Every so often people ask me the question how should they estimate memory consumption by MySQL Server in given configuration. What is the formula they could use.
The reasons to worry about memory usage are quite understandable. If you configure MySQL Server so it uses too small amount of memory it will likey perform suboptimally. If you however configure it so it consumes too much memory it may be crashing , failing to execute queries or make operation to swap seriously slowing down. On now legacy 32bit platforms you could also run out of address space so that had to be watched as well.
Having said so, I do not think looking for the secret fomula to compute your possible memory usage is the right approach to this problem. The reasons are – this formula is very complex nowadays and what is even more important “theoretically possible” maximum it provides have nothing to do with real memory consumptions. In fact typical server with 8GB of memory will often run with maximum theoretical memory usage of 100GB or more. Furthermore there is no easy “overcommit factor” you can use – it really depends on application and configuration. Some applications will drive server to 10% of theoretical memory consumptions others only to 1%.
So what could you do instead ? First take a look at global buffers which are allocated at start and always where – these are key_buffer_size, innodb_buffer_pool_size, innodb_additional_memory_pool_size, innodb_log_buffer_size, query_cache_size. If you’re using MyISAM seriously you can also add the size of Operation System cache you would like MySQL to use for your table. Take this number add to it number of memory Operation System and other applications need, add might be 32MB more for MySQL Server code and various small static buffers. This is memory which you can consider used when you just start MySQL Server. The rest of memory is available for connections. For exampe with 8GB server you might have everything listed adding up to 6GB, so you have 2GB left for your threads.
Each thread connecting to MySQL server will needs its own buffers. About 256K is allocated at once even if thread is idle – they are used by default thread stack, net buffer etc. If transaction is started some more space can add up. Running small queries might only barely increase memory consumption for given thread, however if table will perform complex operations such as full table scans, sorts, or need temporary tables as much as read_buffer_size, sort_buffer_size, read_rnd_buffer_size, tmp_table_size of memory might be allocated. But they are only allocated upon the need and freed once given stage of query is done. Some of them are allocated as single chunk at once others, for example tmp_table_size is rather maximum amount of memory MySQL will allocate for this operation. Note it is more complicated than once may think – multiple buffers of the same type might be allocated for exampe to handle subqueries. For some special queries memory usage might be even larger – bulk inserts may allocate bulk_insert_buffer_size bytes of memory if done to MyISAM tables. myisam_sort_buffer_size used for ALTER TABLE, OPTIMIZE TABLE, REPAIR TABLE commands.
For OLTP applications with simple queries memory consumption is often less than 1MB per thread with default buffers, and you really do not need to increase per thread buffers unless you have complex queries. Sorting 10 rows will be as fast with 1MB sort buffer as with 16MB (actually 16MB might be even slower but it is other story).
Another approach you may take is to come up with amount of memory you want MySQL Server to consume at peak. This can be easily computed by memory needed for OS, File Cache and other applications. For 32bit envinronment you also should keep 32bit limits into account and probably limit “mysqld” size to about 2.5GB (exact number depens on a lot of factors). Now you can use “ps aux” to see VSZ – Virtual Memory allocated by MySQL process. You can also look at “Resident Memory” but I find it less helpful as it may down because of swapping – not what you would like to see. Monitor how the value changes so you know memory requirements with current settings and increase/decrease values appropriately.
Some may say, Hey we want to have 100% guarantee our server will never run out of memory, no matter which queries or users will decide to run. Unfortunately this is as much close to impossible to be impractical. Here is why:
List of rarely considered MySQL Server Memory Requirements
I do not pretend this to be complete list. On the contrary I’m quite sure I’ve missed something (drop me a note if you have something to add). But the main point is – there are a lot of memory consumers out where and trying to find peak possible usage for each is impractical – so my advice would be measure what you get in practice and how memory consumption reacts to changing various variables. For example you may find out increasing sort_buffer_size from 1MB to 4MB and 1000 max_connections increases peak memory consumption just 30MB not 3000MB as you might have counted.