memory pages

Applications that perform a lot of memory accesses (several GBs) may obtain performance improvements by using large pages due to reduced Translation Lookaside Buffer (TLB) misses. HugeTLBfs is memory management feature offered in Linux kernel, which is valuable for applications that use a large virtual address space. It is especially useful for database applications such as MySQL, Oracle and others. Other server software(s) that uses the prefork or similar (e.g. Apache web server) model will also benefit.

The CPU’s Translation Lookaside Buffer (TLB) is a small cache used for storing virtual-to-physical mapping information. By using the TLB, a translation can be performed without referencing the in-memory page table entry that maps the virtual address. However, to keep translations as fast as possible, the TLB is usually small. It is not uncommon for large memory applications to exceed the mapping capacity of the TLB. Users can use the huge page support in Linux kernel by either using the mmap system call or standard SYSv shared memory system calls (shmget, shmat).

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Linux and other Unix-like operating systems use the term “swap” to describe both the act of moving memory pages between RAM and disk, and the region of a disk the pages are stored on. It is common to use a whole partition of a hard disk for swapping. However, with the 2.6 Linux kernel, swap files are just as fast as swap partitions. Now, many admins (both Windows and Linux/UNIX) follow an old rule of thumb that your swap partition should be twice the size of your main system RAM. Let us say I’ve 32GB RAM, should I set swap space to 64 GB? Is 64 GB of swap space really required? How big should your Linux / UNIX swap space be?

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