Autotuning Directory Server as a Default


Out of the box, Directory Server is not optimally tuned for a system. There are many instances of downstream products that integrate with DS that are not performing any tuning at all. As well, many admins are time pressed, and can’t invest the hours and time needed to optimally create the dbcachesize numbers that yield perfect search times. Some admins from other product backgrounds may not even know that you need to configure these settings at all to make Directory Server performant.

Right now it’s even worse, as out of the box we only configure the following:

nsslapd-dbcachesize: 10000000
# Backend
nsslapd-cachememsize: 10485760
nsslapd-cachesize: -1
nsslapd-dncachememsize: 10485760
# Threads
nsslapd-threadnumber: 30

Provided my maths is correct, out of the box we configure 10MB of dbcachesize, 10MB of cachememsize, 10MB of dncachesize and 30 threads. This is insanely small for a production workload, and means we probably have high rates of eviction which can be observed in cn=monitor on the ldbm database.

Our goal should be that out of the box, we provide the fastest Directory Server we possibly can, without sacrificing stability or reliability. We have to assume that the majority of our users and consumers will never tune their server, and their perceptions of our product depend on the defaults we ship. So how can we achieve this?

Out of the box today

So lets assume we have a system with 10,000 entries, and we are going to do some load testing to search and bind those entries.

/opt/dirsrv/bin/ldclt -h localhost -p 389 -n 30 -N 10 -D "uid=testXXXX,dc=example,dc=com" -w passwordXXXX -e "randombinddn,randombinddnlow=0001,randombinddnhigh=9999" -e bindeach,esearch -f '(uid=testXXXX)'
10k -- ldclt[12306]: Global average rate: 2760.47/thr  (828.14/sec), total:  82814

Let’s have a look at our monitor:

dn: cn=monitor,cn=userRoot,cn=ldbm database,cn=plugins,cn=config
entrycachehitratio: 66

We want this to be above 95%, perhaps even 99% if we can.

It’s also not unreasonable to imagine sites with many more objects than this. Given the db that was created is only 9.9M, for a site with 100,000 entries, 99M would be a reasonable estimation of this size, if not more.

Lets show this with 100k users:

/opt/dirsrv/bin/ldclt -h localhost -p 389 -n 30 -N 10 -D "uid=testXXXXXXX,dc=example,dc=com" -w passwordXXXXXXX -e "randombinddn,randombinddnlow=0000001,randombinddnhigh=0100000" -e bindeach,esearch -f '(uid=testXXXXXXX)'
100k -- ldclt[12956]: Global average rate: 2654.23/thr  (796.27/sec), total:  79627
entrycachehitratio: 60

Initially Slightly Larger Defaults

Let’s try increasing some of our numbers for memory:

nsslapd-dbcachesize: 134217728
nsslapd-cachememsize: 134217728
nsslapd-dncachememsize: 33554432

In summary, 10Mb -> 128Mb of dbcache and entry cache, and 10Mb of dncache to 32Mb. We run the same loadtest:

10k -- ldclt[12425]: Global average rate: 2856.27/thr  (856.88/sec), total:  85688

That’s an improvement! Lets have a look at the cachehitratios:

dn: cn=monitor,cn=userRoot,cn=ldbm database,cn=plugins,cn=config
entrycachehitratio: 94

So over a long term, this higher entry cache hit ratio will serve us better, and will tend more towards 99%. Even if our database was much, much larger, we still have increased our entry cache and db cache by 12x out of the box, so this will help improve long term performance of common entries.

If our dataset was larger (say 100,000 entries) this would have a larger effect over time as the entries would not be evicted: Remember, for 100,000 entries, that’s a 99M database, so we could now cache more of it!

100k -- ldclt[13070]: Global average rate: 2717.70/thr  (815.31/sec), total:  81531
entrycachehitratio: 66

The 66 is still an improvement over 60: But the issue is the way the testing is done, it’s random, and we only hit ~80,000 entries, so they are all likely to be unique. The benefit to the larger cache is in the long term running of the server, we won’t need to evict as many entries, so the hit rate will be far better. As well, this dataset may only be 99M, but when you put those into the entry cache they fill it. Even 128Mb is too small! We probably need at least ~512Mb to comfortably fit this dataset.

currententrycachesize: 134213292
maxentrycachesize: 134217728
currententrycachecount: 24236

Here, with 100k entries we are still having to evict entries, but we have at least 1/4th of the DB in cache (compared to previously). With the 100k test, if we ran this a few times we would see the cache hit rate degrade with the lower out of box memory values. Heres the output after a number of test runs:

100k -- # Using the "out of box tuning"
entrycachehitratio: 60
currententrycachesize: 10485742
maxentrycachesize: 10485760
currententrycachecount: 1894

For an example, lets take an average install of FreeIPA. Say we have 1000 users. This means each each user has a private group, there will be other groups, sudo rules and more. Suddenly, we are starting to push past 2500 entries already. With our 10Mb tuning we could only fit 1894 entries in the cache (and those were small users, IPA makes HUGE entries …). Just by increasing the cache to 128Mb, we are likely to be able to store the whole IPA installations entries in the cache, which will improve performance.

So my first proposal is that we change the default number from 10Mb of dbcache and entrycache to 128Mb. It’s still not a lot, but it’s an improvement already.

Design for Automatic Thread Tuning

Something else that isn’t considered is that more threads is not always better. In this case, more threads may be increasing contention, which is decreasing the overall performance. So we lower the threadnumber to something more appropriate for this system (dual core i7).

nsslapd-threadnumber: 8 We re-run our test:

10k -- ldclt[12529]: Global average rate: 2832.83/thr  (849.85/sec), total:  84985
100k -- ldclt[13244]: Global average rate: 2736.03/thr  (820.81/sec), total:  82081

Almost the same result! In fact, our past tuning advice was “cores * 2”. Because this is an i7, we have 4 threads avaliable * 2, we get 8 threads for DS. Part of the reason for this is that with more threads, there is more contetion on locks, so then all the threads stall each other more. Less threads, less contetion, they can proceed faster into the work sections.

By the same token, DS is often installed on much larger system. I have seen DS on a dualsocket i7 xeon with 16 threads per socket. A setting of 30 threads for this system is far too low, and we are not effectively using the CPUs that are avaliable! This server by our tuning advice should have at least 64 threads configured!

As a result, if nsslapd-threadnumber is not set, we can automatically set this at server start in libglobs.c. I propose that we use:

nsslapd-threadnumber = (Number of Hardware Threads) * (Factor)

This is a very easy, minimal and non-invasive change, and follows our own tuning advice.

Scaling of threads and implementation

The default value of nsslapd-threadnumber is -1.

If this value is set to -1, automatic tuning will be used.

If this value is set to another value in dse.ldif (which can be set via cn=config), this will override the automatic tuning.

During server operation, the value of nsslapd-threadnumber shows the value selected by the tuning algorithm.

When you restart the server, it will recalculate this number, IE vms where you add more cpus.

The scaling of the threads goes as follows:

Hardware threads -> DS threads.
1 -> 16
2 -> 16
4 -> 24
8 -> 32
16 -> 48
32 -> 64
64 -> 96
128 -> 192
256 -> 384
512 -> 512
1024 -> 512
2048 -> 512

Design for Automatic Memory Tuning

Automatic memory tuning is a harder problem for one reason: glibc memory fragmentation.

If we set our automatic tuning to use too much ram, depending on the dataset we will fragment and OOM. If we set it too low, we may not be using the hardware correctly.

The current design of the automatic tuning is around system ram percentages. For example:

nsslapd-cache-autosize: 60
nsslapd-cache-autosize-split: 60

This would mean “use 60% of the systems free ram, and split that space 60% to the dbcache, and 40% to the entry cache. This is a pretty aggresive setting.

In the experience of our team, it turns out that having a huge DB cache actually doesn’t net you a huge improvement past 512Mb of dbcache. Of course we should test this assertion, but for now let’s assume it to be true.

So first, our autosize-split should change to:

pages_to_use = system_free_ram * autosize_percentage
db_pages_tentative = pages_to_use * autosize_split_percentage
if db_pages_tentative > 512mb:
    # cap db_pages
    db_pages = 512Mb
    db_pages = db_pages_tentative
entry_pages = pages_to_use - db_pages

The second change would be rather than allocated a dbcachesize and cachememsize by default, we would allocate cache-autosize and cache-autosize-split by default. As a default, I think the following is safe:

nsslapd-cache-autosize: 10
nsslapd-cache-autosize-split: 40

For a variety of systems, this would yield the following numbers.

1Gb ram free
    dbcache: 40Mb
    entrycache: 62Mb
2Gb ram free
    dbcache: 82Mb
    entrycache: 122Mb
4Gb ram free
    dbcache: 164Mb
    entrycache: 245Mb
8Gb ram free
    dbcache: 328Mb
    entrycache: 492Mb
16Gb ram free # This point the 512Mb max kicks in.
    dbcache: 512Mb
    entrycache: 1126Mb
32Gb ram free
    dbcache: 512Mb
    entrycache: 2764Mb
64Gb ram free
    dbcache: 512Mb
    entrycache: 6042Mb
128Gb ram free
    dbcache: 512Mb
    entrycache: 12596Mb

Despite being conservative (we are under utilising a lot of this hardware) we are very unlikely to run the risk of fragmentation OOM, and each of these numbers is still an improvement over our current “10Mb” defaults. We would still also fix the 10,000 entry work load into ram on the 1Gb host. For our 100k workload, we would be comfortable on 4Gb or more with this allocation.

What about admins who want to manually tune?

Because of the design of dse.ldif and cn=config, an admin who has previously, or wants to override these values can and they will be respected.

These settings are only for “out of the box defaults”. Existing installs will not be affected or changed. This would only apply to new deployments.

Manual tuning in detail

To describe how the manual tuning works to override the value, we need to look at how Directory Server now picks it’s cache values.

nsslapd-dbcachesize: 0
nsslapd-cachememsize: 0
nsslapd-autosize: 0
nsslapd-autosize-split: 0

When a new instance is deployed, it is deployed with the following values.

As the instance starts we carry out the following checks.

if nsslapd-autosize == 0:
    nsslapd-autosize = 10% of system free ram.
if nsslapd-autosize-split == 0:
    nsslapd-autosize-split = 40% of memory to dbcache, 60 to entrycache.

calculate autosizing values

if (dbcachesize == 0 && nsslapd-autosize == 0) || nsslapd-autosize > 0:
    dbcachesize = auto db cachesize value, and write to dse.ldif
if (cachememsize == 0 && nsslapd-autosize == 0) || nsslapd-autosize > 0:
    cachememsize = auto entry cachesize value, and write to dse.ldif

All our values start at 0. If dbcachesize or cachememsize have a real value (ie > 0), they are not autosized.

If the value is 0, and the autosize value is 0, we calculate the dbcachesize or cachememsize once, then write to the dse.ldif. At this point, these values are non-0 so go to the ffirst step.

If autosize value has been set by the admin, we ignore dbcachesize and always use the autotuned value.

For all intents, this is the same behaviour as current. If dbcachesize is set, use it, but autosize is “prefered”.

The difference is that rather than defaulting to a static memory size, we autotune it once on start up, then we write the value as though it was manually tuned.

What happens if glibc stops fragmenting memory?

At that point we’ll be able to increase the default percentage that new installs are given from 10% to 20%~30% or more. We have to consider that there may be other applications on the system with us, such as FreeIPA so we can not be too aggressive about our memory usage. Additionally, we tend to be pretty efficent as a process anyway, and even the 10% values are very good as you expand hardware for large sites.


wibrown at

Last modified on 12 January 2017