I'm reviewing patches 1-3 in this series, i.e. those patches that are not directly related to parallelism, but are independent improvements to merging.

Let's begin with patch 1:

On 08/02/2016 01:18 AM, Peter Geoghegan wrote:
Cap the number of tapes used by external sorts

Commit df700e6b set merge order based on available buffer space (the
number of tapes was as high as possible while still allowing at least 32
* BLCKSZ buffer space per tape), rejecting Knuth's theoretically
justified "sweet spot" of 7 tapes (a merge order of 6 -- Knuth's P),
improving performance when the sort thereby completed in one pass.
However, it's still true that there are unlikely to be benefits from
increasing the number of tapes past 7 once the amount of data to be
sorted significantly exceeds available memory; that commit probably
mostly just improved matters where it enabled all merging to be done in
a final on-the-fly merge.

One problem with the merge order logic established by that commit is
that with large work_mem settings and data volumes, the tapes previously
wasted as much as 8% of the available memory budget; tens of thousands
of tapes could be logically allocated for a sort that will only benefit
from a few dozen.

Yeah, wasting 8% of the memory budget on this seems like a bad idea. If I understand correctly, that makes the runs shorter than necessary, leading to more runs.

A new quasi-arbitrary cap of 501 is applied on the number of tapes that
tuplesort will ever use (i.e.  merge order is capped at 500 inclusive).
This is a conservative estimate of the number of runs at which doing all
merging on-the-fly no longer allows greater overlapping of I/O and

Hmm. Surely there are cases, so that with > 501 tapes you could do it with one merge pass, but now you need two? And that would hurt performance, no?

Why do we reserve the buffer space for all the tapes right at the beginning? Instead of the single USEMEM(maxTapes * TAPE_BUFFER_OVERHEAD) callin inittapes(), couldn't we call USEMEM(TAPE_BUFFER_OVERHEAD) every time we start a new run, until we reach maxTapes?

- Heikki

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