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25.4.1 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.

Performance Schema Timers

Two Performance Schema 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 amount of overhead. To see what timers are available and their characteristics, check the performance_timers table:

mysql> SELECT * FROM performance_timers;
| CYCLE       |      2389029850 |                1 |             72 |
| NANOSECOND  |      1000000000 |                1 |            112 |
| MICROSECOND |         1000000 |                1 |            136 |
| MILLISECOND |            1036 |                1 |            168 |
| TICK        |             105 |                1 |           2416 |

The columns have these meanings:

  • 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. The timers in setup_timers that you can use are those that do not have NULL in the other columns. If the values associated with a given timer name are NULL, that timer is not supported on your platform.

  • 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 timers are in effect or to change timers, access the setup_timers table:

mysql> SELECT * FROM setup_timers;
| NAME        | TIMER_NAME  |
| idle        | MICROSECOND |
| wait        | CYCLE       |
| stage       | NANOSECOND  |
| statement   | NANOSECOND  |
| transaction | NANOSECOND  |

       WHERE NAME = 'idle';
mysql> SELECT * FROM setup_timers;
| NAME        | TIMER_NAME  |
| idle        | MICROSECOND |
| wait        | CYCLE       |
| stage       | NANOSECOND  |
| statement   | NANOSECOND  |
| transaction | NANOSECOND  |

By default, the Performance Schema uses the best timer available for each instrument type, but you can select a different one.

To time wait events, the most important criterion is to reduce overhead, at the possible expense of the timer accuracy, so using the CYCLE timer is the best.

The time a statement (or stage) takes to execute is in general orders of magnitude larger than the time it takes to execute a single wait. To time statements, the most important criterion is to have an accurate measure, which is not affected by changes in processor frequency, so using a timer which is not based on cycles is the best. The default timer for statements is NANOSECOND. The extra overhead compared to the CYCLE timer is not significant, because the overhead caused by calling a timer twice (once when the statement starts, once when it ends) is orders of magnitude less compared to the CPU time used to execute the statement itself. Using the CYCLE timer has no benefit here, only drawbacks.

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:

  • End users expect to see timings in wall-clock units, such as fractions of a second. Converting from cycles to fractions of seconds can be expensive. For this reason, the conversion is a quick and fairly rough multiplication operation.

  • Processor cycle rate might change, such as when a laptop goes into power-saving mode or when a CPU slows down to reduce heat generation. If a processor's cycle rate fluctuates, conversion from cycles to real-time units is subject to error.

  • Cycle counters might be unreliable or unavailable depending on the processor or the operating system. For example, on Pentiums, the instruction is RDTSC (an assembly-language rather than a C instruction) and it is theoretically possible for the operating system to prevent user-mode programs from using it.

  • Some processor details related to out-of-order execution or multiprocessor synchronization might cause the counter to seem fast or slow by up to 1000 cycles.

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

Performance Schema Timer Representation in Events

Rows in Performance Schema tables that store current events and historical events have three columns to represent timing information: TIMER_START and TIMER_END indicate when an event started and finished, and TIMER_WAIT indicates event duration.

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.

Internally, times within events are stored in units given by the timer in effect when event timing begins. For display when events are retrieved from Performance Schema tables, times are shown in picoseconds (trillionths of a second) to normalize them to a standard unit, regardless of which timer is selected.

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. To avoid unpredictable results after you make timer changes, 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.

While a wait, stage, statement, or transaction event is executing, the respective current-event tables display current-event timing information:


To make it possible to determine how how long a not-yet-completed event has been running, the timer columns are set as follows:

  • TIMER_START is populated (unchanged from previous behavior)

  • TIMER_END is populated with the current timer value

  • TIMER_WAIT is populated with the time elapsed so far (TIMER_ENDTIMER_START)

Events that have not yet completed have an END_EVENT_ID value of NULL. To assess time elapsed so far for an event, use the TIMER_WAIT column. Therefore, to identify events that have not yet completed and have taken longer than N picoseconds thus far, monitoring applications can use this expression in queries:


Event identification as just described assumes that the corresponding instruments have ENABLED and TIMED set to YES and that the relevant consumers are enabled.

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