Performance Schema Event Timing

Events are collected by means of instrumentation added to the server source code. Instruments time events, which is how the Performance Schema provides an idea of how long events take. It is also possible to configure instruments not to collect timing information. This section discusses the available timers and their characteristics, and how timing values are represented in events.

Two tables provide timer information:

Each timer row in setup_timers must refer to one of the timers listed in performance_timers.

Timers vary in precision and the amount of overhead they involve. To see what timers are available and their characteristics, check the performance_timers table:

mysql> SELECT * FROM performance_timers;
| CYCLE       |      2389029850 |                1 |             72 |
| NANOSECOND  |            NULL |             NULL |           NULL |
| MICROSECOND |         1000000 |                1 |            585 |
| MILLISECOND |            1035 |                1 |            738 |
| TICK        |             101 |                1 |            630 |

The TIMER_NAME column shows the names of the available timers. CYCLE refers to the timer that is based on the CPU (processor) cycle counter. If the values associated with a given timer name are NULL, that timer is not supported on your platform. The rows that do not have NULL indicate which timers you can use in setup_timers.

TIMER_FREQUENCY indicates the number of timer units per second. For a cycle timer, the frequency is generally related to the CPU speed. The value shown was obtained on a system with a 2.4GHz processor. The other timers are based on fixed fractions of seconds. For TICK, the frequency may vary by platform (for example, some use 100 ticks/second, others 1000 ticks/second).

TIMER_RESOLUTION indicates the number of timer units by which timer values increase at a time. If a timer has a resolution of 10, its value increases by 10 each time.

TIMER_OVERHEAD is the minimal number of cycles of overhead to obtain one timing with the given timer. The overhead per event is twice the value displayed because the timer is invoked at the beginning and end of the event.

To see which timer is in effect or to change the timer, access the setup_timers table:

mysql> SELECT * FROM setup_timers;
| wait | CYCLE      |

    -> WHERE NAME = 'wait';

mysql> SELECT * FROM setup_timers;
| wait | MICROSECOND |

By default, the Performance Schema uses the best timer available for each instrument type, but you can select a different one. Generally the best timer is CYCLE, which uses the CPU cycle counter whenever possible to provide high precision and low overhead.

The precision offered by the cycle counter depends on processor speed. If the processor runs at 1 GHz (one billion cycles/second) or higher, the cycle counter delivers sub-nanosecond precision. Using the cycle counter is much cheaper than getting the actual time of day. For example, the standard gettimeofday() function can take hundreds of cycles, which is an unacceptable overhead for data gathering that may occur thousands or millions of times per second.

Cycle counters also have disadvantages:

Currently, MySQL works with cycle counters on x386 (Windows, OS X, Linux, Solaris, and other Unix flavors), PowerPC, and IA-64.

The setup_instruments table has an ENABLED column to indicate the instruments for which to collect events. The table also has a TIMED column to indicate which instruments are timed. If an instrument is not enabled, it produces no events. If an enabled instrument is not timed, events produced by the instrument have NULL for the TIMER_START, TIMER_END, and TIMER_WAIT timer values. This in turn causes those values to be ignored when calculating the sum, minimum, maximum, and average time values in summary tables.

Within events, times are stored in picoseconds (trillionths of a second) to normalize them to a standard unit, regardless of which timer is selected. The timer used for an event is the one in effect when event timing begins. This timer is used to convert start and end values to picoseconds for storage in the event.

Modifications to the setup_timers table affect monitoring immediately. Events already in progress may use the original timer for the begin time and the new timer for the end time, which may lead to unpredictable results. If you make timer changes, you may want to use TRUNCATE TABLE to reset Performance Schema statistics.

The timer baseline (time zero) occurs at Performance Schema initialization during server startup. TIMER_START and TIMER_END values in events represent picoseconds since the baseline. TIMER_WAIT values are durations in picoseconds.

Picosecond values in events are approximate. Their accuracy is subject to the usual forms of error associated with conversion from one unit to another. If the CYCLE timer is used and the processor rate varies, there might be drift. For these reasons, it is not reasonable to look at the TIMER_START value for an event as an accurate measure of time elapsed since server startup. On the other hand, it is reasonable to use TIMER_START or TIMER_WAIT values in ORDER BY clauses to order events by start time or duration.

The choice of picoseconds in events rather than a value such as microseconds has a performance basis. One implementation goal was to show results in a uniform time unit, regardless of the timer. In an ideal world this time unit would look like a wall-clock unit and be reasonably precise; in other words, microseconds. But to convert cycles or nanoseconds to microseconds, it would be necessary to perform a division for every instrumentation. Division is expensive on many platforms. Multiplication is not expensive, so that is what is used. Therefore, the time unit is an integer multiple of the highest possible TIMER_FREQUENCY value, using a multiplier large enough to ensure that there is no major precision loss. The result is that the time unit is picoseconds. This precision is spurious, but the decision enables overhead to be minimized.