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Virtual SLES11SP1 shows bad IO performance when accessing raw disks

This document (7009616) is provided subject to the disclaimer at the end of this document.

Environment

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 Service Pack 1
VMware ESX Server 4.1
Iometer


Situation

Attaching raw disks on a SLES 11 SP1 guest running on VMware ESX 4.1 and measuring throughput using Iometer (32 Outstanding I/Os, 8K blocks)  performance shows

Random Read: 150 IOps
Random Write: 1800 IOps
Seq. Read: 2000 IOps

compared to a Windows VM with

Random Read: 6000 IOps
Random Write: 7000 IOps


Resolution

The kernel uses by default the IO scheduler cfq which performs IO optimization primarily designated for locally attached disks. When using a disk from a storage system, these optimizations are redundant, since the storage does i/o optimizations itself. The usage of the cfq scheduler on storage disks can affect i/o performance and will create unnecessary overhead on the server. This symptom may not be specific to VMware but could also be seen on any other Hypervisor such as Hyper-V, XEN or KVM. 
To address this behavior, edit /boot/grub/menu.lst and set elevator=noop. This will turn the the IO optimization inside off and the virtual machines IO is basically a FIFO (first in, first out) to the underlying system. All IO optimization with this setting will be done on the storage system.

Example of /boot/grub/menu.lst:

###Don't change this comment - YaST2 identifier: Original name: linux###
title SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP1 - 2.6.32.46-0.3
    root (hd0,1)
    kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.32.46-0.3-pae root=/dev/system/root resume=/dev/sysem/swap splash=verbose showopts elevator=noop
    initrd /boot/initrd-2.6.32.46-0.3-pae

Instead of rebooting a system to apply this change, it is possible to apply the new IO scheduler to a single device to check whether this has an effect on performance. Execute as root:

echo SCHEDNAME > /sys/block/DEV/queue/scheduler

replace SCHEDNAME with the scheduler name and DEV with the device the scheduler should be used on.

In addition, append the elevator=noop option to the DEFAULT_APPEND variable in /etc/sysconfig/bootloader. This will make sure the option gets added if a new kernel gets installed.

Additional Information

For more information see:

/usr/src/linux/Documentation/kernel-parameters.txt
/usr/src/linux/Documentation/block/switching-sched.txt
/usr/src/linux/Documentation/block/as-iosched.txt
/usr/src/linux/Documentation/block/deadline-iosched.txt

This files are provided by the kernel-source RPM which is available on the installation media or via regular SLES online update repositories.

Disclaimer

This Support Knowledgebase provides a valuable tool for NetIQ/Novell/SUSE customers and parties interested in our products and solutions to acquire information, ideas and learn from one another. Materials are provided for informational, personal or non-commercial use within your organization and are presented "AS IS" WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND.

  • Document ID:7009616
  • Creation Date:24-OCT-11
  • Modified Date:16-FEB-15
    • SUSESUSE Linux Enterprise Server
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