In this post, we will
discuss what to do when you add more memory to your instance.
Adding memory to a server where MySQL is running is common practice
when scaling resources.
First, Some Context
Scaling resources is just adding more resources to your
environment, and this can be split in two main ways: vertical
scaling and horizontal scaling.
Vertical scaling is increasing hardware capacity for a given
instance, thus having a more powerful server, while horizontal
scaling is adding more servers, a pretty standard approach for load
balancing and sharding.
As traffic grows, working datasets are getting bigger, and thus
we start to suffer because the data that doesn’t fit into memory
has to be retrieved from disk. This is a costly operation, even
with modern NVME drives, so at some point, we will need to deal
with either of the scaling solutions we mentioned.
In this case, we will discuss adding more RAM, which is usually
the fastest and easiest way to scale hardware vertically, and also
having more memory is probably the main benefit for MySQL.
How to Calculate Memory Utilization
First of all, we need to be clear about what variables allocate
memory during MySQL operations, and we will cover only commons ones
as there are a bunch of them. Also, we need to know that some
variables will allocate memory globally, and others will do a
For the sake of simplicity, we will cover this topic considering
the usage of the standard storage engine:
We have globally allocated variables:
key_buffer_size: MyISAM setting should be set
to 8-16M, and anything above that is just wrong because we
shouldn’t use MyISAM tables unless for a particular reason. A
typical scenario is MyISAM being used by system tables only, which
are small (this is valid for versions up to 5.7), and in MySQL 8
system tables were migrated to the InnoDB engine. So the impact of
this variable is negligible.
query_cache_size: 0 is default and removed in
8.0, so we won’t consider it.
innodb_buffer_pool_size: which is the cache
where InnoDB places pages to perform operations. The bigger, the
Of course, there are others, but their impact is minimal when
running with defaults.
Also, there are other variables that are allocated on each
thread (or open connection):
read_buffer_size, read_rnd_buffer_size, sort_buffer_size,
join_buffer_size and tmp_table_size, and few others. All of them,
by default, work very well as allocation is small and efficient.
Hence, the main potential issue becomes where we allocate many
connections that can hold these buffers for some time and add extra
memory pressure. The ideal situation is to control how many
connections are being opened (and used) and try to reduce that
number to a sufficient number that doesn’t hurt the
But let’s not lose the focus, we have more memory, and we need
to know how to tune it properly to make the best usage.
The most memory-impacting setting we need to focus on is
innodb_buffer_pool_size, as this is where almost all magic happens
and is usually the more significant memory consumer. There is an
old rule of thumb that says, “size of this setting should be set
around 75% of available memory”, and some cloud vendors setup
this value to total_memory*0.75.
I said “old” because that rule was good when running
instances with 8G or 16G of RAM was common, so allocating roughly
6G out of 8G or 13G out of 16G used to be logical.
But what if we run into an instance with 100G or even 200G?
It’s not uncommon to see this type of hardware nowadays, so we
will use 80G out of 100G or 160G out of 200G? Meaning, will we
avoid allocating something between 20G to 40G of memory and leave
that for filesystem cache operations? While these filesystem
operations are not useless, I don’t see OS needing more than
4G-8G for this purpose on a dedicated DB. Also, it is recommended
to use the O_DIRECT flushing method for InnoDB to bypass the
Now that we understand the primary variables allocating memory
let’s check a good use case I’m currently working on. Assuming
$ free -m total used free shared buff/cache available Mem: 385625 307295 40921 4 37408 74865
So roughly 380G of RAM, a nice amount of memory. Now let’s
check what is the maximum potential allocation considering max used
*A little disclaimer here, while this query is not entirely
accurate and thus it can diverge from real results, we can have a
sense of what is potentially going to be allocated, and we can take
advantage of performance_schema database, but this may require
enabling some instruments disabled by default:
mysql > show global status like 'max_used_connections'; +----------------------+-------+ | Variable_name | Value | +----------------------+-------+ | Max_used_connections | 67 | +----------------------+-------+ 1 row in set (0.00 sec)
So with a maximum of 67 connections used, we can get:
mysql > SELECT ( @@key_buffer_size -> + @@innodb_buffer_pool_size -> + 67 * (@@read_buffer_size -> + @@read_rnd_buffer_size -> + @@sort_buffer_size -> + @@join_buffer_size -> + @@tmp_table_size )) / (1024*1024*1024) AS MAX_MEMORY_GB; +---------------+ | MAX_MEMORY_GB | +---------------+ | 316.4434 | +---------------+ 1 row in set (0.00 sec)
So far, so good, we are within memory ranges, now let’s see
how big the innodb_buffer_pool_size is and if it is well sized:
mysql > SELECT (@@innodb_buffer_pool_size) / (1024*1024*1024) AS BUFFER_POOL_SIZE; +------------------+ | BUFFER_POOL_SIZE | +------------------+ | 310.0000 | +------------------+ 1 row in set (0.01 sec)
So the buffer pool is 310G, roughly 82% of total memory, and
total usage so far was around 84% which leaves us around 60G of
memory not being used. Well, being used by filesystem cache, which,
in the end, is not used by InnoDB.
Ok now, let’s get to the point, how to properly configure
memory to be used effectively by MySQL. From pt-mysql-summary we
know that the buffer pool is fully filled:
Buffer Pool Size | 310.0G Buffer Pool Fill | 100%
Does this mean we need more memory? Maybe, so let’s check how
many disk operations we have in an instance we know with a working
dataset that doesn’t fit in memory (the very reason why we
increased memory size) using with this command:
mysqladmin -r -i 1 -c 60 extended-status | egrep "Innodb_buffer_pool_read_requests|Innodb_buffer_pool_reads" | Innodb_buffer_pool_read_requests | 99857480858| | Innodb_buffer_pool_reads | 598600690 | | Innodb_buffer_pool_read_requests | 274985 | | Innodb_buffer_pool_reads | 1602 | | Innodb_buffer_pool_read_requests | 267139 | | Innodb_buffer_pool_reads | 1562 | | Innodb_buffer_pool_read_requests | 270779 | | Innodb_buffer_pool_reads | 1731 | | Innodb_buffer_pool_read_requests | 287594 | | Innodb_buffer_pool_reads | 1567 | | Innodb_buffer_pool_read_requests | 282786 | | Innodb_buffer_pool_reads | 1754 |
Innodb_buffer_pool_read_requests: page reads satisfied from
Innodb_buffer_pool_reads: page reads from disk (bad)
As you may notice, we still get some reads from the disk, and we
want to avoid them, so let’s increase the buffer pool size to
340G (90% of total memory) and check again:
mysqladmin -r -i 1 -c 60 extended-status | egrep "Innodb_buffer_pool_read_requests|Innodb_buffer_pool_reads" | Innodb_buffer_pool_read_requests | 99937722883 | | Innodb_buffer_pool_reads | 599056712 | | Innodb_buffer_pool_read_requests | 293642 | | Innodb_buffer_pool_reads | 1 | | Innodb_buffer_pool_read_requests | 296248 | | Innodb_buffer_pool_reads | 0 | | Innodb_buffer_pool_read_requests | 294409 | | Innodb_buffer_pool_reads | 0 | | Innodb_buffer_pool_read_requests | 296394 | | Innodb_buffer_pool_reads | 6 | | Innodb_buffer_pool_read_requests | 303379 | | Innodb_buffer_pool_reads | 0 |
Now we are barely going to disk, and IO pressure was released;
this makes us happy – right?
If you increase the memory size of a server, you mostly need to
focus on innodb_buffer_pool_size, as this is the most critical
variable to tune. Allocating 90% to 95% of total available memory
on big systems is not bad at all, as OS requires only a few GB to
run correctly, and a few more for memory swap should be enough to
run without problems.
Also, check your maximum connections required (and used,) as
this is a common mistake causing memory issues, and if you need to
run with 1000 connections opened, then allocating 90% of the memory
of the buffer pool may not be possible, and some additional actions
may be required (i.e., adding a proxy layer or a connection
From MySQL 8, we have a new variable called
innodb_dedicated_server, which will auto-calculate the memory
allocation. While this variable is really useful for an initial
approach, it may under-allocate some memory in systems with more
than 4G of RAM as it sets the buffer pool size = (detected server
memory * 0.75), so in a 200G server, we have only 150 for the
Vertical scaling is the easiest and fastest way to improve
performance, and it is also cheaper â but not magical. Tuning
variables properly requires analysis and understanding of how
memory is being used. This post focused on the essential variables
to consider when tuning memory allocation, specifically
innodb_buffer_pool_size and max_connections. Donât over-tune when
itâs not necessary and be cautious of how these two affect your