CPU governor performance

In this blog, we’ll examine how CPU governor performance affects MySQL.

It’s been a while since we looked into CPU governors and with the new Intel CPUs and new Linux distros, I wanted to check how CPU governors affect MySQL performance.

Before jumping to results, let’s review what drivers manage CPU frequency. Traditionally, the default driver was “acpi-cpufreq”, but for the recent Intel CPUs and new Linux kernel it was changed to “intel_pstate”.

To check what driver is being used, run the command cpupower frequency-info .

In this case, we can see that the driver is “acpi-cpufreq”, and the governor is “ondemand”.

On my server (running Ubuntu 16.04, running “Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E5-2683 v3 @ 2.00GHz” CPUs), I get following output by default settings:

So, it’s interesting to see that “intel_pstate” with the “performance” governor is chosen by default, and the CPU frequency range is 1.20GHz to 3.00GHz (even though the CPU specification is 2.ooGHz). If we check CPU specification page, it says that 2.00GHz is the “base frequency” and “3.00GHz” is the “Max Turbo” frequency.

In contrast to “intel_pstate”, “acpi-cpufreq” says “frequency should be within 1.20 GHz and 2.00 GHz.”

Also, “intel_pstate” only supports “performance” and “powersave” governors, while “acpi-cpufreq” has a wider range. For this blog, I only tested “ondemand” and “performance”.

Switching between CPU drivers is not easy, as it requires a server reboot — you need to pass a parameter to the kernel startup line. In Ubuntu, you can do this in /etc/default/grub by changing GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT to GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="intel_pstate=disable", which will disable intel_pstate and will load acpi-cpufreq.

Is there a real difference in performance between different CPU drivers and CPU governors? To check , I took a sysbench OLTP read-only workload over a 10Gb network, where the data fits into memory (so it is CPU-burning workload).

The results are as follows. This is a chart for absolute throughput:

CPU governor performance

And to better understand relative performance, here is a chart on how other governors perform compared to “intel-pstate” with the performance governor. In this case, I showed relative performance to “PSTATE performance”, which equals “1”. In the chart, the orange bar is “PSTATE powersave” and shows the relative difference between “PSTATE powersave” and “PSTATE performance” (=1):

CPU governor performance

Here are the takeaways I see:

  • The combination of CPU driver and CPU governors still affect performance
  • ACPI ondemand might be not the best choice to achieve the best throughput
  • Intel_pstate “powersave” is slower on a fewer number of threads (I guess the Linux scheduler assign execution to “sleeping” CPU cores)
  • Both ACPI and Intel_pstate “performance” governor shows the best (and practically identical) performance
  • My Ubuntu 16.04 starts with “intel_pstate” + “performance” governor by default, but you still may want to check what the settings are in your case (and change to “performance” if it is not set)

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Comments (5)

  • Peter (Stig) Edwards

    If the workload is bursty, so has times when CPUs are idle and brief periods when CPU demand is very high, then I would expect a greater performance difference (measured over the bursts of load and not the idle times) between a powersave or ondemand profile compared to a performance one, because more of the work would be performed while CPUs are at lower frequencies. Collecting the time spent in each state per CPU can provide insight into how CPU load (bursty workloads) influences CPU frequency for different CPU frequency policies.

    May 7, 2016 at 7:00 am
  • SuperQ

    The switching between low and high speed states is pretty fast these days.

    One thing that would have been nice to see in this article is measurements of server power use as the load ramps up. Also on the TPS graphs it would be nice to know how many cores were in use to produce the results.

    May 7, 2016 at 1:21 pm
    • Vadim Tkachenko

      Do you know how to measure power use?

      May 9, 2016 at 5:57 pm
      • Peter (Stig) Edwards

        sysstat can be used to record instantaneous CPU clock frequency:

        INTERVAL=1 COUNT=10 /usr/lib64/sa/sadc -S POWER $INTERVAL $COUNT sa.out
        /usr/bin/sar -f sa.out -m CPU -P ALL

        12:20:42 PM CPU MHz
        12:20:43 PM all 2388.70
        12:20:43 PM 0 1903.02
        12:20:43 PM 1 1331.34
        12:20:43 PM 2 3300.78
        12:20:43 PM 3 1249.02

        and then report it in a format that can easily be ingested by a relational database system:

        > /usr/bin/sadf -d -P ALL sadc.out — -m CPU | head
        # hostname;interval;timestamp;CPU;MHz
        deva01;1;2016-05-10 16:20:43 UTC;-1;2388.70
        deva01;1;2016-05-10 16:20:43 UTC;0;1903.02
        deva01;1;2016-05-10 16:20:43 UTC;1;1331.34
        deva01;1;2016-05-10 16:20:43 UTC;2;3300.78
        deva01;1;2016-05-10 16:20:43 UTC;3;1249.02

        turbostat (when run as root) will report processor frequency, idle power-state statistics, temperature and power on modern X86 processors.

        PkgWatt Watts consumed by the whole package.
        RAMWatt Watts consumed by the DRAM DIMMS — available only on server processors.

        > turbostat -i 1
        Package Core CPU Avg_MHz %Busy Bzy_MHz TSC_MHz SMI CPU%c1 CPU%c3 CPU%c6 CPU%c7 CoreTmp PkgTmp Pkg%pc2 Pkg%pc3 Pkg%pc6 Pkg%pc7 PkgWatt RAMWatt PKG_% RAM_%
        – – – 1 0.03 2389 2500 0 0.09 0.72 99.15 0.00 38 44 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 76.08 63.66 0.00 0.00
        0 0 0 2 0.08 2275 2500 0 0.08 0.00 99.83 0.00 33 40 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 39.57 31.89 0.00 0.00
        0 0 24 0 0.01 2473 2500 0 0.15
        0 1 2 0 0.01 2594 2500 0 0.04 0.00 99.95 0.00 35
        0 1 26 0 0.01 2001 2500 0 0.04
        0 2 4 0 0.02 2416 2500 0 0.03 0.00 99.95 0.00 32

        Also see powertop, i7z.

        May 10, 2016 at 1:10 pm
  • Arup Roy Chowdhury

    Apart from benchmarks, the Intel Pstate is sensitive to config Hz= 300 issue thats done in Arch kernel, its less affected with 200 and 1000 which is default in other distros like Ubuntu and Fedora. As per my experiments, intel_pstate generates more heat and power consumption on certain CPUs like Haswell Refresh than cpu-freq. This issue is less in older Sandybridge.

    May 23, 2016 at 11:09 pm

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