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Fun With Meltdown And Spectre

Brent Ozar looks at some of the consequences of Meltdown and Spectre for SQL Server DBAs:

That’s because some test results have found big slowdowns when the operating system is patched for Meltdown and/or Spectre. These are big vulnerabilities in the processors themselves, and OS vendors are having to make big changes that aren’t tuned for performance yet. Early benchmarks yesterday were showing 30% drops in PostgreSQL performance, but thankfully newer benchmarks have been showing smaller drops. Red Hat’s benchmarks show 3-7% slower analytics workloads, and 8-12% slower OLTP.

Joey D’Antoni has more:

Will This Impact My Performance?

Probably–especially If you are running on virtual hardware. For workloads on bare metal, the security risk is much lower, so Microsoft is offering a registry option to not include the microcode fixes. Longer term especially if you are audited, or allow application code to run on your database servers, you will need to enable the microcode options.

This will likely get better over time as software patches are released, that are better optimized to make fewer calls. Ultimately, this will need to fixed on the hardware side, and we will need a new generation of hardware to completely solve the security issue with a minimum impact.

Allan Hirt has even more:

There are two bugs which are known as Meltdown and Spectre. The Register has a great summarized writeup here – no need for me to regurgitate. This is a hardware issue – nothing short of new chips will eradicate it. That said, pretty much everyone who has written an OS, hypervisor, or software has (or will have) patches to hopefully eliminate this flaw. This blog post covers physical, virtualized, and cloud-based deployments of Windows, Linux, and SQL Server.

The fact every vendor is dealing with this swiftly is a good thing. The problem? Performance will most likely be impacted. No one knows the extent, especially with SQL Server workloads. You’re going to have to test and reset any expectations/performance SLAs. You’ll need new baselines and benchmarks. There is some irony here that it seems virtualized workloads will most likely take the biggest hit versus ones on physical deployments. Time will tell – no one knows yet.

This will have long-term ramifications.  We’ll deal with them like we’ve dealt with other issues in the past, but it does seem that, at least for now, there will be some performance hit from this.