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  • Writer's picturekyle Hailey

Envisioning NFS performance

What happens with I/O requests over NFS and more specifically with Oracle? How does NFS affect performance and what things can be done to improve performance?

I hardly consider myself and expert on the subject, but I have yet to find a good clear  targeted description of NFS and especially NFS with Oracle on the net. My lack of knowledge could be a good thing and bad thing. A bad thing because I don’t have all the answers but a good thing because I’ll talk more to the average guy and  make less assumptions. At least that’s the goal.

This blog is intended as the start of a  number of blogs entries on NFS.

What happens at the TCP layer when I request with dd an 8K chunk of data off an NFS mounted file system?

Here is one example:

I do a

dd if=/dev/zero of=foo bs=8k count=1

where my output file is on an NFS mount, I see the TCP send and receives from NFS server to client as:

(the code is in dtrace and runs on the server side, see tcp.d for the code)


There is a lot of activity in this simple request for 8K. What is all the communication? Frankly at this point, I’m not sure. I haven’t looked at the contents of the packets but I’d guess some of it has to do with getting file attributes. Maybe we’ll go into those details in future postings.

For now what I’m interested in is throughput and latency and for the latency, figuring out where the time is being spent.

I most interested in latency. I’m interested in what happens to a query’s response time when it reads I/O off of NFS as opposed to the same disks without NFS. Most NFS blogs seem to address throughput.

Before we jump into the actually network stack and OS operations latencies, let’s look at the physics of  the data transfer.

If we are on a 1Ge we can do about 122MB/s, thus

122 MB/s 122 KB/ms 12 KB per  0.1ms  (ie 100us)

12 us  ( 0.012ms) to transfer a 1500 byte network packet (ie MTU or maximum transfer unit)

a 1500 byte transfer has IP framing and only transfers 1448 bytes of actual data

so an 8K block from Oracle will take 5.7 packets which rounds off to 6 packets

Each packet takes 12us, so 6 packets for 8K takes 76us (interesting  to note this part of the transfer goes down to 7.6us on 10Ge – if all worked perfectly )

Now a well tuned 8K transfer takes about 350us (from testing, more on this later) , so where is the other ~ 274 us come from?

Well if I look at the above diagram, the total transfer time takes 4776 us ( or 4.7ms) from start to finish, but this transfer does a lot of set up.

The actual 8K transfer (5 x 1448 byte packets plus the 1088 byte packet ) takes 780 us or about twice as long as optimal.

Where is the time being spent?

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