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The Vista Performance Saga Continues

By Roger Andrews, Posted on August 8, 2008 at 5:39 pm


I thought it about time I posted an update regarding my Vista post on the 16th of April. In that post I recommended holding off on Server 2008 deployments until more data was available.

So let’s state the real problem.

“All file operations (read, write, file-position, etc.) are 40% slower on a Vista and Server 2008 system disk than they are on XP or Server 2003 system disks.”

These operations are slowed down even when they are serviced from the O/S cache subsystem. The reason for the 40% overhead is the registration of a driver with the newly (Vista) introduced file system filter framework, even if the driver itself performs no work and just returns. Registration can be for a particular device and not just a disk drive. In one case, the UAC file system virtualization driver, UAFV.SYS registers itself with the filter manager framework to perform the protected file virtualization feature new in Vista. As a result of the filter manager subsystem overhead – all read/write/seek operations to the C: drive become slower regardless of the file virtualization operation. Turning off this UAFV.SYS driver restores system disk performance.

How can you tell what this means? You can use the sysinternals procmon utility to see all the I/O operations occurring on your c: drive—every one of those operations is slowed down on a Vista and Server 2008 system disk. This accounts for some of the CPU bottleneck when your laptop starts. It accounts for slower virus scans on Vista system disks, etc.

As nearly all laptops, most small business servers, and the majority of current desktops all have a single system disk, this problem impacts all current Vista and Small Business Server 2008 users to some degree or another. This problem becomes exacerbated when other utility and anti-virus software takes advantage of the new Vista filter manager framework, where performance to non-system disks will be impacted.

Solutions are of course to read/write sequential data in much larger blocks. We changed Synergy/DE to use 4k buffers for sequential output in our recent 9.1.5 release, however the semantics of the sequential input read allowing for random reading precludes us from doing that on input without slowing down performance. Random ISAM reads can’t use larger blocks without damaging performance at the disk level—so they incur the CPU overhead. Most of the I/O patterns I see with procmon also don’t meet the bar for larger I/Os, so the real issue is to get the problem fixed in the O/S.

If you disable UAC (which we don’t recommend) and you have never virtualized a file (for example, you do this at system installation), you can use the registry editor to make the uafv.sys service visible and then disable it. Doing so will also mean you can’t re-enable UAC till the service is re-enabled. Alternatively you can ensure all your data files (this also means your temp and DTKTMP logicals) are placed on a non system drive – and you won’t see most of the impact of this problem.

We are currently working with Microsoft to provide a fix to this in the next Service Pak and and will keep you informed of our results.

As a side note, we also noticed that any scheduled task runs slower in Vista and Server 2008. Typically customers use these to generate reports and run day ends overnight. These tasks now run at a low priority class. You would expect an idle system to run them almost the same—regardless of the priority class (after all the idea is low priority items use available resource when there are no higher priority items running), but it appears that the programs no longer use available resources as prior versions do. Microsoft sees this as by design—which is hard to believe. We have introduced a new API in 9.1.5 to allow you to re-set the priority class of your scheduled tasks to ensure they retain the performance characteristics of prior operating system versions.

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