Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Local caching for CIFS network file system - followup

Here's a follow-up to my previous post on
Local caching for CIFS network file system

Since the previous post, I worked on improving the patches that add
local caching, fixed a few bugs, addressed review comments from the
community and re-posted the patches. I also gave a talk about it at
the SUSE Labs Conference 2010 happened at Prague. The slides can be
found here: FS-Cache aware CIFS.

This patchset was merged in the upstream Linux kernel yesterday (Yay!)
which means this feature would be available starting from kernel
version 2.6.35-rc1.

The primary aim of caching data on the client side is to reduce the
network calls to the CIFS Server whenever possible, thereby reducing
the server load as well the network load. This will indirectly improve
the performance and the scalability of the CIFS Server and will
increase the number of clients per Server ratio. This feature could be
useful in a number of scenarios:

- Render farms in Entertainment industry - used to distribute
textures to individual rendering units
- Read only multimedia workloads
- Accelerate distributed web-servers
- Web server cluster nodes serve content from the cache
- /usr distributed by a network file system - to avoid spamming
Servers when there is a power outage
- Caching Server with SSDs reexporting netfs data
- where a persistent cache remains across reboots is useful

However, be warned that local caching may not suitable for all
workloads and a few workloads could suffer a slight performance hit
(for e.g. read-once type workloads).

When I reposted this patchset, I got asked whether I have done any
benchmarking and could share the performance numbers. Here are the
results from a 100Mb/s network:


I'm using my T60p laptop as the CIFS server (running Samba) and one of
my test machines as CIFS client, connected over an ethernet of reported
speed 1000 Mb/s. ethtool was used to throttle the speed to 100 Mb/s. The
TCP bandwidth as seen by a pair of netcats between the client and the
server is about 89.555 Mb/s.

Client has a 2.8 GHz Pentium D CPU with 2GB RAM
Server has a 2.33GHz Core2 CPU (T7600) with 2GB RAM

The benchmark involves pulling a 200 MB file over CIFS to the client
using cat to /dev/zero under `time'. The wall clock time reported was

First, the test was run on the server twice and the second result was
recorded (noted as Server below i.e. time taken by the Server when file
is loaded on the RAM).

Secondly, the client was rebooted and the test was run with caching
disabled (noted as None below).

Next, the client was rebooted, the cache contents (if any) were erased
with mkfs.ext3 and test was run again with cachefilesd running (noted
as COLD)

Next the client was rebooted, tests were run with caching enabled this
time with a populated disk cache (noted as HOT).

Finally, the test was run again without unmounting or rebooting to
ensure pagecache remains valid (noted as PGCACHE).

The benchmark was repeated twice:

Cache (state) Run #1 Run#2
============= ======= =======
Server 0.104 s 0.107 s
None 26.042 s 26.576 s
COLD 26.703 s 26.787 s
HOT 5.115 s 5.147 s
PGCACHE 0.091 s 0.092 s

As it can be seen when the cache is hot, the performance is roughly 5X
times than reading over the network. And, it has to be noted that the
Scalability improvement due to reduced network traffic cannot be seen
as the test involves only a single client and the Server. The read
performance with more number of clients would be more interesting as
the cache can positively impact the scalability.