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I'm using Ubuntu Server 12.04 LTS on a AMD E-350 based machine. During I/O heavy loads (for example transferring files via NFS or HTTP, extracting archives, making backups etc.) the CPU load goes completly insane. I saw load averages well above eight on this two core machine... and the responsiveness is much lower.

I think the issues are definitely on the kernel side of things, but see for yourself:

$ sudo hdparm -I /dev/sdb

/dev/sdb:

ATA device, with non-removable media
    Model Number:       SAMSUNG HD501LJ                             
    Firmware Revision:  CR100-10
    Transport:          Serial, ATA8-AST, SATA 1.0a, SATA II Extensions, SATA Rev 2.5
Standards:
    Used: ATA-8-ACS revision 3b 
    Supported: 8 7 6 5 
Configuration:
    Logical        max    current
    cylinders    16383    16383
    heads        16    16
    sectors/track    63    63
    --
    CHS current addressable sectors:   16514064
    LBA    user addressable sectors:  268435455
    LBA48  user addressable sectors:  976771055
    Logical/Physical Sector size:           512 bytes
    device size with M = 1024*1024:      476938 MBytes
    device size with M = 1000*1000:      500106 MBytes (500 GB)
    cache/buffer size  = 16384 KBytes (type=DualPortCache)
Capabilities:
    LBA, IORDY(can be disabled)
    Queue depth: 32
    Standby timer values: spec'd by Standard, no device specific minimum
    R/W multiple sector transfer: Max = 16    Current = 16
    Recommended acoustic management value: 254, current value: 128
    DMA: mdma0 mdma1 mdma2 udma0 udma1 udma2 udma3 udma4 udma5 *udma6 udma7 
         Cycle time: min=120ns recommended=120ns
    PIO: pio0 pio1 pio2 pio3 pio4 
         Cycle time: no flow control=120ns  IORDY flow control=120ns
Commands/features:
    Enabled    Supported:
       *    SMART feature set
            Security Mode feature set
       *    Power Management feature set
       *    Write cache
       *    Look-ahead
       *    Host Protected Area feature set
       *    WRITE_BUFFER command
       *    READ_BUFFER command
       *    NOP cmd
       *    DOWNLOAD_MICROCODE
            SET_MAX security extension
       *    Automatic Acoustic Management feature set
       *    48-bit Address feature set
       *    Device Configuration Overlay feature set
       *    Mandatory FLUSH_CACHE
       *    FLUSH_CACHE_EXT
       *    SMART error logging
       *    SMART self-test
       *    General Purpose Logging feature set
       *    64-bit World wide name
       *    Segmented DOWNLOAD_MICROCODE
       *    Gen1 signaling speed (1.5Gb/s)
       *    Gen2 signaling speed (3.0Gb/s)
       *    Native Command Queueing (NCQ)
       *    Host-initiated interface power management
       *    Phy event counters
       *    DMA Setup Auto-Activate optimization
            Device-initiated interface power management
       *    Software settings preservation
       *    SMART Command Transport (SCT) feature set
       *    SCT Long Sector Access (AC1)
       *    SCT LBA Segment Access (AC2)
       *    SCT Error Recovery Control (AC3)
       *    SCT Features Control (AC4)
       *    SCT Data Tables (AC5)
Security: 
    Master password revision code = 65534
        supported
    not    enabled
    not    locked
        frozen
    not    expired: security count
        supported: enhanced erase
    168min for SECURITY ERASE UNIT. 168min for ENHANCED SECURITY ERASE UNIT.
Logical Unit WWN Device Identifier: 50000f001b301090
    NAA        : 5
    IEEE OUI    : 0000f0
    Unique ID    : 01b301090
Checksum: correct

$ iostat 1 # One slice below

Device:            tps    kB_read/s    kB_wrtn/s    kB_read    kB_wrtn
sda               0.00         0.00         0.00          0          0
sdb             355.00     60544.00         0.00      60544          0

$ vmstat 1

procs -----------memory---------- ---swap-- -----io---- -system-- ----cpu----
 r  b   swpd   free   buff  cache   si   so    bi    bo   in   cs us sy id wa
 1  9      0 152864     12 3302740    0    0 61952     0 18115 1999  1 24 12 63
 0  8      0 153316     12 3302060    0    0 59648     0 20060 2393  1 33  9 57
 0 10      0 153432     12 3302060    0    0 54784     0 18430 2205  1 24 11 65
 1  8      0 154848     12 3301216    0    0 59392     0 19011 2291  1 31  8 60
 0  9      0 149676     12 3306324    0    0 59392     0 21149 2417  2 29  6 64
 0  9      0 150460     12 3305268    0    0 61952     0 18664 2117  1 28 11 60
 1  8      0 152084     12 3304028    0    0 59392     0 20045 2245  2 31  6 62
 1  8      0 152548     12 3303452    0    0 60160     0 20105 2426  2 29  9 60

Anything I could do about that?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

This is expected behaviour. You will want to check the difference between load and cpu usage (eg. using top). Chances are that CPU usage is very low, while CPU load is high. This is caused by the what cpu load indicates and is most of the time completely harmless.

From the uptimeman page:

   System  load  averages is the average number of processes that are either in a runnable or uninterrupt‐
   able state.  A process in a runnable state is either using the CPU  or  waiting  to  use  the  CPU.   A
   process in uninterruptable state is waiting for some I/O access, eg waiting for disk.  The averages are
   taken over the three time intervals.  Load averages are not normalized for the number of CPUs in a sys‐
   tem, so a load average of 1 means a single CPU system is loaded all the time while on a 4 CPU system it
   means it was idle 75% of the time.

In other words it is the average number of processes waiting for being serviced. But because of the fact that all these processes are waiting for data of the disks this number can get large when a lot of disk I/O is being scheduled.

Solution: Don't worry or buy faster disks (or decent RAID, SAN, ...).

I personally like dstat for troubleshooting these issues.

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