Another ZFS ARC memory question

Tom Evans at
Fri Feb 24 12:51:16 UTC 2012

On Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 11:06 AM, Luke Marsden
<luke-lists at> wrote:
> Hi all,
> Just wanted to get your opinion on best practices for ZFS.
> We're running 8.2-RELEASE v15 in production on 24GB RAM amd64 machines
> but have been having trouble with short spikes in application memory
> usage resulting in huge amounts of swapping, bringing the whole machine
> to its knees and crashing it hard.  I suspect this is because when there
> is a sudden spike in memory usage the zfs arc reclaim thread is unable
> to free system memory fast enough.
> This most recently happened yesterday as you can see from the following
> munin graphs:
> E.g.
> Our response has been to start limiting the ZFS ARC cache to 4GB on our
> production machines - trading performance for stability is fine with me
> (and we have L2ARC on SSD so we still get good levels of caching).
> My questions are:
>      * is this a known problem?
>      * what is the community's advice for production machines running
>        ZFS on FreeBSD, is manually limiting the ARC cache (to ensure
>        that there's enough actually free memory to handle a spike in
>        application memory usage) the best solution to this
>        spike-in-memory-means-crash problem?
>      * has FreeBSD 9.0 / ZFS v28 solved this problem?
>      * rather than setting a hard limit on the ARC cache size, is it
>        possible to adjust the auto-tuning variables to leave more free
>        memory for spiky memory situations?  e.g. set the auto-tuning to
>        make arc eat 80% of memory instead of ~95% like it is at
>        present?
>      * could the arc reclaim thread be made to drop ARC pages with
>        higher priority before the system starts swapping out
>        application pages?
> Thank you for any/all answers, and thank you for making FreeBSD
> awesome :-)

It's not a problem, it's a feature!

By default the ARC will attempt to cache as much as it can - it
assumes the box is a ZFS filer, and doesn't need RAM for applications.
The solution, as you've found out, is to limit how much ARC can take

In practice, you should be doing this anyway. You should know, or have
an idea, of how much RAM is required for the applications on that box,
and you need to limit ZFS to not eat into that required RAM.



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