Fwd: Support for Soft Timeout in Unicorn

Eric Wong normalperson at yhbt.net
Fri Jun 18 17:48:34 EDT 2010

Ryan Tomayko <r at tomayko.com> wrote:
> On Fri, Jun 4, 2010 at 1:59 PM, Eric Wong <normalperson at yhbt.net> wrote:
> > Chris Wanstrath <chris at ozmm.org> wrote:
> >> That's what we do at GitHub. We're running Rails 2.2.2 and have a
> >> custom config.ru, thanks to Unicorn:
> >>
> >> http://gist.github.com/424352
> >
> > By the way, how's the OobGC middleware working for you guys?
> We rolled out the OobGC middleware along with a basic RailsBench GC
> config (RUBY_HEAP_MIN_SLOTS, etc.). Combined, they knocked about 20ms
> (~15%) off the average response time across the site (real traffic).
> The impact was significantly more for requests that allocate a lot of
> objects -- as much as 50% decreases in response time for the worst
> offenders. We saw no noticeable increase in CPU with OobGC set to run
> every 10 requests, and a fair increase in CPU with OobGC set to run
> every 5 requests.

Cool.  Am I correct to assume the increased CPU usage at every 5
requests wasn't worth any performance gains you might have had?

> Because I rolled this stuff out somewhat non-scientifically, I've
> always wondered how much OobGC contributed to the overall savings vs.
> the RailsBench GC config. Disabling the OobGC middleware but leaving
> the RailsBench GC config in place, I get the following graph:
> http://img.skitch.com/20100618-kihdc1cq6pjhq9rqftf8miuf6y.png
> So we're spending ~1ms request time in GC with OobGC, and ~10ms
> request time in GC without it.


> Here's some system load graphs for the same time period just to show
> that OobGC has no adverse effect when set to GC every 10 requests:
> http://img.skitch.com/20100618-qp7p8f6i2agbqbdnjbpigik1d9.png
> I assume the RailsBench GC patches improve the effect of OobGC
> considerably by increasing the number of objects that can be allocated
> between GC runs, allowing more of the GC work to be deferred to
> in-between-requests time. Here's the RailsBench config we're using
> today, for the record:
>     RUBY_HEAP_MIN_SLOTS=800000
>     RUBY_HEAP_FREE_MIN=100000
>     RUBY_GC_MALLOC_LIMIT=79000000
> This is only barely tuned for us. I stole most of the numbers from the
> Twitter and 37signals examples.
> I've also experimented with tuning the GC specifically to take
> advantage of OobGC:
> https://gist.github.com/87d574a19372c6043c5f
> # The following GC settings have been tuned for GitHub application web requests.
> # Most settings are significantly higher than the example configs published by
> # Twitter and 37signals. There's a couple reasons for this. First, the GitHub
> # app has a memory footprint that's 3x-4x larger than the standard Rails app
> # (roughly 200MB after first request compared to ~40MB-50MB). Second, because

Yikes, 200MB after one request is a lot.  If you can easily find ways to
cut that down, it should be more of a gain than the monster heap you've

> # Unicorn is such an exceptional piece of software, we're able to schedule GC
> # to run outside the context of requests so as not to effect response times.
> # As such, we try to allocate enough memory to service 5 requests
> without needing
> # GC and then run GC manually immediately after each fifth request has been
> # served but before the process starts accepting the next connection. The result
> # is higher memory use (~300MB per Unicorn worker process on average) and a
> # slight increase in CPU due to forced manual GC, but better response times.
> # ...
> Unfortunately, the bigger heap seems to cause a largish increase in
> the time needed for each GC, so the unicorn workers were spending too
> much time between requests. CPU and RES increases were even more than
> I'd expected. It also didn't eliminate in-request GC entirely as I'd
> hoped.
> I eventually abandoned the idea -- even if I could get it to behave,
> it's hardly worth the 1ms it would save. I mention it here because the
> general approach might work in situations where the base heap size is
> a bit smaller (say < 80MB) or perhaps I'm mistuning one of the
> parameters.

So in conclusion, OobGC itself works, but too large of a heap isn't
worth it even for a memory hungry app.

I suppose having too big of a heap means it can fragment more badly.
Making GC run more often on a smaller heap can and give similar (or
maybe better) performance.  At best you'll get diminishing returns as
you seem to have concluded.

I have no doubt the Railsbench GC patches help.  Even with small apps,
being able being able to set a linear growth factor on long-running
servers is awesome.

Thanks for sharing this!

Eric Wong

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