Gluster performance testing

Once you have created a Gluster volume, you need to verify that it has adequate performance for your application, and if it does not, you need a way to isolate the root cause of the problem.

In this page, we suggest some basic workload tests that can be used to measure Gluster performance in an application-independent way for a wide variety of POSIX-like operating systems and runtime environments. We then provide some terminology and conceptual framework for interpreting these results.

Testing tools

The tools that we suggest here are designed to run in a distributed filesystem. This is still a relatively rare attribute for filesystem benchmarks, even now! There is a much larger set of benchmarks available that can be run from a single system. While single-system results are important, they are far from a definitive measure of the performance capabilities of a distributed filesystem.

  • iozone - for pure-workload large-file tests
  • smallfile - for pure-workload small-file tests
  • fio - for random I/O tests or single-host testing
  • parallel-libgfapi
    • for pure-workload libgfapi tests

The smallfile benchmark is relatively new and should be fairly self-explanatory. It complements but does not replace iozone.


This tool has limitations but does distributed testing well using -+m option (below).

The "-a" option for automated testing of all use cases is discouraged, because:

  • this does not allow you to drop the read cache in server before a test.
  • most of the data points being measured will be irrelevant to the problem you are solving.

Single-thread testing is an important use case, but to fully utilize the available hardware you typically need to do multi-thread and even multi-host testing.

Consider using "-c -e" options to measure the time it takes for data to reach persistent storage. "-C" option lets you see how much each thread participated in the test. "-+n" allows you to save time by skipping re-read and re-write tests. "-w" option tells iozone not to delete any files that it accessed, so that subsequent tests can use them. Specify these options with each test:

  • -i -- test type, 0=write, 1=read, 2=random read/write
  • -r -- data transfer size -- allows you to simulate I/O size used by application
  • -s -- per-thread file size -- choose this to be large enough for the system to reach steady state (typically multiple GB needed)
  • -t -- number of threads -- how many subprocesses will be concurrently issuing I/O requests
  • -F -- list of files -- what files to write/read. If you do not specify then the filenames iozone.DUMMY.* will be used in the default directory.

Example of an 8-thread sequential write test with 64-KB transfer size and file size of 1 GB to shared Gluster mountpoint directory /mnt/glusterfs , including time to fsync() and close() the files in the throughput calculation:

    iozone -w -c -e -i 0 -+n -C -r 64k -s 1g -t 8 -F /mnt/glusterfs/f{0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8}.ioz

WARNING: random I/O testing in iozone is very restricted by iozone constraint that it must randomly read then randomly write the entire file! This is not what we want - instead it should randomly read/write for some fraction of file size or time duration, allowing us to spread out more on the disk while not waiting too long for test to finish. This is why fio (below) is the preferred test tool for random I/O workloads.

Distributed testing is a strength of the iozone utility, but this requires use of "-+m" option in place of "-F" option. The configuration file passed with "-+m" option contains a series of records that look like this:

    hostname   directory   iozone-pathname

Where hostname is a host name or IP address of a test driver machine that iozone can use, directory is the pathname of a directory to use within that host, and iozone-pathname is the full pathname of the iozone executable to use on that host. Be sure that every target host can resolve the hostname of host where the iozone command was run. All target hosts must permit password-less ssh access from the host running the command. For example:

    export RSH=ssh
    iozone -+m ioz.cfg -+h my-ip-address -w -c -e -i 0 -+n -C -r 64k -s 1g -t 4

And the file ioz.cfg contains these records (where /mnt/glusterfs is the Gluster mountpoint on each test machine):

    g01  /mnt/glusterfs  /usr/local/bin/iozone
    g02  /mnt/glusterfs  /usr/local/bin/iozone
    g03  /mnt/glusterfs  /usr/local/bin/iozone
    g04  /mnt/glusterfs  /usr/local/bin/iozone

Restriction: Since iozone uses non-privileged ports it may be necessary to temporarily shut down or alter iptables on some/all of the hosts. slave machines must support password-less access from master machine via ssh.

Note that the -+h option is undocumented but it tells the slave host what IP address to use so that the slave does not have to be able to resolve the hostname of the test driver. my-ip-address is the IP address that the slaves should connect to in order to report results back to the host. This need not be the same as the host's hostname.

Typically you run the sequential write test first to lay down the file, drop cache on the servers (and clients if necessary), do the sequential read test, drop cache, do random I/O test if desired. Using above example:

    export RSH=ssh
    IOZ="iozone -+m ioz.cfg -+h my-ip-address -w -C -c -e -r 64k -+n "
     hosts="`awk '{ print $1 }' ioz.cfg`"
    $IOZ -i 0 -s 1g -t 4`\
    for n in $hosts $servers ; do \
       ssh $n 'sync; echo 1 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches' ; done
    $IOZ -i 1 -s 1g -t 4
    for n in $hosts $servers ; do \
       ssh $n 'sync; echo 1 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches' ; done
    $IOZ -i 2 -s 1g -t 4

If you use client with buffered I/O (the default), drop cache on the client machines first, then the server machines also as shown above.


fio is extremely powerful and is easily installed from traditional distros, unlike iozone, but so far has limited distributed test capabilities described in its --client parameter. You can use it for distributed testing, however, by launching fio instances on separate hosts, taking care to start all fio instances as close to the same time as possible, limiting IOPS, and specifying the run duration rather than the amount of data, so that all fio instances end at around the same time. You can then aggregate the fio results from different hosts to get a meaningful aggregate result.

as of March 2015, with some tiny patches, fio's capabilities for distributed performance testing are vastly improved, see these patches:

These are sufficient for distributed OpenStack Cinder block device testing for example. But an additional enhancement is needed so that fio uses separate directories for fio servers, this has not been posted yet.

fio also has different I/O engines, in particular Huamin Chen authored the libgfapi engine for fio so that you can use fio to test Gluster performance without using FUSE.

smallfile Distributed I/O Benchmark

Smallfile is a python-based small-file distributed POSIX workload generator which can be used to quickly measure performance for a variety of metadata-intensive workloads across an entire cluster. It has no dependencies on any specific filesystem or implementation AFAIK. It runs on Windows and should work on most Unixes too. It is intended to complement use of iozone benchmark for measuring performance of large-file workloads, and borrows certain concepts from iozone and Ric Wheeler's fs_mark. It was developed by Ben England starting in March 2009, and is now open-source (Apache License v2).

Here is a typical simple sequence of tests where files laid down in an initial create test are then used in subsequent tests. There are many more smallfile operation types than these 5 (see doc), but these are the most commonly used ones.

    SMF="./ --top /mnt/glusterfs/smf --host-set h1,h2,h3,h4 --threads 8 --file-size 4 --files 10000 --response-times Y "
    $SMF --operation create
    for s in $SERVERS ; do ssh $h 'echo 3 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches' ; done
    $SMF --operation read
    $SMF --operation append
    $SMF --operation rename
    $SMF --operation delete


This test exercises Gluster performance using the libgfapi API, bypassing FUSE - no mountpoints are used. Available here.

To use it, you edit the script parameters in script - all of them are above the comment "NO EDITABLE PARAMETERS BELOW THIS LINE". These include such things as the Gluster volume name, a host serving that volume, number of files, etc. You then make sure that the gfapi_perf_test executable is distributed to the client machines at the specified directory, and then run the script. The script starts all libgfapi workload generator processes in parallel in such a way that they all start the test at the same time. It waits until they all complete, and then it collects and aggregates the results for you.

Note that libgfapi processes consume one socket per brick, so in Gluster volumes with high brick counts, there can be constraints on the number of libgfapi processes that can run concurrently. Specifically, each host can only support up to about 30000 concurrent TCP ports. You may need to adjust "ulimit -n" parameter (see /etc/security/limits.conf "nofile" parameter for persistent tuning).

Object Store tools COSBench was developed by Intel employees and is very useful for both Swift and S3 workload generation. ssbench is part of OpenStack Swift toolset and is command-line tool with a workload definition file format.


An application can be as simple as writing some files, or it can be as complex as running a cloud on top of Gluster. But all applications have performance requirements, whether the users are aware of them or not, and if these requirements aren't met, the system as a whole is not functional from the user's perspective. The activities that the application spends most of its time doing with Gluster are called the "workload" below. For the Gluster filesystem, the "workload" consists of the filesystem requests being delivered to Gluster by the application. There are two ways to look at workload:

  • top-down - what is the application trying to get the filesystem to do?
  • bottom-up - what requests is the application actually generating to the filesystem?

data vs metadata

In this page we frequently refer to "large-file" or "small-file" workloads. But what do we mean by the terms "large-file" or "small-file"? "large-file" is a deliberately vague but descriptive term that refers to workloads where most of the application time is spent reading/writing the file. This is in contrast to a "small-file" workload, where most of the application's time is spent opening/closing the file or accessing metadata about the file. Metadata means "data about data", so it is information that describes the state of the file, rather than the contents of the file. For example, a filename is a type of metadata, as are directories and extended attributes.

Top-down workload analysis

Often this is what users will be able to help you with -- for example, a workload might consist of ingesting a billion .mp3 files. Typical questions that need to be answered (approximately) are:

  • what is file size distribution? Averages are often not enough - file size distributions can be bi-modal (i.e. consist mostly of the very large and very small file sizes). TBS: provide pointers to scripts that can collect this.
  • what fraction of file accesses are reads vs writes?
  • how cache-friendly is the workload? Do the same files get read repeatedly by different Gluster clients, or by different processes/threads on these clients?
  • for large-file workloads, what fraction of accesses are sequential/random? Sequential file access means that the application thread reads/writes the file from start to finish in byte offset order, and random file access is the exact opposite -- the thread may read/write from any offset at any time. Virtual machine disk images are typically accessed randomly, since the VM's filesystem is embedded in a Gluster file.

Why do these questions matter? For example, if you have a large-file sequential read workload, network configuration + Gluster and Linux readahead is important. If you have a small-file workload, storage configuration is important, and so on. You will not know what tuning is appropriate for Gluster unless you have a basic understanding the workload.

Bottom-up analysis

Even a complex application may have a very simple workload from the point of view of the filesystem servicing its requests. If you don't know what your application spends its time doing, you can start by running the "gluster volume profile" and "gluster volume top" commands. These extremely useful tools will help you understand both the workload and the bottlenecks which are limiting performance of that workload. TBS: links to documentation for these tools


  • gluster is a distributed filesystem, but some workloads do not distribute evenly across all servers (example: single-threaded I/O to a large file). Are there "hot spots" in your system?
  • is Linux optimally tuned for Gluster with your workload? (TBS: link here to linux tuning page). Hint: Linux kernel defaults are not optimized for storage servers. Other layers in the stack such as LVM and XFS may impact performance as well.
  • Are you exploiting the features that are available in Gluster to help your particular workload? Warning: translators that help with one workload may reduce performance for a different workload.


There are 4 basic hardware dimensions to a Gluster server, listed here in order of importance:

  • network - possibly the most important hardware component of a Gluster site
    • access protocol - what kind of client is used to get to the files/objects?
  • storage - this is absolutely critical to get right up front
  • cpu - on client, look for hot threads (see below)
  • memory - can impact performance of read-intensive, cacheable workloads

network testing

Because Gluster is a distributed filesystem, the network configuration has a huge impact on performance of Gluster, but is often not given the attention it deserves during the planning and installation phases of the Gluster lifecycle. Fortunately, network performance can be enhanced significantly without additional hardware.

To measure network performance, consider use of a netperf-based script such as that can exercise multiple network connections in parallel, to understand better your network infrastructure capabilities.

The two most common hardware problems impacting distributed storage are, not surprisingly, disk drive failures and network failures. Some of these failures do not cause hard errors, but instead cause performance degradation. For example, with a bonded network interface containing two physical network interfaces, if one of the physical interfaces fails (either port on NIC/switch, or cable), then the bonded interface will stay up, but will have less performance (how much less depends on the bonding mode). Another error would be failure of an 10-GbE Ethernet interface to autonegotiate speed to 10-Gbps -- sometimes network interfaces auto-negotiate to 1-Gbps instead. If the TCP connection is experiencing a high rate of packet loss or is not tuned correctly, it may not reach the full network speed supported by the hardware.

So why run parallel netperf sessions instead of just one? There are a variety of network performance problems relating to network topology (the way in which hosts are interconnected), particularly network switch and router topology, that only manifest when several pairs of hosts are attempting to transmit traffic across the same shared resource, which could be a trunk connecting top-of-rack switches or a blade-based switch with insufficient bandwidth to switch backplane, for example. Individual netperf/iperf sessions will not find these problems, but this script will.

This test can be used to simulate flow of data through a distributed filesystem, for example. If you want to simulate 4 Gluster clients, call them c1 through c4, writing large files to a set of 2 servers, call them s1 and s2, you can specify these (sender, receiver) pairs:

    (c1,s1), (c2, s2), (c3, s1), (c4, s2)

If on the other hand you want to simulate reads, you can use these (sender, receiver) pairs:

    (s1, c1), (s2, c2), (s1, c3), (s2, c4)

To simulate a mixed read-write workload, use both sets of pairs:

    (c1,s1), (c2, s2), (c3, s1), (c4, s2), (s1, c1), (s2, c2), (s1, c3), (s2, c4)

The comments at the top of the script describe the input syntax, but here are some suggestions on how to best utilize it. You typically run this script from a head node or test driver that has password-less ssh access to the set of machines being tested. The hosts running the test do not need ssh access to each other -- they only have to allow password-less ssh access from the head node. The script does not rely on root privileges, so you can run it from a non-root account. Just create a public key on the head node in the right account (usually in \$HOME/.ssh/ ) and then append this public key to \$HOME/.ssh/authorized_keys on each host participating in the test.

We input senders and receivers using separate text files, 1 host per line. For pair (sender[j], receiver[j]), you get sender[j] from line j in the sender file, and receiver[j] from line j in the receiver file. You have to use the IP address/name that corresponds to the interface you want to test, and you have to be able to ssh to each host from the head node using this interface.


There are 3 basic forms of performance results, not in order of importance:

  • throughput -- how much work is done in a unit of time? Best metrics typically are workload-dependent:
    • for large-file random: IOPS
    • for large-file sequential: MB/s
    • for small-file: files/sec
  • response time -- IMPORTANT, how long does it take for filesystem request to complete?
  • utilization -- how busy is the hardware while the workload is running?
  • scalability -- can we linearly scale throughput without sacrificing response time as we add servers to a Gluster volume?

Typically throughput results get the most attention, but in a distributed-storage environment, the hardest goal to achieve may well be CONSISTENTLY LOW RESPONSE TIME, not throughput.

While there are non-interactive workloads where response time does not matter as much, you should pay attention to response time in any situation where a user has to directly interact with the filesystem. Tuning the filesystem to achieve the absolute highest throughput can result in a filesystem that is unusable because of high response time. Unless you are in a benchmarking situation, you want to achieve a balance of good throughput and response time. Typically an interactive user wants to see a response time under 5 seconds always, with most response times much lower than this. To keep response times under control (including system management!), you do not want any hardware component to run at maximum utilization, typically 60-80% utilization is a good peak utilization target. On the other hand, to avoid wasting hardware, you want all of the hardware to be utilized to some extent.