PROBLEM: high system usage / poor SMP network performance

From: Vincent Sweeney (
Date: Sun Jan 27 2002 - 17:23:17 EST

I am the server admin for several very busy IRC servers with an ever
increasing user load but I've hit a severe bottle neck which after numerous
system tweaks and driver configuration changes I can only assume is related
to a performance problem with the Linux Kernel.

The server configurations are all identical:
    Compaq Proliant 330R's with Dual Pentium III -800 MHz's & 384MB RAM
    Intel NIC's using the Intel e100 driver
    2.4.17 kernel
    2 ircd processes per box

Here is a snapshot from 'top' :
      9:51pm up 11 days, 10:13, 1 user, load average: 0.95, 1.24, 1.21
    44 processes: 40 sleeping, 4 running, 0 zombie, 0 stopped
    CPU0 states: 27.2% user, 62.4% system, 0.0% nice, 9.2% idle
    CPU1 states: 28.4% user, 62.3% system, 0.0% nice, 8.1% idle
    Mem: 385096K av, 376896K used, 8200K free, 0K shrd, 3588K
    Swap: 379416K av, 12744K used, 366672K free 58980K

     7825 ircd 18 0 84504 82M 5604 R 89.5 21.9 6929m ircd
    31010 ircd 20 0 86352 84M 5676 R 85.0 22.3 7218m ircd

When this snapshot was taken each ircd had 2000 users connect each. As you
can see I am using more than a single cpu's worth of processer power just on
system cpu and the ircd processes are using just over 50% of a single cpu!
Now in comparison, another server admin who runs a ircd on a single P3-500
Linux 2.4.x system with 3000 users reaches about 60% *total* cpu usage.
Likewise admins who run *BSD or Solaris can run with similar user
connections and barely break a sweat. I have tried setting all the network
performance tweaks mentioned on numerous sites and also using the cpu saver
option on the e100 driver but at best I have only seen a 1-2% cpu saving.

Naturally I would really like to know where / what is using up all this
system cpu so I would like to try profiling the kernel as I'm sure this is a
pure kernel network layer performance issue but I have no idea where to
start so does anyone have some advice / tips on where I should start?


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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Jan 31 2002 - 21:00:45 EST