3.2 Benchmarking Strategies
look at the mechanics of benchmarking shortly. First
it's important to convey some of strategies and
ideas that make up the philosophy behind benchmarking.
To start with,
it's important to make a distinction between
performance testing and stress testing. Both processes use the tools
we'll look at in this chapter, but the goals are
very different. When doing performance testing,
you're usually comparing two alternatives—most
often in isolation from everything else. For instance, would it be
faster to use a UNION or run two separate queries?
Stress testing, on the other hand, is about finding limits:
what's the maximum number of requests I can handle
with this configuration?
If the two types of benchmarking still sound similar, look at it this
way: in performance testing, the numbers you get
aren't as important as the difference between them.
You may see that alternative #1 usually runs in 0.01 seconds (or 100
queries/second), while alternative #2 runs in 0.20 seconds (or 5
queries/second). That tells you the first alternative is 20 times
faster than the second one. However, knowing that you can handle 100
queries per second doesn't tell you how your
application as a whole will perform unless, of
course, your application always runs the same query. In contrast,
stress testing can help in situations such as: "We
expect the promotion we just offered to bring in 30% more hits than
we have now. What will the effects on our server
To make benchmarking as realistic and
hassle-free as possible, here are several suggestions to consider:
- Change one thing at a time
In science this is called
isolating the variable. No matter how
well you think you understand the effects your changes will have,
don't make more than one change between test runs.
Otherwise you'll never know which one was
responsible for the doubling (or halving) of performance. You might
be surprised to find that an adjustment you made once before to
improve performance actually makes it worse in your current tests.
- Test iteratively
Try not to make dramatic changes. When
adjusting MySQL's buffers and caches,
you'll often be trying to find the smallest value
that comfortably handles your load. Rather than increasing a value by
500%, start with a 50% or 100% increase and continue using that
percentage increase on subsequent tests. You'll
probably find the optimal value faster this way. Similarly, if
you're working from larger values to smaller, the
time-tested "divide and conquer"
technique is your best bet. Cut the current value in half, retest,
and repeat the process until you've zeroed in close
to the correct value.
- Always repeat tests
matter how carefully you control the environment, something can creep
in and really mess up your numbers. Maybe you forgot to disable
cron, or you have some disk-intensive script
running in the background. Because the disk is already being hit, you
may not notice the new process, but it sure can slow down MySQL.
By running each test several times (we recommend no fewer than four)
and throwing out the first result, you minimize the chance of an
outside influence getting in the way. It will be pretty clear that
something was wrong with the first result when the second and third
set of tests run twice as fast as the first. Also, consider
restarting MySQL and even rebooting your server between test runs to
factor out caching artifacts.
- Use real data
sounds like common sense, doesn't it? If
you're not testing with real data,
it's difficult to draw conclusions based on the
numbers you get. As you'll see in Chapter 4, MySQL will often behave differently when
presented with different sets of data. The query optimizer makes
decisions based on what it knows about the data
you've stored. If you're testing
with fake data, there's a chance that the
optimizer's decisions aren't the
same as they'll be when you switch to using your
In a similar vein, try to use a realistic amount of data. If you plan
to have 45 million rows in a table but test with only 45 thousand,
you'll find that performance drops off quite a bit
after the table is filled up—and it has nothing to do with
limits in MySQL. The simple fact is that your server probably has
enough memory to keep 45 thousand rows cached, but 45 million rows
aren't nearly as likely to be entirely cached.
- Don't use too many clients
Try not to go crazy with benchmarking.
It's fun to see how hard you can push your server,
but unless you're doing stress testing,
there's little need to run more than 40 or 50
concurrent clients in day-to-day benchmarking. What you'll
likely find is that performance (measured in queries/second) reaches
a plateau when you try to increase the simulated clients beyond a
When you attempt to use too many clients, your server will refuse to
accept any more connections than specified by the
max_clients setting. Be careful not to increase
this value too much; if you do, the server may start to swap wildly
and grind to a halt simply because it doesn't have
the resources (typically memory) to handle huge numbers of clients.
We'll come back to this in Chapter 6 when we look at service performance. But
the test doesn't help you evaluate your server
You can find the optimal number of clients by using a simple
iterative testing method. Start with a small number such as 20, and
run the benchmark. Double the number, and run it again. Continue
doubling it until the performance does not increase, meaning that the
total queries per second stays the same or decreases. Another option
is to use data from your logs to find out roughly how many concurrent
users you handle during peak times.
- Separate the clients from the server
Even if your real application runs
on the same host as MySQL, it's best to run the
benchmarking client on a separate machine. In this way, you need not
worry about the resources required by the client interfering with
MySQL's performance during the test.