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Performance Considerations

Depending on environment or workload, some customers may wish to give special consideration to these items. Some of them have potential for negative performance impact.

Specialty Engines: Getting It Right

With the z10 processor and z/VM 5.4, customers can now combine many different engine types into a single partition. Further, customers can create virtual configurations that mimic the hardware's flexibility. Our Specialty Engines Enhancements article describes the performance attributes of this new support.

Depending on the environment, customers will want to keep in mind certain traits of the new mixed-engine capabilities. In this brief discussion we attempt to lay out some of the fine points.

One consideration is that virtual CPU type and the setting of SET CPUAFFINITY can make a big difference in performance and utilization of the system. Consider a partition with CPs and IFLs, with Linux guests defined with virtual IFLs. If SET CPUAFFINITY is off, the Control Program will not dispatch those virtual IFLs on those real IFLs. The real IFLs will remain idle and thus some processing capacity of the partition will be lost. Similarly, if SET CPUAFFINITY is on, those virtual IFLs will be dispatched only on those real IFLs. If enough real IFLs are not present to handle the virtual IFL computational load, wait queues will form, even though the partition's real CPs might be underutilized.

Consider also the case of the customer having combined two partitions, one all-IFL and one all-CP, into one partition. The all-IFL partition was hosting Linux work, while the all-CP partition was hosting z/OS guests. In the merged configuration, if the customer fails to change the Linux guests' virtual CPU types to IFL, z/VM will not dispatch those guests' virtual engines on the real IFLs in the new partition. Here again, attention to detail is required to make sure the partition performs according to expectation.

CP share is another area where attention is required. Share setting is per-virtual-CPU type. A guest with mixed virtual engines will have a share setting for each type. In tinkering with guests' shares, customers must be careful to adjust the share for the intended VCPU type.

Finally, on certain machines, real specialty engines are faster than real general-purpose CPs. Incorrectly setting CPUAFFINITY or incorrectly defining guest virtual CPUs could result in decreased throughput, even if the real engines in use are not overcommitted.

The new z10 and z/VM mixed-engine support gives customers opportunity to run diverse workloads in a single z10 partition. To use the partition well, though, the customer must pay careful attention to the configuration he creates, to ensure his virtual environment is well matched to the partition's hardware.

Virtual CPU Share Redistribution

In z/VM 5.4, the Control Program redistributes share for stopped virtual CPUs to still-running ones. For example, if a virtual four-way guest with relative share 200 is operating with two stopped virtual CPUs, the two remaining running ones will compete for real CPU as if they each had relative share 100.

IBM is aware that some customers do occasionally stop their guests' virtual CPUs and compensate for the stopped engines by issuing CP SET SHARE. Some customers even have automation that does this. In migrating to z/VM 5.4, such customers will want to revisit their automation and make adjustments as appropriate.

IBM has changed CP Monitor so that several records now include records of the share changes CP makes automatically for stopped virtual CPUs. Our performance management article describes the changed records.

Linux Install from HMC

When running on a z10, z/VM 5.4 can offer the HMC DVD drive as the source volume for a Linux installation. Both SUSE and RedHat distributions support installing from the HMC DVD.

IBM built this support so that customers could install Linux into a z/VM guest without having to acquire and set up an external LAN server to contain the Linux distribution DVD.

Customers need to be aware that though this support is functional, it does not perform as well as mounting the DVD on a conventional LAN server. In informal measurements, and depending on which distribution is being installed, IBM found the installation can be 11 to 12 times slower when using the HMC DVD, compared to mounting the DVD in an external LAN server. Installation times as long as three hours were observed.

Customers wanting to use this function will want to apply the PTF for APAR PK69228 before proceeding. This PTF, available on the GA RSU, does help performance somewhat, especially for RedHat installations.

Crypto Changes

APAR VM64440 to z/VM 5.2 and z/VM 5.3 changes z/VM's polling interval for cryptographic hardware to be in line with the speeds of modern cryptographic coprocessors. This change is in the base for z/VM 5.4.

MDC Changes

APAR VM64082 to z/VM 5.2 and 5.3 changes the behavior of the MDC storage arbiter. Recall the arbiter's job is to determine how to proportion storage between guest frames and MDC. This APAR, rolled into the z/VM 5.4 base, is not on any z/VM 5.2 or 5.3 RSU.

In some environments, notably large storage environments, the change helps prevent the arbiter from affording too much favor to MDC. Another way to say this is that the change helps keep the arbiter from over-biasing toward MDC.

In other environments, this change can cause the arbiter to bias against MDC too heavily, in other words, not afford MDC enough storage.

A customer can determine whether MDC is biased correctly by examining the FCX103 STORAGE report and looking at the system's MDC hit rate. Another way to examine hit rate is to look at the FCX108 DEVICE report and check the "Avoid" I/O rate for volumes holding minidisks of interest. To see how much storage MDC is using, the customer can check FCX138 MDCACHE or FCX178 MDCSTOR. If MDC hit rates seem insufficient or if MDC seems otherwise unbalanced, the customer can use the SET MDC command to establish manual settings for MDC's lower storage bound, upper storage bound, or bias value.

Absent VM64082, z/VM 5.2 and z/VM 5.3 also tended to retain excess frames in MDC even though the system was short on storage. As well as changing the arbiter, VM64082 changed MDC steal processing, to help MDC give up storage when the available lists were low. On z/VM 5.2, the VM64082 steal changes work correctly. However, on z/VM 5.3 and z/VM 5.4, the VM64082 change fails to assess the available frame lists correctly. Consequently, MDC, incorrectly believing free storage is heavily depleted, routinely dumps its frames back onto the available lists, even though there's plenty of storage available. This increases system CPU time, diminishes MDC effectiveness, and ultimately reduces application transaction rate. The problem is exacerbated in systems that tend to have large numbers of contiguous free storage frames, while systems that page heavily are less likely to be affected by the defect. A solution to this, for both z/VM 5.3 and z/VM 5.4, is available in APAR VM64510.

DMU Monitor Records

The Dynamic Memory Upgrade enhancement produces CP Monitor records that describe memory configuration changes. In particular, CP is supposed to emit the Memory Configuration Change record (MRMTRMCC, D1 R21) whenever it notices that standby or reserved storage has changed. Several different stimuli can cause CP to emit MRMTRMCC. However, because of a defect, CP fails to emit MRMTRMCC when an issued CP SET STORAGE command changes the standby or reserved values. APAR VM64483 corrects this.

VMRM Limitations

VM Resource Manager (VMRM) attempts to manage CPU access according to CPU velocity goals for groups of virtual machines. It does so by manipulating guests' CP SHARE settings according to actual usage reported by CP Monitor.

Ever since the introduction of mixed-engine support in z/VM 5.3, VMRM has been subject to incorrect operation in certain mixed-engine environments. In particular, VMRM has the following limitations which can cause problems depending on the system configuration:

  • VMRM adds up share values for all virtual processors in the virtual machine, instead of adding the shares into buckets according to virtual CPU type.
  • VMRM does not account for CPU affinity as established by the CP SET CPUAFFINITY command.
  • VMRM does not account for stopped virtual CPUs.

Because of these limitations, IBM believes VMRM will work correctly only if the following configuration constraints are observed:

  • The z/VM partition must consist either entirely of real CPs or real IFLs, and also,
  • Each guest's virtual processors must either be all virtual CPs or all virtual IFLs, and also,
  • None of a guest's virtual CPUs can be stopped.

IBM understands the importance of VMRM in mixed-engine environments such as those offered by the z10 and z/VM 5.4. Work continues in this area.

Performance APARs

Since z/VM 5.3 GA, IBM has made available several PTFs to improve z/VM's performance. Remember to keep abreast of performance APARs to see if any apply to your environment.

Large VM Systems

This was first listed as a consideration for z/VM 5.2 and is repeated here. Because of the CP storage management improvements in z/VM 5.2 and z/VM 5.3, it becomes practical to configure VM systems that use large amounts of real storage. When that is done, however, we recommend a gradual, staged approach with careful monitoring of system performance to guard against the possibility of the system encountering other limiting factors.

With the exception of the potential PGMBK constraint, all of the specific considerations listed for z/VM 5.2 continue to apply.

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