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High performance computing

Download of the day: Vmware 2.0 Virtualization Solutions Beta Software

VMware Server (formerly GSX Server) is an entry-level server virtualization solution which is proprietary, freeware software. VMware released version 2.0 beta of Server on July 1, 2008. VMware Server offers virtualization benefits such as:

+ You can create, edit, and play virtual machines.
+ Install any guest operating system for testing purpose.
+ Improve security.
+ Reduce downtime.
+ Control guest oses and VMware server from browser itself.
+ Improve resource utilization i.e. resource virtualization etc.

It uses a client-server model, allowing remote access to virtual machines.

Download VMware Server 2.0 Release Candidate 1

Please note that to use this version, you will need to register for your free serial number(s).

How do I install vmware?

Once downloaded simply use rpm command to install VMware software under CentOS / RHEL 5.x:
# rpm -ivh VMware-server-2.0.0-101586.x86_64.rpm
Before running VMware Server for the first time, you need to configure it for your running kernel by invoking the following command:
# /usr/bin/vmware-config.pl

How do I access and control my guest operating systems?

Fire a webbrowser and type the following url:

(Fig.01: Vmware server web login)
Once logged in you can see all your virtual machines and you can start / stop VPS oses:

(Fig.02: "VMWare Infrastructure Web Access" provides appliance like control [click to enlarge])
You need to install Firefox add-on called "VMware Remote Console Plugin", once installed you can install any os or view guest / vps oses console:

(Fig.03: FreeBSD remote console within my Firefox [click to enlarge])

Red Hat / CentOS Linux 4: Setup Device Mapper Multipathing

Multipath I/O is a fault-tolerance and performance enhancement technique whereby there is more than one physical path between the CPU in a computer system and its mass storage devices through the buses, controllers, switches, and bridge devices connecting them.

A simple example would be a SCSI disk connected to two SCSI controllers on the same computer or a disk connected to two Fibre Channel ports. Should one controller, port or switch fail, the operating system can route I/O through the remaining controller transparently to the application, with no changes visible to the applications, other than perhaps incremental latency.

This is useful for:

  1. Dynamic load balancing
  2. Traffic shaping
  3. Automatic path management
  4. Dynamic reconfiguration

Linux device-mapper

In the Linux kernel, the device-mapper serves as a generic framework to map one block device onto another. It forms the foundation of LVM2 and EVMS, software RAIDs, dm-crypt disk encryption, and offers additional features such as file-system snapshots.

Device-mapper works by processing data passed in from a virtual block device, that it itself provides, and then passing the resultant data on to another block device.

How do I setup device-mapper multipathing in CentOS / RHEL 4 update 2 or above?

Open /etc/multipath.conf file, enter:
# vi /etc/multipath.conf
Make sure following line exists and commented out:

devnode_blacklist {
        devnode "*"

Make sure default_path_grouping_policy option in the defaults section set to failover. Here is my sample config:

defaults {
       multipath_tool  "/sbin/multipath -v0"
       udev_dir        /dev
       polling_interval 10
       default_selector        "round-robin 0"
       default_path_grouping_policy    failover
       default_getuid_callout  "/sbin/scsi_id -g -u -s /block/%n"
       default_prio_callout    "/bin/true"
       default_features        "0"
       rr_min_io              100
       failback                immediate

Save and close the file. Type the following command to load drivers:
# modprobe dm-multipath
# modprobe dm-round-robin

Start the service, enter:
# /etc/init.dmultipathd start
multipath is used to detect multiple paths to devices for fail-over or performance reasons and coalesces them:
# multipath -v2
Turn on service:
# /sbin/chkconfig multipathd on
Finally, create device maps from partition tables:
# kpartx -a /dev/mapper/mpath#
You need to use fdisk on the underlying disks such as /dev/sdc.


  • man page kpartx,multipath, udev, dmsetup and hotplug

How To Measure Linux Filesystem I/O Performance With iozone

Following are few situations where you may be interested in performing a filesystem benchmarking.

=> Deploying a new application that is very read and write intensive.
=> Purchased a new storage system and would like to measure the performance.
=> Changing the RAID level and would like to measure the performance of the new RAID.
=> Changing the storage parameters and would like to know the performance impact of this change

This article gives you a jumpstart on performing benchmark on filesystem using iozone a free Filesystem Benchmark utility.

1. Download and Install iozone software

Go to iozone and download the iozone for your appropriate platform. I downloaded the "Linux i386 RPM". Install the iozone from the RPM as shown below. By default this installs the iozone under /opt/iozone/bin
# cd /tmp
# wget http://www.iozone.org/src/current/iozone-3-303.i386.rpm
# rpm -ivh iozone-3-303.i386.rpm

Sample output:

Preparing...                ########################################### [100%]
   1:iozone                 ########################################### [100%]

Note: You can install iozone under any UNIX / Linux or Windows operating system.

2. Start the performance test

Execute the following command in the background to begin the performance test.

# /opt/iozone/bin/iozone -R -l 5 -u 5 -r 4k -s 100m -F /home/f1 /home/f2 /home/f3 /home/f4 /home/f5 | tee -a /tmp/iozone_results.txt &

Let us review all the individual parameter passed to iozone command.

  • -R : Instructs the iozone to generate excel compatible text output.
  • -l : This is the lower limit on how many process/threads needs to be started by iozone during execution. In this example, iozone will start 5 threads.
  • -u : This is the upper limit on how many process/threads needs to be started by iozone during execution. In this example, iozone will not exceed maximum of 5 threads. If you set -l and -u to the same value, it will run exactly those many number of process/threads. In this example, this will execute exactly 5 threads.
  • -r : This specifies the record size. In this example, the record size for benchmark testing is 4k. This is an important parameter to be set appropriately depending on the purpose of your filesystem performance testing. For e.g. If you are performing benchmark on a filesystem that will host a database, it is appropriate to set this value to the DB block size of the database.
  • -s : This specifies the size of the file that needs to be tested. In this example, iozone will try to perform test on 100Mb file.
  • -F : Specify the temporary filename that should be used by the iozone during testing. The total number of files specified here should match the value specified in -l and -u parameter.

3. Analyze the output of iozone file.

The first part of the output will contain the details about every individual filesystem performance metrics that was tested. for e.g. Initial write, rewrite etc as shown below.

        Iozone: Performance Test of File I/O
                Version $Revision: 3.303 $
                Compiled for 32 bit mode.
                Build: linux
        Contributors:William Norcott, Don Capps, Isom Crawford, Kirby Collins
                     Al Slater, Scott Rhine, Mike Wisner, Ken Goss
                     Steve Landherr, Brad Smith, Mark Kelly, Dr. Alain CYR,
                     Randy Dunlap, Mark Montague, Dan Million,
                     Jean-Marc Zucconi, Jeff Blomberg, Benny Halevy,
                     Erik Habbinga, Kris Strecker, Walter Wong, Joshua Root.
        Run began: Thu Jun  22 00:08:51 2008
        Excel chart generation enabled
        Record Size 4 KB
        File size set to 102400 KB
        Command line used: /opt/iozone/bin/iozone -R -l 5 -u 5 -r  4k -s 100m -F /home/f1 /home/f2 /home/f3 /home/f4 /home/f5
        Output is in Kbytes/sec
        Time Resolution = 0.000001 seconds.
        Processor cache size set to 1024 Kbytes.
        Processor cache line size set to 32 bytes.
        File stride size set to 17 * record size.
        Min process = 5
        Max process = 5
        Throughput test with 5 processes
        Each process writes a 102400 Kbyte file in 4 Kbyte records
        Children see throughput for  2 initial writers  =   60172.28 KB/sec
        Parent sees throughput for  2 initial writers   =   45902.89 KB/sec
        Min throughput per process                        =   28564.52 KB/sec
        Max throughput per process                      =   31607.76 KB/sec
        Avg throughput per process                      =   30086.14 KB/sec
        Min xfer                                                  =   92540.00 KB
        Children see throughput for  2 rewriters        =   78658.92 KB/sec
        Parent sees throughput for  2 rewriters         =   34277.52 KB/sec
        Min throughput per process                      =   35743.92 KB/sec
        Max throughput per process                      =   42915.00 KB/sec
        Avg throughput per process                      =   39329.46 KB/sec
        Min xfer                                        =   85296.00 KB

Similar values like above will be generated for readers, re-readers, reverse readers, stride readers, random readers, mixed workload, random writers, pwrite writers, pread readers. The last part of the iozone output will contain the Throughput summary for different metrics as shown below.

Throughput report Y-axis is type of test X-axis is number of processes
Record size = 4 Kbytes
Output is in Kbytes/sec
Initial write       60172.28
Rewrite           78658.92
Read              2125613.88
Re-read          1754367.31
Reverse Read 1603521.50
Stride read      1633166.38
Random read   1583648.75
Mixed workload 1171437.78
Random write    5365.59
Pwrite               26847.44
Pread               2054149.00

(Fig.01: iozone in action)

Iozone does a benchmarking on different types of file system performance metrics. for e.g. Read, Write, Random read. Depending on the application that you are planning to deploy on that particular filesystem, pay attention to the appropriate items. for e.g. If the filesystem hosts an read intensive OLTP database, then pay attention to Random Read, Random write and Mixed workload. If the application does lot of streaming media content, pay attention to the Sequential Read. On a final note, you can generate graphs using the Generate_Graphs and gengnuplot.sh located under /opt/iozone/bin, based on the iozone output.


  • Iozone PDF documentation – Full documentation from iozone.org explaining all the iozone command line options and more.
  • Linux Iozone graph example - This is a sample *.xls file from iozone that shows the kind of excel output that can be generated from iozone.

HP Releases Tru64 UNIX Advanced File System ( AdvFS ) Source Code

Good news and great contribution from HP. You can study all those advanced features for academic project.

AdvFS is a file system that was developed by Digital Equipment Corp and continues to be part of HP's
Tru64 operating system. It offers many advanced features. Continuing its efforts to advance customer adoption of Linux, HP today announced the contribution of its Tru64 UNIX Advanced File System (AdvFS) source code to the open source community. The code on this site is licensed under the GPLv2 to be compatible with the Linux kernel.

The AdvFS source code includes capabilities that increase uptime, enhance security and help ensure maximum performance of Linux file systems. HP will contribute the code as a reference implementation of an enterprise Linux file system under the terms of General Public License Version 2 for compatibility with the Linux kernel, as well as provide design documentation, test suites and engineering resources.

Now the million dollar question - Is there any reason to pick AdvFS fs over any of the other 20+ file systems such as XFS/ext2/ext3 under Linux?

Linux udev tip: Assign Static SCSI Device Name

So how do you assign static names for SCSI device using udev under Linux? Simply use the scsi_id and other udev tools such as :

[a] scsi_id - retrieve and generate a unique SCSI identifier.
[b] udev_start - script to initialize /dev by using udev
[c] udevtest - simulate a udev run and print the action to the console.

What the hell is udev?

udev is the device manager for the Linux 2.6 kernel series. Its primary function is managing device nodes in /dev. Old UNIX system creates device in the /dev with static files. udev dynamically provides only the nodes for the devices actually present on a system.

Note following configuration is only tested on Gentoo / RHEL 5.x / CentOS 5.x Linux server systems but it should work with other distros with udev support.

Step # 1: Get WWID of the SCSI device

To get the WWID of /dev/sdd, type:
# scsi_id -g -u -s /block/sdd

  • -g : Treat the device as white listed
  • -u : Reformat the output
  • -s /bock/sdd : Generate an id for the /block/sdd (/dev/sdd). The mount point must not be included. For example, use /block/sdd, not /sys/block/sdd.

Step # 2: Create /etc/udev/rules.d/25-names.rules file

Open /etc/udev/rules.d/25-names.rules and append following text (replace WWID with actual id obtained from above command):

KERNEL=="sd*", BUS=="scsi", PROGRAM=="/sbin/scsi_id -g -u -s %p", RESULT=="WWID", SYMLINK+="scsiharddisk%n"

Above rule will create /dev/scsiharddisk (a symlink - select any other meaningful name as per your proecjet ) for the SCSI device with a given WWID. Please note that partitions on this device will be assigned the device names like /dev/scsiharddisk1, /dev/scsiharddisk2 and so on. Next, verify that everything is correct order, enter:
# udevtest
Start initialize /dev for new devices:
# start_udev
Verify symbolic links are created, enter:
# ls -l /dev/scsiharddisk*

Read the man pages for more information:
man scsi_id
man udevtest
man 7 udev

Linux Data Center Power Consumption Less Than Windows

According to new independent tests Red Hat Linux pulls as much as 12% less power than Windows 2008 on identical hardware. It means Linux is better for reducing data center power consumption or electrical power consumption. From the report:

Our tests point to Linux as the winner of the green flag by margins that topped out at 12%. We ran multiple power consumption tests using Windows Server 2008 Enterprise Edition, Red Hat's Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5.1 and SUSE Enterprise Linux 10 SP1 on four, popular 1U server machines, one each from Dell and IBM and two from HP. The results showed that while Windows Server 2008 drew slightly less power in a few test cases when it had its maximum power saving settings turned on, it was RHEL that did the best job of keeping the power draw in check across the board.

Read full research report about computer power consumption online:

Now the million dollar question, how important is green computing / green computers to you? Would you make switch to save the power?

Amazon.com – Http/1.1 Service Unavailable – Down?

I was just looking to order few books and I got

Http/1.1 Service Unavailable

Anyone else finding Amazon unavailable? If anything can go wrong, it will. I'm sure they are losing big money every minute they are down.