CPU load of TCP server

Andrey Tsirulev <>
Tue Oct 13 18:28:25 CEST 2009


Hello all,

I'm exploring the possibility of using Erlang for my TCP service application (actually the game server). I've prepared test server and client applications. The test server application accepts client connections and sends 2 small (<1 Kb) packets per second to each client (and receives answers).

I've met the following problems:
1) Kernel polling doesn't give any benefit with R13B02-1.
2) CPU load is too high.

All the details are below. 

Here's my test server's `uname -a`:
Linux source 2.6.29-gentoo-r5 #1 SMP Tue Aug 18 01:15:17 MSD 2009 x86_64 AMD Sempron(tm) Dual Core Processor 2200 AuthenticAMD GNU/Linux
(I've made tests also with 2 other linux servers with different kernel versions and results were close).

I've made server connection processes as simple and possible. I've tried up to 10000 concurrent connections. 

Test results didn't not show any visible difference between using multiple remote machines for client connections, one remote machine or localhost.

I tried R13B02-1 and R12B-5 OTP versions.

I found that memory usage grow is linear, as expected. But I came to the problem with CPU load.

First of all, kernel polling didn't give any benefit for R13B02-1 (while erlang:system_info(kernel_poll) returned true and erl started with message [kernel-poll:true]). I've got about 55% of CPU usage with 4000 connections both with and without kernel polling enabled, while with R12B-5 I have about 26% of CPU usage with +Ktrue. I suspect a bug either in OTP or in gentoo ebuild (of course it's also quite possible that I'm doing something wrong or missed something in docs).

The following is about R12B-5. I get about 6-7% of CPU load per every 1000 connections (about 60% CPU load for 10000 connections). I'm not sure if I should consider this as a good result or a bad one. Most of the articles on the same subject say that CPU load is negligible in their tests and they are fighting for memory only, so I expected I won't be CPU-limited too, but evidently I am. 

`top` says that about 50% of CPU load is userspace, 25% software interrupts, 20% system and 5% hardware interrupts (that's by eye, not very strict).

I found that CPU load depends not as much on connection count but on transmitted packet count (ok, that's obviously the number of system calls). Thus if I send 4 packets per second, not 2, I should decrease the number of connections twice to preserve the same CPU load.

CPU load does not depend on packet size. 1 byte or 1Kbyte - no visible difference.

CPU usage is slightly less with active socket option enabled than with blocking recvs. 

CPU usage on the single windows client machine with 4000 connections spawned is on the same level as with the linux server handling these 4000 connections (while I expected linux to perform better).

Switching Nagle on and off had no effect. I also tried to tune TCP stack with sysctl using advises found here and there but almost without any effect too.

I've tried to trace with fprof and found that bottlenecks are 'send' operations (but I'm a relative novice to erlang so I'm not sure my usage of fprof was correct). Ok, that was expected too. I've read the 'why is gen_tcp:send slow?' thread but none of advises given there helped me.

So the main question is: is the CPU usage of 7% per 1000 connections (or maybe better say 2000 packets per second) a good result? If no, what is the expected result? How can I improve my test application? Or maybe something in my story looks strange?

I know that the possible optimization is decreasing the number of packets and keep it in mind.

Here's the server connection process loop:

loop(Socket) ->
        receive
                {tcp, Socket, _Packet} ->
                        loop(Socket);
                {tcp_closed, Socket} ->
                        normal;
                _ ->
                        loop(Socket)
        after 500 ->
                        gen_tcp:send(Socket,[?PACKET]),
                        loop(Socket)
        end.

Client loop has blocking recv and answers with send immediately.

Thank you very much for your time. Sorry for too many words, I tried to provide all possible information. I will answer any question and appreciate any hint.

Best regards,
Andrey


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