Using Operating System Memory Allocators

When InnoDB was developed, the memory allocators supplied with operating systems and run-time libraries were often lacking in performance and scalability. At that time, there were no memory allocator libraries tuned for multi-core CPUs. Therefore, InnoDB implemented its own memory allocator in the mem subsystem. This allocator is guarded by a single mutex, which may become a bottleneck. InnoDB also implements a wrapper interface around the system allocator (malloc and free) that is likewise guarded by a single mutex.

Today, as multi-core systems have become more widely available, and as operating systems have matured, significant improvements have been made in the memory allocators provided with operating systems. New memory allocators perform better and are more scalable than they were in the past. The leading high-performance memory allocators include Hoard, libumem, mtmalloc, ptmalloc, tbbmalloc, and TCMalloc. Most workloads, especially those where memory is frequently allocated and released (such as multi-table joins), benefit from using a more highly tuned memory allocator as opposed to the internal, InnoDB-specific memory allocator.

Beginning with InnoDB 1.0.3, you control whether InnoDB uses its own memory allocator or an allocator of the operating system, by setting the value of the new system configuration parameter innodb_use_sys_malloc in the MySQL option file (my.cnf or my.ini). If set to ON or 1 (the default), InnoDB uses the malloc and free functions of the underlying system rather than manage memory pools itself. This parameter is not dynamic, and takes effect only when the system is started. To continue to use the InnoDB memory allocator, set innodb_use_sys_malloc to 0.

Note that when the InnoDB memory allocator is disabled, InnoDB ignores the value of the parameter innodb_additional_mem_pool_size. The InnoDB memory allocator uses an additional memory pool for satisfying allocation requests without having to fall back to the system memory allocator. When the InnoDB memory allocator is disabled, all such allocation requests are fulfilled by the system memory allocator.

Furthermore, since InnoDB cannot track all memory use when the system memory allocator is used (innodb_use_sys_malloc is ON), the section “BUFFER POOL AND MEMORY” in the output of the SHOW ENGINE INNODB STATUS command only includes the buffer pool statistics in the “Total memory allocated”. Any memory allocated using the mem subsystem or using ut_malloc is excluded.

On Unix-like systems that use dynamic linking, replacing the memory allocator may be as easy as making the environment variable LD_PRELOAD or LD_LIBRARY_PATH point to the dynamic library that implements the allocator. On other systems, some relinking may be necessary. Please refer to the documentation of the memory allocator library of your choice.

For more information about the performance implications of InnoDB memory usage, see Section 7.9, “Buffering and Caching”.

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