Why too much concurrency always hurt database performance and how databases manage it

Following my previous two posts on concurrency, I’d like to explain why “too much” concurrency always hurts database performance (in any database), and discuss a couple of common database features that were designed to manage it, including an example from Oracle and Greenplum.

What do I mean by “too much” concurrency? Let’s play with an example. Let’s assume a small, simple database system where each SQL is processed by a single-threaded, CPU-bound process (maybe it is an in-memory database or all the relevant data is cached). Let’s further assume that each SQL takes 10 seconds to execute, and that the system can only efficiently execute four parallel SQLs. So, if we fire up four SQLs at a time every 10 seconds, we will get a throughput of 24 queries/minutes and average response time of 10 seconds. So far, life is good.

But what happens if we fire up 24 queries simultaneously once a minute? Let’s assume no interference between the SQLs and a fair scheduler that cycles between the processes many times per second. In that case, we will still get 24 queries per minute, but all queries will finish about 59-60 seconds, so the average response time will be almost 60 seconds – or six times slower with the same throughput. So, scheduling too many SQLs at once just drove response time through the roof without improving throughput!

Another way that “too much” concurrency hurts performance is

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It’s not about concurrency, it’s about throughput and latency

Following my previous post on the various meanings of a customer concurrency requirement, I will try to explain why database (SQL) concurrency is usually the wrong target to set.

My main point is that database SQL concurrency is the result of both the SQL workload’s throughput (like “queries per hour”) and the database-specific latency (SQL response time). For example, I’ll demonstrate how, for a fixed workload, making a query go faster (tuning it) automatically reduces the database concurrency. This is a generic point, it is not specific to a database technology, and applies beyond the database domain.

Here is a simple example. Let us assume that a database is required to support 1800 similar queries per hour, arriving randomly. That means on average one new query every two seconds. Let us also assume that for now, each query runs on average 60 seconds, regardless of the database load (just for simplicity sake). So, given those specific query throughput and latency, the database will have about 30 concurrent SQLs running on average.

Continuing the example, let’s assume we now somehow tune the database to make these type of SQL faster and now each query execution takes only 10 seconds. If the workload is still 1800 SQLs per hour, suddenly we will only have about five concurrent SQLs!  If we further tune the SQLs to execute in half a second, we will see less than one concurrent SQL – as the rate of which SQLs are submitted is much lower than each SQL run time.

What this thought exercise nicely demonstrate is that SQL concurrency is a derived metric

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What exactly does “High Database Concurrency” requirement mean?

“”You must demonstrate a support for 1000 concurrent SQLs in the database”

During my years at Oracle and Greenplum, I’ve heard similar statements (anywhere between 100 and 5000) numerous times during a data warehouse POC planning. In every case, what followed was more or less the same. I worked toward understanding what do they mean by that – what are the real requirements – and then tried to adjust the POC metrics to reflect the real customer goals.

Looking back, it seems to be two recurring points of confusion. The first one is regarding which type of concurrency are we talking about,. The second one is regarding how the expected workload translates eventually into database concurrency. In this post, I’ll elaborate on the first point and a follow up will discuss the other point.

The crucial thing to understand is, that at most customers most of the times, when different people talk about concurrency, each do likely mean a different thing. So, what could they mean? here are some options: