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How do I find out Linux Disk utilization?

I've already written about finding out Linux / UNIX cpu utilization using various tools. You can use same iostat command to find out disk utilization and for monitoring system input/output device loading by observing the time the physical disks are active in relation to their average transfer rates.

iostat syntax for disk utilization report

iostat -d -x interval count

  • -d : Display the device utilization report (d == disk)
  • -x : Display extended statistics including disk utilization
  • interval : It is time period in seconds between two samples . iostat 2 will give data at each 2 seconds interval.
  • count : It is the number of times the data is needed . iostat 2 5 will give data at 2 seconds interval 5 times

Display 3 reports of extended statistics at 5 second intervals for disk

Type the following command:
$ iostat -d -x 5 3
Output:

Linux 2.6.18-53.1.4.el5 (moon.nixcraft.in)   12/17/2007
Device:         rrqm/s   wrqm/s   r/s   w/s   rsec/s   wsec/s avgrq-sz avgqu-sz   await  svctm  %util
sda               1.10    39.82  3.41 13.59   309.50   427.48    43.36     0.17   10.03   1.03   1.75
sdb               0.20    18.32  1.15  6.08   117.36   195.25    43.22     0.51   71.14   1.26   0.91
Device:         rrqm/s   wrqm/s   r/s   w/s   rsec/s   wsec/s avgrq-sz avgqu-sz   await  svctm  %util
sda               0.00   108.40  1.40 64.40    49.60  1382.40    21.76     0.04    0.67   0.44   2.92
sdb               0.00    37.80  0.00 245.20     0.00  2254.40     9.19    28.91  108.49   1.08  26.36
Device:         rrqm/s   wrqm/s   r/s   w/s   rsec/s   wsec/s avgrq-sz avgqu-sz   await  svctm  %util
sda               0.00    97.01  1.00 57.29    39.92  1234.33    21.86     0.03    0.58   0.50   2.89
sdb               0.00    38.32  0.00 288.42     0.00  2623.55     9.10    32.97  122.30   1.15  33.27

Where,

  • rrqm/s : The number of read requests merged per second that were queued to the hard disk
  • wrqm/s : The number of write requests merged per second that were queued to the hard disk
  • r/s : The number of read requests per second
  • w/s : The number of write requests per second
  • rsec/s : The number of sectors read from the hard disk per second
  • wsec/s : The number of sectors written to the hard disk per second
  • avgrq-sz : The average size (in sectors) of the requests that were issued to the device.
  • avgqu-sz : The average queue length of the requests that were issued to the device
  • await : The average time (in milliseconds) for I/O requests issued to the device to be served. This includes the time spent by the requests in queue and the time spent servicing them.
  • svctm : The average service time (in milliseconds) for I/O requests that were issued to the device
  • %util : Percentage of CPU time during which I/O requests were issued to the device (bandwidth utilization for the device). Device saturation occurs when this value is close to 100%.

How do I interpret the output result for optimization?

First you need to note down following values from the iostat output:

  1. The average service time (svctm)
  2. Percentage of CPU time during which I/O requests were issued (%util)
  3. See if a hard disk reports consistently high reads/writes (r/s and w/s)

If any one of these are high, you need to take one of the following action:

  • Get high speed disk and controller for file system (for example move from SATA I to SAS 15k disk)
  • Tune software or application or kernel or file system for better disk utilization
  • Use RAID array to spread the file system

For example, from about iostat report it appears that /dev/sdb under load. Hope this information will help you diagnose and optimize disk related issues.

Related: How to find out Linux CPU utilization using vmstat, iostat, mpstat and sar commands.

Please note that command and information discussed here almost applies to any other UNIX like variant.