[erlang-questions] Slow line oriented IO

Hynek Vychodil vychodil.hynek@REDACTED
Thu Feb 14 15:46:34 CET 2013

I know it was been already discussed here in list and it is also recurring
topic for at least five years. But anyway I have been bitten by it again and
also found pretty pathological case. I have 30MB text file and it has a few
near to 1MB lines there. (I can provide file with same line lengths if
somebody interested.) What I have been observed is that reading this file
using raw file:read_line/1 takes 51s! For comparison I have tried some
different approaches and what I got (line_read_test:read_std/1 is using

1> timer:tc(line_read_test,read_std,["test.txt"]).
2> timer:tc(line_read_test,read,["test.txt"]).
3> timer:tc(line_read_test,read_port,["test.txt"]).

$time perl -nE'$i++}{say $i' test.txt

real    0m0.053s
user    0m0.044s
sys     0m0.008s

$ time wc -l test.txt
2408 test.txt

real    0m0.013s
user    0m0.004s
sys     0m0.008s

$ time ./a.out test.txt

real    0m0.020s
user    0m0.012s
sys     0m0.008s

It means erlang should be at least 225 times faster (line_read_test:read/1
which has flow control). Erlang can be 350 times faster
(line_read_test:read_port/1 without flow control). Another high level
language (perl) is almost thousand times faster. Special C program is almost
four thousands times faster and old good glibc is two and half thousands
times faster. Come on guys it is not even fun when simple (and wrong) erlang
wrapper around standard module is more than two order of magnitude faster.
>From mine experience when there is something two orders of magnitude slower
it tells me there is something damn wrong. I have looked into efile_drv.c and
ti is unfortunately far beyond mine C skill but if simple buffering and
binary:match/2 can outperform it 225 times there has to be something rotten
in this code.

I have also experimented with read_ahead option in file:open and changing to
less value makes thing worse.

Just to make grasp how bad it is, in same time I'm able sort 150 million
64bit values (1.2GB of data) three times (one CPU core same HW). It is not in
flow control, mine simple wrapper does flow control too. It can't make
current code less intrusive, if it consumes 100% CPU for 51s instead of 226ms
then it will definitely affect whole server. It is not in concurrent access,
mine code allows concurrent access too. Admitting there is something broken
is first step to fixing it. I hope I helped at least in this way.

With best regards
  Hynek Vychodil
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