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Sysbench Evaluation of RonDB

Mikael Ronström

Sysbench is a tool to benchmark and test open source databases. We have integrated Sysbench into the RonDB installation. This makes it extremely easy to run benchmarks with RonDB. This blog will describe the use of these benchmarks in RonDB. These benchmarks were executed with 1 cluster connection per MySQL Server. This limited the scalability per MySQL Server to about 12 VCPUs. Since we executed those benchmarks we have increased the number of cluster connections per MySQL Server to 4 providing scalability to at least 32 VCPUs per MySQL Server.


As preparation to run those benchmarks we have created a RonDB cluster using the Hopsworks framework that is currently used to create RonDB clusters. In these tests all MySQL Servers are using the c5.4xlarge VM instances in AWS (16 VCPUs with 32 GB memory). We have a RonDB management server using the t3a.medium VM instance type. We have tested using two different RonDB clusters, both have 2 data nodes. The first test is using the r5.4xlarge instance type (16 VCPUs and 128 GB memory) and the second test uses the r5n.8xlarge (32 VCPUs and 256 GB memory). It was necessary to use r5n class since we needed more than 10 Gbit/second network bandwidth for the OLTP RW test with 32 VCPUs on data nodes.

In the RonDB documentation you can find more details on how to set up your own RonDB cluster in either our managed version (currently supporting AWS) or using our open source shell scripts to set up a cluster (currently supporting GCP and Azure).

The graph below shows the throughput results from the larger data nodes using 8-12 MySQL Server VMs. Now in order to make sense of these numbers we will explain a bit more about Sysbench and how you can tweak Sysbench to serve your purposes for testing RonDB.

Description of Sysbench OLTP RW

The Sysbench OLTP RW benchmark consists of 20 SQL queries. There is a transaction, this means that the transaction starts with a BEGIN statement and it ends with a COMMIT statement. After the BEGIN statement follows 10 SELECT statements that selects one row using the primary key of the table. Next follows 4 SELECT queries that select 100 rows within a range and either uses SELECT DISTINCT, SELECT … ORDER BY, SELECT or SELECT sum(..). Finally there is one INSERT, one DELETE and 2 UPDATE queries.

In Pseudo code thus:


Repeat 10 times: SELECT col(s) from TAB where PK=pk

SELECT col(s) from TAB where key >= start AND key < (start + 100)

SELECT DISTINCT col(s) from TAB where key >= start AND key < (start + 100)

SELECT col(s) from TAB where key >= start AND key < (start + 100) ORDER BY key

SELECT SUM(col) from TAB where key >= start AND key < (start + 100)

INSERT INTO TAB values (....)


UPDATE TAB SET col=val WHERE key=key



This is the standard OLTP RW benchmark.

Benchmark Execution

Now I will describe some changes that the Sysbench installation in RonDB can handle. To understand this we will start by showing the default configuration file for Sysbench.


# Software definition





# Storage definition (empty here)



# MySQL Server definition





# NDB node definitions (empty here)



# Benchmark definition






In this configuration file we provide the pointer to the RonDB binaries, we provide the type of benchmark we want to execute, we provide the password to the MySQL Servers, we provide the number of threads to execute in each step of the benchmark. There is also a list of IP addresses to the MySQL Servers in the cluster and finally we provide the number of instances of Sysbench we want to execute.

This configuration file is created automatically by the managed version of RonDB. This configuration file is available in the API nodes you created when you created the cluster. They are also available in the MySQL Server VMs if you want to test running with a single MySQL Server colocated with the application.

The default setup will run the standard Sysbench OLTP RW benchmark with one sysbench instance per MySQL Server. To execute this benchmark the following steps are done:

Step 1

Log in to the API node VM where you want to run the benchmark from. The username is ubuntu (in AWS). Thus log in using e.g. ssh ubuntu@IP_address. The IP address is the external IP address that you will find in AWS where your VM instances are listed.

Step 2

After successfully being logged in you need to log into the mysql user using the command:

sudo su - mysql

Step 3

Move to the right directory

cd benchmarks

Step 4

Execute the benchmark --default-directory /home/mysql/benchmarks/sysbench_multi

Benchmark Results

As you will discover there is also a sysbench_single, dbt2_single, dbt2_multi directory. These are setup for different benchmarks that we will describe in future papers. sysbench_single is the same as sysbench_multi but with only a single MySQL Server. This will exist also on MySQL Server VMs if you want to benchmark from those. Executing a benchmark from the sysbench machine increases latency since it represents a 3-tiered setup whereas executing sysbench in the MySQL Server represents a 2-tiered setup and thus the latency is lower.

If you want to study the benchmark in real-time repeat Step 1, 2 and 3 above and then perform the following commands:

cd sysbench_multi/sysbench_results

tail -f oltp_rw_0_0.res

This will display the output from the first sysbench instance that will provide latency numbers and throughput of one of the sysbench instances.

When the benchmark has completed the total throughput is found in the file:


Modifying Sysbench benchmark

The configuration for sysbench_multi is found in:


Thus if you want to modify the benchmark you can edit this file.

In order to modify this benchmark, first you can decide on how many SELECT statements to retrieve using the primary key that should be issued. The default is 10. To change this add the following line in autobench.conf:


This will change such that instead 5 primary key SELECTs will be issued for each transaction.

Next, you can decide that you want those primary key SELECTs to retrieve a batch of primary keys. In this case the SELECT will use IN (key1, key2,,, keyN) in the WHERE clause. To use this set the number of keys to retrieve per statement in SB_USE_IN_STATEMENT. Thus to set this to 100 add the following line to autobench.conf.


This means that if SB_POINT_SELECTS is set to 5 and SB_USE_IN_STATEMENT is set to 100 there will be 500 key lookups performed per Sysbench OLTP transaction.

Next, it is possible to set the number of range scan SELECTs to perform per transaction. So to e.g. disable all range scans we can add the following lines to autobench.conf.





Now, it is also possible to modify the range scans. I mentioned that the range scans retrieves 100 rows. The number 100 is changeable through the configuration parameter SB_RANGE_SIZE.

The default behaviour is to retrieve all 100 rows and send them back to the application. Thus no filtering. We also have an option to perform filtering in those range scans. In this case only 1 row will be returned, but we will still scan the number of rows specified in SB_RANGE_SIZE. This feature of Sysbench is activated through adding the following line to autobench.conf:


Finally it is possible to remove the use of INSERT, DELETE and UPDATEs. This is done by changing the configuration parameter SYSBENCH_TEST from oltp_rw to oltp_ro.

There are many more ways to change the configuration of how to run Sysbench, but these settings are enough for this paper. For more details see the documentation of dbt2-0.37.50, also see the Sysbench tree

Benchmark Configurations

In our benchmarking reported in this paper we used 2 different configurations. Later, we will report more variants of Sysbench testing as well as other benchmark variants.

The first is the standard Sysbench OLTP RW configuration. The second is the standard benchmark but adding SB_USE_FILTER=”yes”. This was added since the standard benchmark becomes limited by the network bandwidth using r5.8xlarge instances for the data node. This instance type is limited to 10G Ethernet and it needs almost 20 Gb/s in networking capacity with the performance that RonDB delivers. This bandwidth is achievable using the r5n instances.

Each test of Sysbench creates the tables and fills them with data. To have a reasonable execution time of the benchmark each table will be filled with 1M rows. Each sysbench instance will use its own table. It is possible to set the number of rows per table, it is also possible to use multiple tables per sysbench instance. Here we have used the default settings.

The test runs are executed for a fairly short time to be able to test a large variety of test cases. This means that it is expected that results are a bit better than expected. To see how results are affected by running for a long time we also ran a few select tests where we ran a single benchmark for more than 1 hour. The results are in this case around 10% lower than the numbers of shorter runs. This is mainly due to variance of the throughput that is introduced by the execution of checkpoints in RonDB. Checkpoints consume around 5-10% of the CPU capacity in the RonDB data nodes.

Benchmark setup

In all tests set up here we have started the RonDB cluster using the Hopsworks infrastructure. In all tests we have used c5.4xlarge as the VM instance type for MySQL Servers. This VM has 16 VCPUs and 32 GB of memory. This means a VM with more or less 8 Intel Xeon CPU cores. In all tests there are 2 RonDB data nodes, we have tested with 2 types of VM instances here, the first is the r5.4xlarge which has 16 VCPUs with 128 GB of memory. The second is the r5n.8xlarge which has 32 VCPUs and 256 GB of memory. In the Standard Sysbench OLTP RW test the network became a bottleneck when using r5.8xlarge. These VMs can use up to 10 Gb/sec, but in reality we could see that some instances could not go beyond 7 Gb/sec, when switching to r5n.8xlarge instead this jumped up to 13Gb/sec immediately, so clearly this bottleneck was due to the AWS infrastructure.

To ensure that the network bottleneck was removed we switched to using r5n.8xlarge instances instead for those benchmarks. These instances are the same as r5.8xlarge except that they can use up to 25 Gb/sec in network bandwidth instead of 10Gb/sec.

Standard Sysbench OLTP RW

The first test we present here is the standard OLTP RW benchmark. When we run this benchmark most of the CPU consumption happens in the MySQL Servers. Each MySQL Server is capable of processing about 4000 TPS for this benchmark. The MySQL Server can process a bit more if the responsiveness of the data node is better, this is likely to be caused by the CPU caches being hotter in that case when the response comes back to the MySQL Server. Two 16 VCPU data nodes can in this case handle the load from 4 MySQL Servers, adding a 5th can increase the performance slightly, but not much. We compared this to 2 data nodes using 32 VCPUs and in principle the load these data nodes could handle was doubled.

The response time was very similar in both cases, at extreme loads the larger data nodes had more latency increases, most likely due to the fact that we got much closer to the limits of what the network could handle.

The top number here was 34870 at 64 threads from 10 MySQL Servers. In this case 95% of the transactions had a latency that was less than 19.7 ms, this means that the time for each SQL query was below 1 millisecond. This meant that almost 700k SQL queries per second were executed. These queries reported back to the application 14.5M rows per second for the larger data nodes, most of them coming from the 4 range scan queries in the benchmark. Each of those rows are a bit larger than 100 bytes, thus around 2 GByte per second of application data is transferred to the application (about 25% of this is aggregated in the MySQL when using the SUM range scan).

Sysbench OLTP RW with filtering of scans

Given that Sysbench OLTP RW is to a great extent a networking test we also wanted to perform a test that performed a bit more processing, but reporting back a smaller amount of rows. We achieved this by setting SB_USE_FILTER=”yes” in the benchmark configuration file. This means that instead of each range scan SELECT reporting back 100 rows, it will read 100 rows and filter out 99 of them and report only 1 of the 100 rows. This will decrease the amount of rows to process down to about 1M rows per second. Thus this test is a better evaluator of the CPU efficiency of RonDB whereas the standard Sysbench OLTP RW is a good evaluator of RonDBs ability to ship tons of rows between the application and the database engine.

At first, we wanted to see the effect the number of MySQL servers had on the throughput in this benchmark. We see the results of this in the image above. We see that there is an increase in throughput going from 8 to 12 MySQL Servers. However the additional effect of each added MySQL Server is diminishing. There is very little to gain going beyond 10 MySQL Servers. The optimal use of computing resources is most likely achieved around 8-9 MySQL Servers.

Adding additional MySQL servers also has an impact on the variability of the latency. So probably the overall best fit here is to use about 2x more CPU resources on the MySQL Servers compared to the CPU resources in the RonDB data nodes. This rule is based on this benchmark and isn’t necessarily true for another use case.

The results with the smaller data nodes, r5.4xlarge is the red line that used 5 MySQL Servers in the test.

The rule definitely changes when using the key-value store APIs that RonDB provides. These are at least 100% more efficient compared to using SQL.

A key-value store needs to be a LATS database (low Latency, high Availability, high Throughput, Scalable storage). In this paper we have focused on showing Throughput and Latency. Above is the graph showing how latency is affected by the number of threads in the MySQL Server.

Many applications have strict requirements on the maximum latency of transactions. So for example if the application requires response time to be smaller than 20 ms than we can see in the graph that we can use around 60 threads towards each MySQL Server. At this number of threads r5.4xlarge delivers 22500 TPS (450k QPS) and r5n.8xlarge delivers twice that number, 45000 TPS (900k QPS).

The base latency in an unloaded cluster is a bit below 6 milliseconds. This number is a bit variable based on where exactly the VMs are located that gets started for you. Most of this latency is spent in latency on the networks.  Each network jump in AWS has been reported to be around 40-50 microseconds and one transaction performs around 100 of those network jumps in sequence. Thus almost two-thirds of the base latency comes from the latency in getting messages across. At higher loads the queueing waiting for the message to be executed becomes dominating. Benchmarks where everything executes on a single computer has base latency around 2 millisecond per Sysbench transaction which confirms the above calculations.

RonDB 21.04.0: Open Source Installation Now Available

Mikael Ronström

TLDR; The first release of RonDB is now available. RonDB is currently the best low-latency, high availability, high throughput, and high scalability (LATS) database available today. In addition to new documentation and community support, RonDB 21.04.0 brings automated memory configuration, automated thread configuration, improved networking handling, 3x improved performance, bug fixes and new features. It is available as a managed service on the Hopsworks platform and it can also be installed on-premises with the installation scripts or binary tarball.

What’s new in RonDB 21.04.0?

RonDB 21.04.0 is based on MySQL NDB Cluster 8.0.23. The first release includes the following new features and improvements:

  • New documentation of RonDB and its use as a managed service.
  • Community support for questions and bug reports.
  • Automated memory configuration of different memory pools based on available memory
  • Automated thread configuration based on the available CPU resources
  • Improved CPU and network handling
  • Configurable number of replicas
  • Integrate benchmarking tools in RonDB distribution
  • Performance Improvement in ClusterJ API

New documentation

Our new documentation walks through how to use RonDB as a managed service on the Hopsworks platform and to install it on-premises with automated scripts or binary tarball. We have also added new documentation of the RonDB software.

Community support

Welcome to the RonDB community! Feel free to ask any question and our developers will try to reply as soon as possible. 

Automatic memory configuration

NDB has historically required setting a large number of configuration parameters to set memory sizes of various memory pools. RonDB 21.04.0 introduces automatic memory configuration taking away all these configuration properties. RonDB data nodes will use the entire memory available in the server/VM. You can limit the amount of memory it can use with a new configuration parameter TotalMemoryConfig.

Automatic thread configuration

For increased performance and stability, RonDB will automate thread configuration. This feature was introduced in NDB 8.0.23, but in RonDB it is the default behaviour. RonDB makes use of all accessible CPUs and also handles CPU locking automatically. Read more about automated thread configuration on our latest blog.

Improved CPU and network handling

RonDB will perform better under heavy load by employing improved heuristics in thread spinning and in the network stack.

Configurable number of replicas

In NDB 8.0.23 and earlier releases of NDB one could only set NoOfReplicas at the initial start of the cluster. The only method to increase or decrease replication level was to perform a backup and restore. In RonDB 21.04.0 we introduce Active and Inactive nodes, making it possible to change the number of replicas without having to perform an initial restart of the cluster.

Integrate benchmarking tools in RonDB distribution

We have integrated a number of benchmark tools to assess the performance of RonDB. Benchmarking RonDB is now easy as we ship Sysbench, DBT2, flexAsynch and DBT3 benchmarks along with our binary distribution. Support for ClusterJ benchmarks are expected to come in upcoming product releases.

Performance Improvement in ClusterJ API

A new addition to the ClusterJ API was added that releases data objects and Session objects to a cache rather than releasing them fully. In addition an improvement of the garbage collection handling in ClusterJ was handled. These improvements led to a 3x improvement in a simple key lookup benchmark.

How to get started with RonDB?

There are three ways to use RonDB 21.04.0:

  1. Managed version available on the Enterprise Hopsworks platform. The RonDB cluster is integrated with Hopsworks and can be used for both RonDB applications as well as for Hopsworks applications. Access our full documentation to get started.
  2. Open source automated installation. Use a script that automates the creation of VMs and the installation of the software components required by RonDB. These scripts are available to create RonDB clusters on Azure and GCP. This script can be downloaded from
  3. Binary tarball installation. Download the RonDB binary tarball and install it on any computers of your own liking. The binary tarball is available here.
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RonDB, automatic thread configuration

Mikael Ronström

This blog introduces how RonDB handles automatic thread configuration. It is more technical and dives deeper under the surface of how RonDB operates. RonDB provides a configuration option, ThreadConfig, whereby the user can have full control over the assignment of threads to CPUs, how the CPU locking is to be performed and how the thread should be scheduled.

However, for the absolute majority of users this is too advanced, thus the managed version of RonDB ensures that this thread configuration is based on best practices found over decades of testing. This means that every user of the managed version of RonDB will get access to a thread configuration that is optimised for their particular VM size.

In addition RonDB makes use of adaptive CPU spinning in a way that limits the power usage, but still provides very low latency in all database operations. Adaptive CPU spinning improves latency by up to 50% and in most cases more than 10% improvement.

RonDB 21.04 uses automatic thread configuration by default. This means that as a user you don’t have to care about the configuration of threads. What RonDB does is that it retrieves the number of CPUs available to the RonDB data node process. In the managed version of RonDB, this is the full VM or bare metal server available to the data node. In the open source version of RonDB, one can also limit the amount of CPUs available to RonDB data nodes process by using taskset or numactl when starting the data node. RonDB retrieves information about CPU cores, CPU sockets, and connections to the L3 caches of the CPUs. All of this information is used to set up the optimal thread configuration.

Thread types in RonDB

LDM threads house the data, query threads handle read committed queries, tc threads handle transaction coordination, receive threads handle incoming network messages, send thread handle the sending of network messages, and main threads handle metadata operations, asynchronous replication and a number of other things.

LDM threads

LDM thread is a key thread type. The LDM thread is responsible for reading and writing data. It manages the hash indexes, the ordered indexes, the actual data, and a set of triggers performing actions for indexes, foreign keys, full replication, asynchronous replication. This thread type is where most of the CPU processing is done. RonDB has an extremely high number of instructions per cycle compared to any other DBMS engine. The LDM thread often executes 1.25 instructions per cycle where many other DBMS engines have reported numbers around 0.25 instructions per cycle. This is a key reason why RonDB has such a great performance both in terms of throughput and latency. This is the result of the design of data structures in RonDB that are CPU cache aware and also due to the functional separation of thread types.

Query threads

Query thread is a new addition that was introduced in NDB Cluster 8.0.23. In NDB this is not used by default, RonDB enables the use of query threads by default in the automatic thread configuration. The query threads run the same code as the LDM threads and handles a subset of the operations that the LDM can handle. A normal SELECT query will use read committed queries that can be executed by the query threads. A table partition (sometimes referred to as a table fragment or shard) belongs to a certain LDM thread, thus only this LDM thread can be used for writes and locked reads on rows in this table partition. However for read committed queries, the query threads can be used.

To achieve the best performance RonDB uses CPU locking. In Linux, it is quite common that a thread migrates from one CPU to another CPU. If the thread migrates to a CPU belonging to a different CPU core, the thread will suffer a lot of CPU cache misses immediately after being migrated. To avoid this, RonDB locks threads to specific CPU cores. Thus, it is possible to migrate the thread, but only to another CPU in a CPU core that shares the same CPU caches.

Query threads and LDM threads are organised into Round Robin groups. Each Round Robin group consists of between 4 and 8 LDM threads and the same amount of query threads. All threads within one Round Robin group share the same CPU L3 cache. This ensures that we retain the CPU efficiency even with the introduction of these new query threads. This is important since query threads introduce new mutexes and the performance of these are greatly improved when threads sharing mutexes also share CPU caches. The query thread chosen to execute a query must be in the same Round Robin group as the data owning LDM thread is.

Query threads make it possible to decrease the amount of partitions in a table. As an example, we are able to process more than 3 times as many transactions per second using a single partition in Sysbench OLTP RW compared to when we only use LDM threads. Most key-value stores have data divided into table partitions for the primary key of the table. Many key-value stores also contain additional indexes on columns that are not used for partitioning. Since the table is partitioned, this means that each table partition will contain each of those additional indexes. When performing a range scan on such an index, each table partition must be scanned. Thus the cost of performing range scans increases as the number of table partitions increases. RonDB can scale the reads in a single partition to many query threads, this makes it possible to decrease the number of table partitions in RonDB. In Sysbench OLTP RW this improves performance by around 20% even in a fairly small 2-node setup of RonDB.

In addition query threads ensure that hotspots in the tables can be handled by many threads, thus avoiding the need to partition even more to handle hotspots.

At the same time a modest amount of table partitions increases the amount of writes that we can perform on a table and it makes it possible to parallelise range scans which will speed up complex query execution significantly. Thus in RonDB we have attempted to find a balance between overhead and improved parallelism and improved write scalability.

The cost of key lookups is not greatly affected by the number of partitions since those use a hash lookup and thus always go directly to the thread that can execute the key lookup.

RonDB locks LDM threads and query threads in pairs. There is one LDM thread and one query thread in each such LDM group, we attempt to lock this LDM Group to one CPU core. LDM Groups are organised into Round Robin Groups.

A common choice for a scheduling algorithm in an architecture like this would be to use a simple round robin scheduler. However such an algorithm is too simple for this model. We have two problems to overcome. The first is that the load on LDM threads is not balanced since we have decreased the number of table partitions in a table. Second writes and locked reads can only be scheduled in an LDM thread. Thus it is important to use the Read Committed queries to achieve a balanced load. Since LDM threads and query threads are locked onto the same CPU core it is ok for an LDM thread to be almost idle and we will still be efficient since the query thread on this CPU core will be very efficient.

When a query can be scheduled to both an LDM thread and the query threads in the same Round Robin group the following two-level scheduling algorithm is used.

We gather statistics about CPU usage of threads and we also gather queue lengths in the scheduling queues. Based on this information we prioritise selecting the LDM thread and the query thread in the same LDM group. However, if required to achieve a balanced use of the CPU resources in the Round Robin group we will also schedule read committed queries to any query thread in the Round Robin group of the LDM thread. The gathered CPU usage information affects the load balancer with a delay of around 100 milliseconds. The queue length information makes it possible to adapt to changing load in less than a millisecond.

Given that we use less table partitions in RonDB compared to other solutions, there is a risk of imbalanced load on the CPUs. This problem is solved by two things. First, we use a two-level load balancer on LDM and Query threads. This ensures that we will move away work from overloaded LDM threads towards unused query threads. Second, since the LDM and Query threads share the same CPU core we will have access to an unused CPU core in query threads that execute on the same CPU core as an LDM thread that is currently underutilized. Thus, we expect that this architecture will achieve a balanced load on the CPU cores in the data node architecture.

LDM and query threads use around 50-60% of the available CPU resources in a data node.

tc threads

The tc threads receive all database operations sent from the NDB API. They take care of coordinating transactions and decide which node should take care of the queries. They use around 20-25% of the CPU resources. The NDB API selects tc threads in a node using a simple round robin scheme.

receive threads

The receive threads take care of a subset of the communication links. Thus, the receive thread load is usually fairly balanced but can be a bit more unbalanced if certain API nodes are more used in querying RonDB. The communication links between data nodes in the same node group are heavily used when performing updates. To ensure that RonDB can scale in this situation these node links use multiple communication links. Receive threads use around 10-15% of the CPU resources.

send threads

The send threads assist in sending networking messages to other nodes. The sending of messages can be done by any thread and there is an adaptive algorithm that assigns more load for sending to threads that are not so busy. The send threads assists in sending to ensure that we have enough capacity to handle all the load. It is not necessary to have send threads, the threads can handle sending even without a send thread. Send threads use around 0-10% of the CPUs available.

The total cost of sending can be quite substantial in a distributed database engine, thus the adaptive algorithm is important to balance out this load on the various threads in the data node.

main threads

The number of main threads supported can be 0, 1 or 2. These threads handle a lot of the interactions around creating tables, indexes and any other metadata operation. They also handle a lot of the code around recovery and heartbeats. They are handling any subscriptions to asynchronous replication events used by replication channels to other RonDB clusters.

Analysis of the RonDB thread model


RonDB is based on NDB Cluster. NDB was focused on being a high-availability key-value store from its origin in database research in the 1990s. The thread model in NDB is inherited from a telecom system developed in Ericsson called AXE. Interestingly in one of my first jobs at Philips I worked on a banking system developed in the 1970s, this system had a very similar model compared to the original thread model in NDB and in AXE. In the operating system development time-sharing has been the dominant model since a long time back. However the model used in NDB where the execution thread is programmed as an asynchronous engine where the application handles a state machine has a huge performance advantage when handling many very small tasks. A normal task in RonDB is a key lookup, or a small range scan. Each of those small tasks is actually divided even further when performing updates and parallel range scans. This means that the length of a task in RonDB is on the order of 500 ns up to around 10 microseconds.

Traditional thread design for key-value stores

Time-sharing operating systems are not designed to handle context switches of this magnitude. NDB was designed with this understanding from the very beginning. Early competitors of NDB used normal operating system threads for each transaction and even in a real-time operating system this had no chance to compete with the effectiveness of NDB. None of these competitors are still around competing in the key-value store market.

Asynchronous thread model

The first thread model in NDB used a single thread to handle everything, send, receive, database handling and transaction handling. This is version 1 of the thread architecture, that is also implemented in the open source version of Redis. With the development of multi-core CPUs it became obvious that more threads were needed. What NDB did here was introduce both a functional separation of threads and partitioning the data to achieve a more multi-threaded execution environment. This is version 2 of the thread architecture.

Modern competitors of RonDB have now understood the need to use asynchronous programming to achieve the required performance in a key-value store. We see this in AeroSpike, Redis, ScyllaDB and many other key-value stores. Thus the industry has followed the RonDB road to achieving an efficient key-value store implementation.

Functional separation of threads

Most competitors have opted for only partitioning the data and thus each thread still has to execute all the code for meta data handling, replication handling, send, receive and database operations. Thus RonDB has actually advanced version 2 of the thread architecture further than its competitors.

One might ask, what difference does this make?

All modern CPUs use both a data cache and an instruction cache. By combining all functions inside one thread, the instruction cache will have to execute more code. In RonDB the LDM thread only executes the operation to change the data structures, the tc thread only executes code to handle transactions and the receive thread can focus on the code to execute network receive operations. This makes each thread more efficient. The same is true for the CPU data cache, the LDM thread need not bother with the data structures used for transaction handling and network receive. It can focus the CPU caches on the requirements for database operations which is challenging enough in a database engine.

A scalable key-value store design

A simple splitting of data into different table partitions makes sense if all operations towards the key-value store are primary key lookups or unique key lookups. However most key-value stores also require performing general search operations as part of the application. These search operations are implemented as range scans with search conditions, these scale not so well with a simple splitting of data.

To handle this, RonDB introduces version 3 of the thread architecture that uses a compromise where we still split the data, but we introduce query threads to assist the LDM threads in reading the data. Thus RonDB can handle hotspots of data and require fewer number of table partitions to achieve the required scalability of the key-value store.

Thoughts on a v4 of the thread architecture have already emerged, so expect this development to continue for a while more. This includes even better handling of the higher latency to persistent memory data structures.

Finally, even if a competitor managed to replicate all of those features of RonDB, RonDB has another ace in the 3-level distributed hashing algorithm that makes use of a CPU cache aware data structure.


All of those things combined makes us comfortable that RonDB will continue to lead the key-value store market in terms of LATS: lowest Latency, highest Availability, the highest Throughput and the most Scalable data storage. Thus, being the best LATS database in the industry.

AI/ML needs a Key-Value store, and Redis is not up to it

Mikael Ronström

Online feature stores are the data layer for operational machine learning models - the models that make online shopping recommendations for you and help identify financial fraud. When you train a machine learning model, you feed it with high signal-to-noise data called features. When the model is used in operation, it needs the same types of features that it was trained on (e.g., how many times you used your credit card during the previous week), but the online feature store should have low latency to keep the end-to-end latency of using a model low. Using a model requires both retrieving the features from the online feature store and then sending them to the model for prediction. 

Hopsworks has been using NDB Cluster as our online feature store from its first release. It has the unique combination of low latency, high availability, high throughput, and scalable storage that we call LATS. However, we knew we could make it even better as an online feature store in the cloud, so we asked one of the world’s leading database developers to do it - the person who invented NDB, Mikael Ronström. Together we have made RonDB, a key-value store with SQL capabilities, that is the world’s most advanced and performant online feature store. Although NDB Cluster is open-source, its adoption has been hampered by an undeserved reputation of being challenging to configure and operate. With RonDB, we overcome this limitation by providing it as a managed service in the cloud on AWS and Azure.

Requirements for an Online Feature Store

The main requirements from a database used as an online feature store are: low latency, high throughput for mixed read/write operations, high availability and the ability to store large data sets (larger than fit on a single host). We unified these properties in a single muscular term LATS:

LATS: low Latency, high Availability, high Throughput, scalable Storage. 

RonDB is not without competition as the premier choice as an online feature store. To quote Khan and Hassan from DoorDash, it should be a low latency database: 

“latency on feature stores is a part of model serving, and model serving latencies tend to be in the low milliseconds range. Thus, read latency has to be proportionately lower.” 

To that end, Redis fits this requirement as it is an in-memory key-value store (without SQL capabilities). Redis is open source (BSD Licence), and it enjoys popularity as an online feature store. Doordash even invested significant resources in increasing Redis’ storage capacity as an online feature store, by adding custom serialization and compression schemes. Significantly, similar to RonDB, it provides sub-millisecond latency for single key-value store operations. There are other databases that have been proposed as online feature stores, but they were not considered in this post as they have significantly higher latency (over one order-of-magnitude!), such as DynamoDB, BigTable, and SpliceMachine.

As such, we thought it would be informative to compare the performance of RonDB and Redis as an online feature store. The comparison was between Redis open-source and RonDB open-source (the commercial version of Redis does not allow any benchmarks). In addition to our benchmark, we compare the innards of RonDB’s multithreading architecture to the commercial Redis products (since our benchmark identifies CPU scalability bottlenecks in Redis that commercial products claim to overcome).

Benchmark: RonDB vs Redis

In this simple benchmark, I wanted to compare apples with apples, so I compared open-source RonDB to the open-source version of Redis, since the commercial versions disallow reporting any benchmarks. In the benchmark, I deliberately hobble the performance of RonDB by configuring it with only a single database thread, as Redis is “a single-threaded server from the POV of command execution”. I then proceed to describe the historical evolution of RonDB’s multithreaded architecture, consisting of three different generations, and how open-source Redis is still at the first generation, while commercial Redis products are now at generation two.

Firstly, for our single-threaded database benchmark, we performed our experiments on a 32-core Lenovo P620 workstation with 64 GB of RAM. We performed key-value lookups. Our experiments show that a single-threaded RonDB instance reached around 1.1M reads per second, while Redis reached more than 800k reads per second - both with a mean latency of around 25 microseconds. The throughput benchmark performed batch reads with 50 reads per batch and had 16 threads issuing batch requests in parallel. Batching reads/writes improves throughput at the cost of increased latency.

On the same 32-core server, both RonDB and Redis reached around 600k writes per second when performing SET for Redis and INSERT, UPDATE or DELETE operations for RonDB. For high availability, both of those tests were done with a setup using two replicas in both RonDB and in Redis.

Low latency

We expected that the read latency and throughput of RonDB and Redis would be similar since both require two network jumps to read data. In case of updates (and writes/deletes), Redis should have lower latency since an update is only performed on the main replica before returning. That is, Redis only supports asynchronous replication from the main replica to a backup replica, which can result in data loss on failure of the main node. In contrast, RonDB performs an update using a synchronous replication protocol that requires 6 messages (a non-blocking version of two-phase commit). Thus, the expected latency is 3 times higher for RonDB for writes. 

High Throughput

A comparison of latency and throughput shows that RonDB already has a slight advantage in a single-threaded architecture, but with its third-generation multithreaded architecture, described below, RonDB has an even bigger performance advantage compared to Redis commercial or open-source. RonDB can be scaled up by adding more CPUs and memory or scaled out, by automatically sharding the database.  As early as 2013, we developed a benchmark with NDB Cluster (RonDB’s predecessor) that showed how NDB could handle 200M Reads per second in a large cluster of 30 data nodes with 28 cores each. 

High Availability

The story on high availability is different. A write in Redis is only written to one replica. The replication to other replicas is then done asynchronously, thus consistency can be seriously affected by failures and data can be lost. An online feature store must accept writes that change the online features constantly in parallel with all the batched key reads. Thus handling node failures in an online feature store must be very smooth.

Given that an online feature store may need to scale to millions of writes per second as part of a normal operation, this means that a failed node can cause millions of writes to be lost, affecting the correctness and quality of any models that it is feeding with data. RonDB has transactional capabilities that ensure that transactions can be retried in the event of such partial failures. Thus, as long as the database cluster is not fully down, no transactions will be lost.

In many cases the data comes from external data sources into the online Feature Store, so a replay of the data is possible, but an inconsistent state of the database can easily lead to extra unavailability in failure situations. Since an online feature store is often used in mission-critical services, this is clearly not desirable.

RonDB updates all replicas synchronously as part of writes. Thus, if a node running the transaction coordinator or a participant fails, the cluster will automatically fail over to the surviving nodes, a new transaction coordinator will be elected (non-blocking), and no committed transactions will be lost. This is a key feature of RonDB and has been tested in the most demanding applications for more than 15 years and tested thousands of times on a daily basis.

Additionally it can be mentioned that in a highly available setup, in a cloud environment RonDB can read any replica and still see the latest changes whereas Redis will have to read the main replica to get a consistent view of the data and this will, in this case, require communicating across availability zones which can easily add milliseconds to latency for reads. RonDB will automatically setup the cluster such that applications using the APIs will read replicas that are located in the same availability zone. Thus in those setups RonDB will always be able to read the latest version of the data and still deliver data at the lowest possible latency. Redis setups will have to choose between delivering consistent data with higher latency or inconsistent data with low latency in this setup.

Scalable Storage

Redis only supports in-memory data - this means that Redis will not be able to support online Feature Stores that store lots of data. In contrast, RonDB can store data both in-memory and on-disk, and with support for up to 144 database nodes in a cluster, it can scale to clusters of up to 1PB in size.

Analysis: Three Generations of Multithread Architectures

For our single-threaded benchmark, we did not expect there to be, nor were there, any major differences in throughput or latency for either read or write operations. The purpose of the benchmark was to show that both databases are similar in how efficiently they use a single CPU. RonDB and Redis are both in-memory databases, but the implementation details of their multithreaded architectures matters for scalability (how efficiently they handle increased resources), as we will see. 

Firstly, “Redis is not designed to benefit from multiple CPU cores. People are supposed to launch several Redis instances to scale out on several cores if needed.” For our use-case of online feature stores, it is decidedly non-trivial to partition a feature store across multiple redis instances. Therefore, commercial vendors encourage users to pay for their distributions that introduce a new multithreaded architecture to Redis. We now chronicle the three different generations of threading architectures underlying RonDB, from its NDB roots, and how they compare to Redis’ journey to date.

Open-source Redis has practically the same thread architecture implemented as in the first version of NDB Cluster from the 1990s, when NDB was purely an in-memory database. The commercial Redis distributions have sinced developed multithreaded architectures very similar to the second thread architecture used by later versions of NDB cluster. However, RonDB has evolved into a third version of the NDB cluster thread architecture. Let’s dive into the details of these 3 generations of threading architectures.

The first generation thread architecture is extremely simple - everything is implemented in one thread. This means that this thread handles receive on the socket, handling transactions, handling the database operation, and finally sending the response. This works better with fast CPUs with large caches - more Intel, less AMD. Still, handling all of this in one thread is efficient and my experiments on a 32-core Lenovo P620 workstation, we can see that RonDB reached 1.1M reads per second and Redis a bit more than 800k reads per second in a single thread with a latency of around 25 microseconds. This test used batch reads with 50 reads per batch and had 16 threads issuing batches in parallel. For INSERT, UPDATE or DELETE operations, both RonDB and Redis reached around 600k writes per second, with Redis performing SET operations (it does not have a SQL API). This benchmark was done with a setup using two replicas in both RonDB and in Redis.

Around 2008, the trend towards an increased number of CPUs per socket accelerated and today a modern cloud server can have more than 100 CPUs. With NDB, we decided it was necessary to redesign its multithreading architecture to scale with the available number of CPUs. This resulted in our second generation thread architecture, where we partitioned database tables and let each partition (shard) be managed by a separate thread. This takes care of the database operation. However, as NDB is a transactional distributed database, it was also necessary to design a multithreaded architecture for socket receive, socket send, and transaction handling. These are harder to scale-out on multi-core hardware.

Both NDB and the commercial solutions of Redis implement their multithreaded architecture using message passing. However, the commercial Redis solution uses Unix sockets for communication, whereas NDB (and RonDB) send messages through memory in a lock-free communication scheme. RonDB has dedicated threads to handle socket receive, socket send, and transaction handling. To further reduce latency, network send is adaptively integrated into transaction handling threads.

RonDB has, however, taken even more steps in its multithreaded architecture compared to commercial Redis solutions. RonDB now has a new third generation thread architecture that improves the scalability of the database - it is now possible for more than one thread to perform concurrent reads on a partition. RonDB will ensure that all these  read-only threads that can read a partition all share the same L3 cache to avoid any scalability costs. This ensures that hotspots can be handled by multiple threads in RonDB. This architectural advancement decreases the need to partition the database into an increasingly larger number of partitions, and prevents problems such as over-provisioning due to hotspots in DynamoDB. The introduction of read-only threads is important for applications that also need to perform range scans on indexes that are not part of the partition key. It also enables the key-value store to handle secondary index scans and complex SQL queries in the background, while concurrently handling primary key operations (reads/writes for the online Feature Store).

Finally, the third generation thread architecture enables fine-grained elasticity; it is easy to stop a database node and bring it up again with a higher or lower number of CPUs, thus making it easy to increase database throughput or decrease its cost of operation. Hotspots can be mitigated with read-only threads without resorting to over-provisioning. RonDB also has coarse-grained elasticity, with the ability to add new database nodes without affecting its operation, known as online add node.


There are numerous advantages of RonDB compared to Redis; the higher availability and the ability to handle much larger data sets are the most obvious ones. Both are open-source, but Redis has the advantage of a reduced operational burden as it is not at its core a distributed system. However, in the recent era of managed databases in the cloud, operational overhead is no longer a deciding factor when choosing your database. With RonDB’s appearance as a managed database in the cloud, the operational advantages of Redis diminish, paving the way for RonDB to gain adoption as the highest performance online feature store in the cloud. 

RonDB: The World's Fastest Key-value Store is now in the Cloud.

Mikael Ronström

We are pleased to introduce RonDB, the world’s fastest key-value store with SQL capabilities, available now in the cloud. RonDB is an open source distribution of NDB Cluster, thus providing the same core technology and performance as NDB, but as a managed platform in the cloud. RonDB is the best low-latency, high throughput, and high availability database available today. In addition, it also brings large data storage capabilities. RonDB is a critical component of the infrastructure needed to build feature stores, and, in general, real-time applications.

Introducing RonDB

RonDB is an open source distribution of NDB Cluster which has been used as a key-value store for applications for almost 20 years. The name RonDB is a synthesis of its inventor, Mikael Ronström, and its heritage NDB. RonDB is offered as a managed version of NDB Cluster, providing the fastest solution targeting the traditional applications that use NDB Cluster such as those used in telecom, finance, and gaming. RonDB provides a solution as the data layer for operational AI applications. RonDB gives online models access to reliable, low-latency, high-throughput storage for precomputed features.  

RonDB is ideal for developers who require a real-time database that can (1) be quickly deployed  (RonDB provides a possibility to set up an RonDB cluster in less than a minute), (2) handle millions of database operations per second, and (3) be elastically scaled up and down to match the current load, reducing operational costs. 

What is a key-value store?

A key-value store associates a value with a unique identifier (a key) to enable easy storage, retrieval, searching, and updating of data using simple queries - making them ideal for organisations with large volumes of data that needs to be constantly retrieved and updated.

Distributed key-value stores, such as RonDB, are optimal for organisations with heavy read/write workloads on large data sets, thus being a good fit for businesses operating at scale. For example, they are a critical component of the infrastructure needed to build feature stores and many different types  of interactive and real-time applications.

The value of RonDB

Key-value store applications

RonDB can be used to develop interactive online applications where storing, retrieving and updating data is essential, but there is also the possibility to search for data in the same system. RonDB provides efficient access using a partition key through either native APIs or SQL access. 

RonDB supports distributed transactions enabling applications to perform any type of data modification. RonDB enables concurrent complex queries using SQL as part of the online application. Through its efficient partitioning scheme, RonDB can scale nodes to support hundreds of CPUs per node and then scale to hundreds of data nodes (tens of thousands of CPUs in total).

SQL applications

RonDB supports writing low latency, high availability SQL applications using its full SQL capabilities, providing a MySQL Server API.

LATS: low Latency, high Availability, high Throughput, and scalable Storage

RonDB is the fastest key-value store currently available and the only one with general purpose query capabilities, through its SQL support. The performance of key-value stores are evaluated based on low Latency, high Availability, high Throughput, and scalable Storage (LATS). 

LATS: low Latency, high Availability, high Throughput, scalable Storage.

Low Latency

RonDB has shown the fastest response times: it can respond in 100-200 microseconds on individual requests and in less than a millisecond on batched read requests; it can also perform complex transactions in a highly loaded cluster within 10 milliseconds. Moreover, and perhaps even more importantly, RonDB has predictable latency.

High Availability

NDB Cluster can provide Class 6 Availability; in other words, an NDB system is operational 99.9999% of the time, thus no more than 30 seconds of downtime per year. RonDB brings the same type of availability now to the cloud, thus ensuring that RonDB is always available. RonDB allows you to place replicas within a cloud region on different availability zones, ensuring that failure of availability zones does not result in downtime for RonDB.

High Throughput

RonDB scales to up to hundreds of millions of read or write ops/seconds. A single RonDB instance on a virtual machine can support millions of key value operations per second,  and, without downtime, can be scaled up  to a large cluster that supports hundreds of millions of key value operations per second.

Scalable Storage

RonDB offers large dataset capabilities, being able to store up to petabytes of data.Individual RonDB data nodes can store up to 16TBytes of in-memory data and many tens of TBytes of disk data. Given that RonDB clusters can scale up to 144 data nodes, an RonDB cluster can be scaled to store petabytes of data.

LATS Performance

The combination of predictable low latency, the ability to handle millions of operations per second, and a unique high availability solution makes RonDB the leading LATS database, that is now also available in the cloud.

RonDB as online feature stores

RonDB is the foundation of the Hopsworks Online Feature Store. For those unfamiliar with the concept of feature store, it is a data warehouse of features for machine learning. It contains two databases: an online database serving features at low latency to online applications and an offline database storing large volumes of historic feature values. 

The online feature store provides the data (features) that underlie the models used in intelligent online applications. For example, it helps inform an intelligent decision about whether a financial transaction is suspected of money laundering or not by providing the real-time information about the user’s credit history, recent card usage, location of the transaction, and so on. Thus, the most important requirements from the feature store are quick and consistent responses (low latency), handling large volumes of key lookups (high throughput), and being always available (high availability). In addition an online feature store should be able to scale as the business grows. RonDB is the only database available in the market that meets all these requirements.

Get Started

We’re not releasing RonDB publicly just yet. Instead, we have made it available as early access. If you think your team could benefit from RonDB, please contact us!