Monday, June 13, 2011

False Contention

For the last few weeks, I've been buried in PostgreSQL performance analysis, mostly focusing on the workload generated by "pgbench -S" under high concurrency.  In other words, lots and lots of very simple SELECT statements on a single table.  Such workloads can generate serious internal contention within PostgreSQL on systems within many CPU cores.

But it's interesting to note that most of the contention points I've so far identified are what might be called "false contention".  The transactions generated by this workload need to perform operations such as:

- acquire an AccessShareLock on the target relation and its index to guard against a concurrent drop or schema change
- acquire an ExclusiveLock on their VXID in case another transaction wishes to wait for transaction end
- read the list of pending "invalidation" events, which are generally created by DDL
- read the list of in-progress XIDs, to generate a snapshot
- find the root index block for the table's primary key index in the shared buffer pool
- momentarily pin the block containing the root index page into the buffer pool, so that it can't be evicted while we're examining it
- momentarily lock the root index page, so that no new items can be added until we've decided which downlink to follow

Now, in fact, in this workload, there is no concurrent DDL against the relevant table and index, or any other one; no one is attempting to wait for the completion of any VXID; the list of in-progress XIDs can easily be simultaneously read by many backends; and the root index page is in no danger either of being modified or of being evicted.  In short, the problem is not that there are resource conflicts, but that verifying that no resource conflicts exist is itself eating up too many resources.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Reducing Lock Contention

In a recent blog post on Performance Optimization, I mentioned that Noah Misch and I had discussed some methods of reducing the overhead of frequent relation locks.  Every transaction that touches a given table or index locks it and, at commit time, unlocks it.  This adds up to a lot of locking and unlocking, which ends up being very significant on machines with many CPU cores.  I ended up spending a good chunk of last week hacking on this problem, with very promising results: I have a prototype patch that improves throughput on a SELECT-only pgbench test by about 3.5x on a system with 24 cores.  Not bad for a couple days work.