How to increase database performance

Did you know that a one-second delay in website load time can result in an 11% reduction in page visits and a 7% decrease in conversions?

Databases are the foundation of several applications and services. When a database is housed on a Linux server, increasing its speed is critical to ensuring application responsiveness, customer pleasure, and operational efficiency. Performance difficulties in a database might degrade user experiences and result in possible corporate losses.

In this post, I’ll look at advanced ways for improving the speed of databases running on Linux servers. I’ll focus on popular open-source databases such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, and MongoDB, which are known for their robust features and smooth interaction with the Linux environment.

Understanding Database Performance

When your database slows down, your whole application can feel stuck. Finding and fixing the problem is key to getting things running smoothly again. Let’s find the basics of database performance and learn how to track down those troublesome bottlenecks.

Database Performance Fundamental

Consider database performance from the following perspectives:

  • Speed: How fast are your queries running? Slow responses are key for happy users.
  • Capacity: Can your database handle more traffic? It is important to scale gracefully.
  • Smoothness: Are there any noticeable lags or stuttering? Low latency is crucial, particularly in interactive applications.
  • Efficiency: Your database is efficient and does not consume excessive resources. It’s important to optimize how your server is used.

Database Performance Metrics

You can’t fix what you can’t measure. Keep a watchful eye on these metrics:

  • Individual Suspects (Queries): Track slow-running queries, understand how they’re processed (query plans).
  • Database’s Habits: Examine if your caches are doing their job, how many connections are happening, whether indexes are working.
  • System’s Health: Is the CPU maxed out? Memory running low? Disk operations causing slowdowns?

Did you know, you can keep an eye of these metrics with Xitoring’s server integrations?

Usual Suspects: Common Bottlenecks

Often, performance issues come from a few main areas:

  • Badly Written Query: It’s forcing your database to work way too hard, scanning entire tables unnecessarily.
  • Case of the Missing Index: Your database is fumbling for data without an index to guide it.
  • Insufficient Resources: Your hardware just can’t keep up with the demands.
  • Misconfigured Database: Those settings aren’t helping; they might even be hindering performance!

Linux Server Optimization for Database Performance

Linux provides fine control over your server’s CPU, memory, and disk use. By properly tweaking these parameters, you can get considerable performance improvements. Let’s focus on crucial areas of optimization:

Kernel Parameters and System Settings

Minor changes to the Linux kernel and system settings can have a significant impact. In my previous blog post about Linux Kernel Parameter Tuning, I went into great detail about this topic. However, here are a few things:

  • File Handles: Databases juggle lots of open files. Increasing file handle limits (ulimit) might be necessary.
  • Network Settings: Optimize network buffers and TCP settings, especially for high-latency or bandwidth-intensive database connections.
  • Swappiness: Databases love RAM! Reduce your system’s tendency to swap memory to disk aggressively (vm.swappiness) to avoid performance hits.

Disk I/O Optimization Strategies

How your database reads and writes data is crucial. Consider:

  • Filesystem Choice: Filesystems like XFS and ext4 with journaling optimized for database workloads can offer benefits.
  • RAID: Using RAID configurations can improve throughput and resilience, especially for heavily write-oriented databases.
  • SSD vs. HDD: Where possible, prioritize SSDs or NVMe drives for their superior random I/O performance, benefiting most databases.

Memory Management and Swappiness

  • Prioritize RAM: Ensure your database server has ample memory to avoid excessive disk usage.
  • Revisit Swappiness: Linux tends to swap to disk. Adjust vm.swappiness for a database system, favoring keeping data in memory longer.

Configuring the I/O Scheduler for Database Workloads

How Linux schedules disk operations impacts your database:

  • Deadline or Noop: These schedulers often suit databases by favoring short bursts of I/O for better responsiveness.
  • Experimentation is Key: Different databases might have different optimal settings – benchmark with your specific workload!

Important Note: Linux optimization for databases is a careful balance. Research best practices for your specific Linux distribution and database. Misconfiguration can do more harm than good!

Database System-Specific Tuning

General optimization principles offer a solid foundation, but to truly maximize your database performance. It’s important to learn how to tune databases like MySQL, PostgreSQL, and MongoDB. Each one works a bit differently. By making the right changes to their settings, you can make them much faster and more efficient.


Tuning MySQL starts with server parameters and variables. The InnoDB Buffer Pool (innodb_buffer_pool_size) is exceptionally important, as it’s designed to hold a substantial portion of your data in memory for faster access. The Query Cache (query_cache_size) can be beneficial for workloads with numerous repetitive queries. Finally, ensure your maximum connection limit (max_connections) aligns with your application’s demands and your server’s capacity to avoid resource contention.

InnoDB, the default storage engine, also offers several key settings. InnoDB log file size (innodb_log_file_size) can be adjusted to improve write performance, but larger logs might lengthen recovery times after crashes. The flush method (innodb_flush_method) allows prioritizing reliability versus speed depending on your data’s criticality.

Indexing is a powerful tool in MySQL – target columns frequently used in filtering (WHERE), sorting (ORDER BY), and joining tables. Consider covering indexes when possible to reduce disk lookups. However, always remember that excessive indexing can hinder inserts and updates.


PostgreSQL centers heavily on memory allocation. Dedicating a significant portion of your RAM to PostgreSQL’s shared buffers (shared_buffers) greatly enhances caching. The Write-Ahead Log (WAL) dictates how data modifications are persisted for reliability.

Consider placing WAL on a fast, separate disk for improved write performance, and tune checkpoint intervals based on the amount of data your system modifies. Configuring connection limits (max_connections) and per-query work memory (work_mem, maintenance_work_mem) requires balancing resource use with your workload demands.


For MongoDB, focus initially on the WiredTiger storage engine. Adjust the WiredTiger cache size to best fit your active dataset. Consider data compression for less-frequently accessed collections to reduce storage usage. Strategic indexing remains critical; remember that updating indexes adds overhead.

For scaling across nodes, sharding is essential in MongoDB. Careful shard key selection ensures balanced data distribution. Always analyze query plans using explain() to guide efficient query construction and leverage MongoDB’s query hints for fine-grained control.

Advanced Database Performance Techniques

We’ve covered the fundamentals of database optimization: tuning configuration, creating smart indexes, and ensuring your queries are efficient. Now, let’s explore techniques that can push your database performance to the next level.

Implementing Database Replication

Replication involves creating copies of your database. This offers several performance and availability benefits:

  • Read Scalability: Offload read-only queries to replicas to distribute the load across multiple servers.
  • Failover and High Availability: Replicas provide redundancy, minimizing downtime when the primary database fails.
  • Geolocation: Placing replicas closer to users can reduce query latency.

Maximizing Connection Pooling

Establishing database connections is relatively expensive. Connection pooling maintains a set of ready-to-use connections, avoiding this overhead for each new request. This technique is particularly beneficial for applications that make frequent, short database interactions.

Auto-Tuning Tools and Utilities

While deep database knowledge is crucial, tools can assist in identifying potential optimizations. Tools like MySQLTuner and tuning-primer analyze your database configuration and workload to provide tailored recommendations. Use these judiciously, as they offer insights, but it’s important to understand the reasoning behind their suggestions and how they fit your specific use case.

Tools for Monitoring Database Performance

 Database performance monitoring tools are essential for maintaining optimal database health and performance. Various tools help you keep a watchful eye on your database:

  • Database-Specific Tools: MySQL’s slow_query_log, PostgreSQL’s pg_stat_statements, and MongoDB’s profiler offer insights into query performance.
  • System-level Monitoring: Tools like top, vmstat, and iostat provide visibility into CPU, memory, and disk resource usage.

Although there are several tools available to assist you monitor database performance, simply monitoring them is insufficient. You must configure alerts and notifications to be notified if the performance is unreliable. You will have a better experience if you use Xitoring Server Integration Monitoring to monitor MySQL, PostgreSQL, and MongoDB. With Xitoring, you can keep everything in one place and not worry about monitoring and alerting!

Final Thoughts!

Optimization is not a one-time fix; it’s a continuous process for maximizing the value of your data and the technology that powers it. Optimized databases ensure applications respond instantly, boosting user satisfaction and engagement. 

Efficient databases effortlessly handle growing data and user demands, supporting business expansion without hiccups. Optimized databases extract the most out of your server resources, delaying costly upgrades and improving ROI. 

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