I agree to what you propose. I'm pretty sure you are right in getting a significant improvement in readout speed
of the history system. So far there was no big request for improving the history system, since the performance in
the experiments I was involved in was good. In MEG for example, we have ~20MB of history data per day, and all
plots even going back some months can be made in a couple of seconds. Have a look for example at
This plot stretches over two weeks and involves ~500 MB of history data, and is prepared in a couple of seconds.
The key question here is how big the disk cache of the OS is. The above plot does not read all 500 MB, but skips
many data points in order to obtain ~1000 data points (one per pixel) for the requested period. To find these
data points, it reads and scans the history index files (yymmdd.idx), which are only a few percent of the
yymmdd.hst data files. The index file contains only the time stamp, the event id and the location of the event in
the *.hst file. Scanning the index file is as efficient as scanning a history file with a single variable. Now
comes the access of the history file. For ~1000 data points, 1000 locations have to be read. This requires
reading in the FAT table for the history file and accessing the sector clusters containing the data. In worst
case one has to read 1000 clusters. With a cluster size of 2kB this will be 2MB of data, something which can be
read very quickly. On the MEG system I observe that the first history plot takes about 5 seconds, while all
consecutive plots take about 1 second. This indicates that the FAT information is cached by the OS. This depends
of course as you indicated correctly on how much memory is available for disk caching, how many processes are
running etc. and will finally determine how fast your history access will be.
So if you implement your proposed new scheme, please consider the following:
- Scanning a single variable file is about the same as scanning the current index file. You save however the
access to the data file. If you plot several variables together, you have to access several "single variable
files", so your access time scales with the number of variables. In the current system, it's likely that
different variables from the same event are located in the same cluster. So you have to read the history file
once for each variable, but after the first variable the sectors of interest are very likely cached by the OS. So
I would estimate that the break-even point is about 2-3 variables. I mean if you read more that three variables,
your proposed method might get slower than the current one. This is of course not the case if there are very many
events in the history file. In that case the index file might be much bigger, since it gets a new entry if *any*
variable in an event changes. If all index file together are bigger than you disk cache, the system will become
slow (and I guess that's what you see). In MEG, the index file is about 1MB per day, so a few weeks fit easily
into the disk cache.
- In order not to get too much data, the history system needs fine tuning. Each slow control system class driver
as an "update threshold", which is used to determine if a variable has "changed". For some noisy channels, it
might be worth to set the threshold at 3 sigma of the noise level (RMS). This can reduce your history data
dramatically. For some equipment, you even might consider to define a minimum update period. This is done via
"/Equipment/<name>/Common/Log history". If that variable is set to 10, the time between two consecutive history
records is at least 10 seconds. For some temperatures for example it might make sense to set this even to one
minute or so, depending on how fast your temperatures change.
- If you implement a per-variable history, you probably have to use the per-event hot link in the ODB. Otherwise
you would exceed the number of hot links MAX_OPEN_RECORDS which is currently 256. If you then get a hot link
update, you have to check manually which variable(s) have changed in log_history() in mlogger.c
- Before you actually go and implement the full system, I would write some small test code to "simulate" the new
scheme. Write some dummy files with the full data you expect in the ALPHA experiment and see what the improvement
is under realistic conditions. Only if you see a big improvement it's worth to implement the full code. Test this
on various machine to get a better overview. Maybe it's worth testing different file systems and cluster sizes as
- If there is an improvement, I'm more than happy to replace the current history code in midas. It might however
not be clean to have a heterogeneous history system, where some files are in the old format and some in the new.
It might be better to write a little conversion routine which converts the old format into the new one, even
omitting records where single variables did not change. This conversion could be even put into the standard
mlogger code and is executed automatically if the logger is started first and finds some old data files.
Even if the speed improvement is not so big, one will certainly win a lot on disk file size (like if only one
variable out of 100 changes). This will probably make it worth to implement anyhow.