load balancingIf you have one or more "hot" disks that receive an unequal share of requests, your NFS performance suffers. To keep requests in fairly even queues, you must balance your NFS load across your disks. Server response time is improved by balancing the load among all disks and minimizing the average waiting time for disk service. Disk balancing entails putting heavily used filesystems on separate disks so that requests for them may be serviced in parallel. This division of labor is particularly important for diskless client servers. If all clients have their root and swap filesystems on a single disk, requests using that disk may far outnumber those using any other on the server. Performance of each diskless client is degraded, as the single path to the target disk is a bottleneck. Dividing client partitions among several disks improves the overall throughput of the client root and swap filesystem requests. The average waiting time endured by each request is a function of the random disk transfer rate and of the backlog of requests for that disk. Use the iostat -D utility to check the utilization of each disk, and look for imbalance in the disk queues. The rps and wps values are the number of read and write operations, per second, performed on each disk device, and the util column shows the utilization of the disk's bandwidth:
If the disk queues are grossly uneven, consider shuffling data on the filesystems to spread the load across more disks. Most medium to large servers take advantage of their disk storage array volume managers to provide some flavor of RAID to stripe data among multiple disks. If all of your disks are more than 75-80% utilized, you are disk bound and either need faster disks, more disks, or an environment that makes fewer disk requests. Tuning kernel and client configurations usually helps to reduce the number of disk requests made by NFS clients.% iostat -D 5 md10 md11 md12 md13 rps wps util rps wps util rps wps util rps wps util 17 45 33.7 5 4 10.5 3 3 7.5 5 5 11.6 1 5 6.1 17 20 43.7 1 1 2.0 1 0 1.1 2 7 10.4 14 22 42.0 0 0 0.7 0 1 2.3
16.5.5. Kernel configurationA significant amount of NFS requests require only information in the underlying inode for a file, rather than access to the data blocks composing the file. A bottleneck can be introduced in the inode table, which serves as a cache for recently opened files. If file references from NFS clients frequently require reloading entries in the inode table, then the file server is forced to perform expensive linear searches through disk-based directory structures for the new file pathname requiring an inode table entry. Recently read directory entries are cached on the NFS server in the directory name lookup cache, better known as the DNLC. A sufficiently large cache speeds NFS lookup operations by eliminating the need to read directories from disk. Taking a directory cache miss is a fairly expensive operation, since the directory must be read from disk and searched linearly for the named component. For simplicity and storage, many implementations only cache pathnames under 30 characters long. Solaris removes this limitation by caching all pathnames regardless of their length. You can check your directory name lookup cache hit rate by running vmstat -s on your NFS server:
If you are hitting the cache less than 90% of the time, increase ncsize on the NFS server. The ncsize kernel tunable specifies the number of entries cached by the DNLC. In Solaris, every file currently opened holds an inode cache entry active, making the inode readily available without the need to access the disk. To improve performance, inodes for files recently opened are kept in this cache, anticipating that they may be accessed again in the not too distant future. Furthermore, inodes of files recently closed are maintained in an inactive inode cache, in anticipation that the same files may be reopened again soon. Since NFS does not define an open operation, NFS clients accessing files on the server will not hold the file open during access, causing the inodes for these files to only be cached in the inactive inode cache. This caching greatly improves future accesses by NFS clients, allowing them to benefit from the cached inode information instead of having to go to disk to satisfy the operation. The size of the inactive inode table is determined by the ufs_ninode kernel tunable and is set to the value of ncsize during boot. If you update ncsize during runtime, make sure to also update the value of ufs_ninode accordingly. The default value for ncsize is (maxusers * 68) + 360. Maxusers can be defined as the number of simultaneous users, plus some margin for daemons, and be set to about one user per megabyte of RAM in the system, with a default limit of 4096 in Solaris.% vmstat -s ...Page and swap info... 621833654 total name lookups (cache hits 96%) ...CPU info...
16.5.6. Cross-mounting filesystemsAn NFS client may find many of its processes in a high-priority wait state when an NFS server on which it relies stops responding for any reason. If two servers mount filesystems from each other, and the filesystems are hard-mounted, it is possible for processes on each server to wait on NFS responses from the other. To avoid a deadlock, in which processes on two NFS servers go to sleep waiting on each other, cross-mounting of servers should be avoided. This is particularly important in a network that uses hard-mounted NFS filesystems with fairly large timeout and retransmission count parameters, making it hard to interrupt the processes that are waiting on the NFS server. If filesystem access requires cross-mounted filesystem, they should be mounted with the background (bg) option. This ensures that servers will not go into a deadly embrace after a power failure or other reboot. During the boot process, a machine attempts to mount its NFS filesystems before it accepts any incoming NFS requests. If two file servers request each other's services, and boot at about the same time, it is likely that they will attempt to cross-mount their filesystems before either server is ready to provide NFS service. With the bg option, each NFS mount will time out and be put into the background. Eventually the servers will complete their boot processes, and when the network services are started the backgrounded mounts complete.
There are no adverse effects of using the background option, so you can use it for all your NFS-mounted filesystems.This deadlock problem goes away when your NFS clients use the automounter in place of hard-mounts. Most systems today heavily rely on the automounter to administer NFS mounts. Also note that the bg mount option is for use by the mount command only. It is not needed when the mounts are administered with the automounter.
16.5.7. Multihomed serversWhen a server exports NFS filesystems on more than one network interface, it may expend a measurable number of CPU cycles forwarding packets between interfaces. Consider host boris on four networks:
Hosts on network 188.8.131.52 are able to "see" boris because boris forwards packets from any one of its network interfaces to the other. Hosts on the 184.108.40.206 network may mount filesystems from either hostname:220.127.116.11 boris-bb4 18.104.22.168 boris-bb3 22.214.171.124 boris-bb2 126.96.36.199 boris-bb1 boris
Figure 16-2. A multihomed hostThe second form is preferable on network 188.8.131.52 because it does not require boris to forward packets to its other interface's input queue. Likewise, on network 184.108.40.206, the boris:/export/boris form is preferable. Even though the requests are going to the same physical machine, requests that are addressed to the "wrong" server must be forwarded, as shown in Figure 16-2. This adds to the IP protocol processing overhead. If the packet forwarding must be done for every NFS RPC request, then boris uses more CPU cycles to provide NFS service. Fortunately, the automounter handles this automatically. It is able to determine what addresses are local to its subnetwork and give strong preference to them. If the server reply is not received within a given timeout, the automounter will use an alternate server address, as explained in Section 9.5.1, "Replicated servers".
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