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Force BIND DNS Server to take full advantage of Dual Core Multiple Intel / AMD Cpu

One of my client runs dedicated NS1 and NS2 to host more than 3000+ domains. Recently they upgraded their servers to latest Dual Core Dual AMD server with CentOS 5.0 and BIND server.

By default BIND / named will try to determine the number of CPUs present and create one thread per CPU. If it is unable to determine the number of CPUs, a single worker thread will be created. However due to some reason the BIND server failed to automatically utilize all of the system's available CPUs. So how do you force DNS Server to take advantage of multiple CPUs under CentOS Linux?

After a little investigation, named man page pointed out me in right direction ~ -n #CPU option, which creates #cpus worker threads to take advantage of multiple CPUs.

Force BIND DNS Server to take advantage of multiple CPUs

In order to enable multiple CPU open /etc/sysconfig/named file under CentOS / RHEL / Fedora Linux:
# vi /etc/sysconfig/named
To force bind to take advantage of 4 CPUs, add / modify as follows:
OPTIONS="-n 4"
Save and close the file. Restart named service:
# /etc/init.d/named restart

A note about Debian / Ubuntu Linux user

If you are a Debian / Ubuntu Linux modify /etc/defaults/bind9 file:
$ sudo vi /etc/defaults/bind9
Append config line:
OPTIONS="-n 4"
Please note append -n 4 to the end of other options (if any), for example:
OPTIONS="-4 -6 -n 4"
Save and close the file. Restart BIND server:
$ sudo /etc/init.d/bind9 restart

More more information read named man page.

Linux Limiting or restricting SMP CPU activation in SMP mode

Q. I would like to restrict number of CPU activated for some software licensing issues under Linux kernel 2.6.xx.. How can I limit the number of CPUs activated in SMP mode?

A. Pass a special parameter called maxcpus to kernel. It specify maximum number of processors that an SMP Linux kernel should make use of. For example if you have four cpus and would like to use 2 CPU then pass 2 as a number to maxcpus.

This is useful to test different software performances and configurations. Some commercial software such as ERP software or Oracle are licenced per CPU. In such a case maxcpus is a life saver.

Edit your grub.conf file:
# vi grub.conf
Append parameter maxcpus at the end of Kernel line. A the end it should read as follows:
kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.13-Ora10g root=/dev/sda1 ro maxcpus=2
Save and close the file. Reboot system:
# reboot
Alternatively, you need to enter parameter at grub or lilo boot prompt. For example if you are using Grub as a boot loader, at Grub prompt press 'e' to edit command before booting.

  1. Select second line
  2. Again, press 'e' to edit selected command
  3. Select kernel line
  4. Append maxcpus=2 parameters.
  5. Press b to boot system

See also:

UPDATED for accuracy.

Linux Setting processor affinity for a certain task or process

When you are using SMP (Symmetric MultiProcessing) you might want to override the kernel's process scheduling and bind a certain process to a specific CPU(s).

But what is CPU affinity?

CPU affinity is nothing but a scheduler property that "bonds" a process to a given set of CPUs on the SMP system. The Linux scheduler will honor the given CPU affinity and the process will not run on any other CPUs. Note that the Linux scheduler also supports natural CPU affinity:

The scheduler attempts to keep processes on the same CPU as long as practical for performance reasons. Therefore, forcing a specific CPU affinity is useful only in certain applications. For example, application such as Oracle (ERP apps) use # of cpus per instance licensed. You can bound Oracle to specific CPU to avoid license problem. This is a really useful on large server having 4 or 8 CPUS

Setting processor affinity for a certain task or process using taskset command

taskset is used to set or retrieve the CPU affinity of a running process given its PID or to launch a new COMMAND with a given CPU affinity. However taskset is not installed by default. You need to install schedutils (Linux scheduler utilities) package.

Install schedutils

Debian Linux:
# apt-get install schedutils
Red Hat Enterprise Linux:
# up2date schedutils
# rpm -ivh schedutils*
Under latest version of Debian / Ubuntu Linux taskset is installed by default using util-linux package.

The CPU affinity is represented as a bitmask, with the lowest order bit corresponding to the first logical CPU and the highest order bit corresponding to the last logical CPU. For example:

  • 0x00000001 is processor #0 (1st processor)
  • 0x00000003 is processors #0 and #1
  • 0x00000004 is processors #2 (3rd processor)

To set the processor affinity of process 13545 to processor #0 (1st processor) type following command:
# taskset 0x00000001 -p 13545
If you find a bitmask hard to use, then you can specify a numerical list of processors instead of a bitmask using -c flag:
# taskset -c 1 -p 13545
# taskset -c 3,4 -p 13545


  • -p : Operate on an existing PID and not launch a new task (default is to launch a new task)

See also:

UPDATED for accuracy.

How do I Find Out Linux CPU Utilization?

Whenever a Linux system CPU is occupied by a process, it is unavailable for processing other requests. Rest of pending requests must wait till CPU is free. This becomes a bottleneck in the system. Following command will help you to identify CPU utilization, so that you can troubleshoot CPU related performance problems.

Finding CPU utilization is one of the important tasks. Linux comes with various utilities to report CPU utilization. With these commands, you will be able to find out:

* CPU utilization
* Display the utilization of each CPU individually (SMP cpu)
* Find out your system's average CPU utilization since the last reboot etc
* Determine which process is eating the CPU(s)

Old good top command to find out Linux cpu load

The top program provides a dynamic real-time view of a running system. It can display system summary information as well as a list of tasks currently being managed by the Linux kernel.
The top command monitors CPU utilization, process statistics, and memory utilization. The top section contains information related to overall system status - uptime, load average, process counts, CPU status, and utilization statistics for both memory and swap space.

Top command to find out Linux cpu usage

Type the top command:
$ top


You can see Linux CPU utilization under CPU stats. The task’s share of the elapsed CPU time since the last screen update, expressed as a percentage of total CPU time. In a true SMP environment (multiple CPUS), top will operate in number of CPUs. Please note that you need to type q key to exit the top command display.

The top command produces a frequently-updated list of processes. By default, the processes are ordered by percentage of CPU usage, with only the "top" CPU consumers shown. The top command shows how much processing power and memory are being used, as well as other information about the running processes.

Find Linux CPU utilization using mpstat and other tools

Please note that you need to install special package called sysstat to take advantage of following commands. This package includes system performance tools for Linux (Red Hat Linux / RHEL includes these tools by default).

# apt-get install sysstat
Use up2date command if you are using RHEL:
# up2date sysstat

Display the utilization of each CPU individually using mpstat

If you are using SMP (Multiple CPU) system, use mpstat command to display the utilization of each CPU individually. It report processors related statistics. For example, type command:
# mpstat Output:

Linux (debian)         Thursday 06 April 2006
05:13:05  IST  CPU   %user   %nice    %sys %iowait    %irq   %soft  %steal   %idle    intr/s
05:13:05  IST  all   16.52    0.00    2.87    1.09    0.07    0.02    0.00   79.42    830.06

The mpstat command display activities for each available processor, processor 0 being the first one. Global average activities among all processors are also reported. The mpstat command can be used both on SMP and UP machines, but in the latter, only global average activities will be printed.:
# mpstat -P ALL

Linux (wwwportal1.xxxx.co.in)         Thursday 06 April 2006
05:14:58  IST  CPU   %user   %nice    %sys %iowait    %irq   %soft  %steal   %idle    intr/s
05:14:58  IST  all   16.46    0.00    2.88    1.08    0.07    0.02    0.00   79.48    835.96
05:14:58  IST    0   16.46    0.00    2.88    1.08    0.07    0.02    0.00   79.48    835.96
05:14:58  IST    1   15.77    2.70    3.17    2.01    0.05    0.03    0.00   81.44    822.54

Another output from my HP Dual Opteron 64 bit server:# mpstat -P ALLOutput:

Linux 2.6.5-7.252-smp (ora9.xxx.in)   04/07/06
07:44:18     CPU   %user   %nice %system %iowait    %irq   %soft   %idle    intr/s
07:44:18     all    3.01   57.31    0.36    0.13    0.01    0.00   39.19   1063.46
07:44:18       0    5.87   69.47    0.44    0.05    0.01    0.01   24.16    262.11
07:44:18       1    1.79   48.59    0.36    0.23    0.00    0.00   49.02    268.92
07:44:18       2    2.19   42.63    0.28    0.16    0.01    0.00   54.73    260.96
07:44:18       3    2.17   68.56    0.34    0.06    0.03    0.00   28.83    271.47

Report CPU utilization using sar command

You can display today’s CPU activity, with sar command:
# sar

Linux 2.6.9-42.0.3.ELsmp (dellbox.xyz.co.in)         01/13/2007
12:00:02 AM       CPU     %user     %nice   %system   %iowait     %idle
12:10:01 AM       all      1.05      0.00      0.28      0.04     98.64
12:20:01 AM       all      0.74      0.00      0.34      0.38     98.54
12:30:02 AM       all      1.09      0.00      0.28      0.10     98.53
12:40:01 AM       all      0.76      0.00      0.21      0.03     99.00
12:50:01 AM       all      1.25      0.00      0.32      0.03     98.40
01:00:01 AM       all      0.80      0.00      0.24      0.03     98.92
04:40:01 AM       all      8.39      0.00     33.17      0.06     58.38
04:50:01 AM       all      8.68      0.00     37.51      0.04     53.78
05:00:01 AM       all      7.10      0.00     30.48      0.04     62.39
05:10:01 AM       all      8.78      0.00     37.74      0.03     53.44
05:20:02 AM       all      8.30      0.00     35.45      0.06     56.18
Average:          all      3.09      0.00      9.14      0.09     87.68

Comparison of CPU utilization

The sar command writes to standard output the contents of selected cumulative activity counters in the operating system. The accounting system, based on the values in the count and interval parameters. For example display comparison of CPU utilization; 2 seconds apart; 5 times, use:
# sar -u 2 5
Output (for each 2 seconds. 5 lines are displayed):

Linux 2.6.9-42.0.3.ELsmp (www1lab2.xyz.ac.in)         01/13/2007
05:33:24 AM       CPU     %user     %nice   %system   %iowait     %idle
05:33:26 AM       all      9.50      0.00     49.00      0.00     41.50
05:33:28 AM       all     16.79      0.00     74.69      0.00      8.52
05:33:30 AM       all     17.21      0.00     80.30      0.00      2.49
05:33:32 AM       all     16.75      0.00     81.00      0.00      2.25
05:33:34 AM       all     14.29      0.00     72.43      0.00     13.28
Average:          all     14.91      0.00     71.49      0.00     13.61


  • -u 12 5 : Report CPU utilization. The following values are displayed:
    • %user: Percentage of CPU utilization that occurred while executing at the user level (application).
    • %nice: Percentage of CPU utilization that occurred while executing at the user level with nice priority.
    • %system: Percentage of CPU utilization that occurred while executing at the system level (kernel).
    • %iowait: Percentage of time that the CPU or CPUs were idle during which the system had an outstanding disk I/O request.
    • %idle: Percentage of time that the CPU or CPUs were idle and the system did not have an outstanding disk I/O request.

To get multiple samples and multiple reports set an output file for the sar command. Run the sar command as a background process using.
# sar -o output.file 12 8 >/dev/null 2>&1 &
Better use nohup command so that you can logout and check back report later on:
# nohup sar -o output.file 12 8 >/dev/null 2>&1 &

All data is captured in binary form and saved to a file (data.file). The data can then be selectively displayed ith the sar command using the -f option.
# sar -f data.file

Task: Find out who is monopolizing or eating the CPUs

Finally, you need to determine which process is monopolizing or eating the CPUs. Following command will displays the top 10 CPU users on the Linux system.
# ps -eo pcpu,pid,user,args | sort -k 1 -r | head -10
# ps -eo pcpu,pid,user,args | sort -r -k1 | less

  96  2148 vivek    /usr/lib/vmware/bin/vmware-vmx -C /var/lib/vmware/Virtual Machines/Ubuntu 64-bit/Ubuntu 64-bit.vmx -@ ""
 0.7  3358 mysql    /usr/libexec/mysqld --defaults-file=/etc/my.cnf --basedir=/usr --datadir=/var/lib/mysql --user=mysql --pid-file=/var/run/mysqld/mysqld.pid --skip-locking --socket=/var/lib/mysql/mysql.sock
 0.4 29129 lighttpd /usr/bin/php
 0.4 29128 lighttpd /usr/bin/php
 0.4 29127 lighttpd /usr/bin/php
 0.4 29126 lighttpd /usr/bin/php
 0.2  2177 vivek    [vmware-rtc]
 0.0     9 root     [kacpid]
 0.0     8 root     [khelper]

Now you know vmware-vmx process is eating up lots of CPU power. ps command displays every process (-e) with a user-defined format (-o pcpu). First field is pcpu (cpu utilization). It is sorted in reverse order to display top 10 CPU eating process.

iostat command

You can also use iostat command which report Central Processing Unit (CPU) statistics and input/output statistics for devices and partitions. It can be use to find out your system's average CPU utilization since the last reboot.
# iostatOutput:

Linux (debian)         Thursday 06 April 2006
avg-cpu:  %user   %nice %system %iowait  %steal   %idle
     16.36    0.00    2.99    1.06    0.00   79.59
Device:            tps   Blk_read/s   Blk_wrtn/s   Blk_read   Blk_wrtn
hda               0.00         0.00         0.00         16          0
hdb               6.43        85.57       166.74     875340    1705664
hdc               0.03         0.16         0.00       1644          0
sda               0.00         0.00         0.00         24          0 

You may want to use following command, which gives you three outputs every 5 seconds (as previous command gives information since the last reboot):$ iostat -xtc 5 3

GUI tools for your laptops/desktops

Above tools/commands are quite useful on remote server. For local system with X GUI installed you can try out gnome-system-monitor. It allows you to view and control the processes running on your system. You can access detailed memory maps, send signals, and terminate the processes.
$ gnome-system-monitor

gnome-system-monitor - view and control the processes
(Click to enlarge image)

In addition, the gnome-system-monitor provides an overall view of the resource usage on your system, including memory and CPU allocation.

gnome-system-monitor - view and control the processes
(Click to enlarge image)

Further readings

  • For more information and command option please read man pages of top, iostat, mpstat, sar, ps commands.