Running a devstack virtual machine with limited memory

If you have a system with only 4GB of RAM, you need to assign at least 2.5GB (2560M) to a virtual machine to install devstack. Even with this limited RAM there are times the devstack installation will fail.

One way to give the installation process an opportunity to complete is to configure your virtual machine to have swap space. The amount of swap space you can configure may be limited to the size of your initial disk partition configuration (which is 8GB). The following steps add a 2GB swap file to your virtual machine.

sudo swapon -s
free -m
sudo fallocate -l 2G /swapfile
ls -lh /swapfile
sudo chmod 600 /swapfile
sudo mkswap /swapfile
sudo swapon /swapfile
sudo swapon -s
free -m
echo "/swapfile   none    swap    sw    0   0" | sudo tee -a /etc/fstab
cat /etc/fstab
The use of swap space by your virtual machine instead of available RAM will cause a significant slowdown of any software. For the purposes of a minimal installation this option provides a means to observe a running minimal OpenStack cloud.

More on understanding sort_buffer_size

There have been a few posts by Sheeri and Baron today on the MySQL sort_buffer_size variable. I wanted to add some more information about this buffer, what is impacted when it is changed, and what to do about it?

The first thing you need to know is the sort_buffer_size is a per session buffer. That is this memory is assigned per connection/thread. I’ve seen clients that set this assuming it’s a global buffer Don’t Assume – Per Session Buffers.

Second, internally in the OS usage independently of MySQL, there is a threshold > 256K. From Monty Taylor “if buffer is set to over 256K, it uses mmap() instead of malloc() for memory allocation. Actually – this is a libc malloc thing and is tunable, but defaults to 256k. From the manual:” . He goes on in a further to shows that impact > 256K for a buffer is 37x slower. This applies to all per session buffers, not just sort buffer. Now I have heard recently about this limit being 512K. I wasn’t able to nail down the specific speaker to see if this was a newer library or kernel or OS.

With MySQL instrumentation and the sort_buffer_size we are lucky, there is the Sort_merge_passes status variable. While it’s not perfect, it does indicate if the size of the buffer is in-sufficient, however even if we use a sort_buffer_size of say 256K, and you see Sort_merge_passes increasing slowly, does not indicate you have to increase the buffer.

So, all this does not tell you how to tune the buffer? Unfortunately with MySQL there is no actual easy answer. You do need to monitor the mysqld memory usage overall, especially if you are using persistent connections. A connection/thread will not release the memory assigned until it is closed, so it’s important to monitor for memory creep of the PGA, knowing what your initial SGA is. Morgan Tocker wrote a patch in Bug #33540 to create a RESET CONNECTION type command.

You do need to look for memory as a bottleneck. You need to learn how MySQL use memory, not just the sort_buffer_size. I actually started many years ago to write global/session variables to indicate when buffers were used, and how much and I started with the sort_buffer_size which was buried down in some very old filesort code. When I sought the input of an expert C coder around this, they wondered how the code, especially a loop handler even actually worked.

Nobody knows what the optimal setting is, and that’s the problem. In certain areas especially memory usage the MySQL instrumentation is simply non-existent, and I’d like to see this as something that is fixed.

In conclusion, if I ever see a sort_buffer_size above 256K, e.g. 1M or 2M, I always reset it to 256K. My reasoning is simple. Until you have evidence in your specific environment increasing the buffer makes performance better, it’s better to use a smaller value. There are bigger wins, like not using sorting, or better design, or even better simplifying or eliminating SQL.


sort_buffer_size and Knowing Why
How to tune MySQL’s sort_buffer_size
Read Buffer performance hit
more on malloc() speed