SQL Server 2017 Machine Learning Services Part 2 – Memory Allocation

SQL Server 2017 fundamentally changed the underlying structure of SQL Server for reasons that had nothing to do with Machine Learning Services.  Understanding this new architecture will help you configure SQLServer to optimally run R and Python. When Microsoft set out to get SQL Server to work on Linux, the goal was to provide the nearly 30 years of development effort to a new operating system without having to re-write all of the code used to make SQL Server run on the Linux operating system. For SQL Server 2005, Microsoft created a SQLOS, which created an abstraction layer between the hardware and SQL Server.  This abstraction layer allowed SQL Server to take advantages of hardware changes by expanding the capability of SQL Server to take advantage of hardware changes even when the operating system had not implemented all of the code needed to fully implemented it. From a practical perspective, this mean when you configured SQL Server internally to use 100% of all available memory, this didn’t mean all of the memory on the server, it mean 100% of the memory allocated to SQL Server.

For SQL Server 2017, Microsoft created the SQL Server Platform Abstraction Layer [SQLPAL].  Like SQLOS before it, SQLPAL abstracts the calls to the operating system. It implemented the ability to be operating system independent by separating SQL Server Code from the operating system by creating abstraction layer between SQL Server and the Operating system which includes the management of memory, processing thread and IO. This layer of abstraction provides the ability to create one version of SQL Server code which can then be run both platforms, Linux or Windows operating systems.  SQL PAL manages all memory and threads used by SQL Server.

Machine Learning Resources and SQL Server Memory Allocation

Enabling Machine Learning Services on SQL Server which I discussed in a previous blog post, requires you to enable external scripts.  Machine Learning Services are run as external processes to SQLPAL. This means that when you are running Python or R code you are running it outside of the managed processes of SQL Server and SQLPAL.  This design means that the resources used to run Machine Learning Services will run outside of the resources allocated for SQL Server.  If you are planning on using Machine Learning Services you will want to review the server memory options which you may have set for SQL Server.  If you have set the max server memory For example, if your server has 16 GB of RAM memory, and you have allocated  8 GB to SQL Server and you estimate that the operating system will use an additional 4 GB, that means that machine learning services will have 4 GB remaining which it can use.

By design, Machine Learning Services will not starve out all of the memory for SQL Server because it doesn’t use it.  This means DBAs to not have to worry about SQL Server processes not running because some R program is using all the memory as it does not use the memory SQL Server has allocated.  You do have to worry about the amount of memory allocated to Machine Learning Services as by default, using our previous example where there was 4 GB which Machine Learning Services can use, it will only use 20% of the available memory or  819 KB of memory.  That  is not a lot of memory.  Most likely if you are doing a lot of Machine Learning Services work you will want to use more memory which means you will want to change the default memory allocation for external services.

SQL Server Resource Allocation

SQL Server manages all resources using the application layer, SQLOS. SQLOS is the interface between SQL Server and all of the underlying hardware resources, including of course memory.  Using the Resource Governor within SQL Server it is possible to allocate the resources used by specific processes to ensure that no single process will for example use all the memory, starving out other processes running on the machine. Configuring and using Resource Pools provides more important functions such as production applications to be allocated the majority of the SQL Server resources used by the SQLOS. This will ensure for example that an ad-hoc reporting query will not adversely impact the primary application.

Machine Learning Services Resource Allocation within SQL Server

The allocations for the Resource Governor for all SQLPAL functions can be found by running

SELECT * FROM sys.resource_governor_resource_pools WHERE name = 'default'

By default, the max cpu, memory and cpu cap are all set to 100 percent. To look at the resource allocation for Machine Learning Services, you will need to  look at the the external resource pools.

SELECT * FROM sys.resource_governor_external_resource_pools WHERE name = 'default'

By default, the maximum memory that Machine Learning Services can use, outside of the memory that has been allocated to SQL Server, is 20% of the remaining memory. If the processes running require more memory, the allocated percentage amounts for memory and external pool resources may need to be adjusted. The following settings will decrease the overall memory settings for SQLOS and increase the memory allocated to external processes from 20% to 50%

ALTER EXTERNAL RESOURCE POOL "default" WITH (max_memory_percent = 40);

Using our previous example of 4 GB of memory available after the memory allocation to SQL Server and the OS, the memory available for Machine Learning Services would go from .819 GB to 2 GB.  Setting resources for the external resource pool will in no way impact the resources SQL Server uses.  If you run the previous queries listed above you will see the changes made to the external pool while the standard resource governor pool is not changed.

Determining How Much Memory is needed for Machine Learning Services with SQL Server

How do you know how much memory SQL Server needs for Machine Learning Services? Well since I am a consultant I feel compelled to say, it depends.  Given the relative newness of the Machine Learning Tools, there are not any really good guidelines as the memory which you are using greatly depends on the complexity and quantity of the R or Python code you are running as well as how much data these processes are running against.  It also depends what language you are using.  R is more memory intensive than R and unless you are using the Rx functions which are a part of the Machine Learning Services service, will not swap items in and out of memory. The best way to determine how much memory you are using is to monitor its use over time, and the best way to do that is to create a process for monitoring the external resources.

Best Practice Method for Monitoring Machine Learning Services Resources

Creating resource pools for machine learning to monitor use over time is considered a best practice method for ongoing monitoring of resources. The following code will create an external resource pool for processes running Machine Learning Services and classifying the resources run to use it. If you are familiar with setting up resource pools in SQL Server, this process is the same, it just needs to be applied to external resources as well to use the external resources. To monitor the Machine Learning Services, the first step is to create an external resource pool called ML_Resources instead of just using the default. I am going to allocate all of the external resources to it.

CREATE EXTERNAL RESOURCE POOL ML_Resources WITH (max_memory_percent = 100);

The next step in the process is to create a workload group.  The workload group, named MLworkloadGroup  in the code, is used as a container to hold processes which have been classified as ML processes.

CREATE WORKLOAD GROUP MLworkloadGroup WITH (importance = medium) USING "default", EXTERNAL "ML_resources";

The next step is to create a function for classifying processes running as R or Python so that they can be monitored in the workload group.

USE master
RETURNS sysname
WITH schemabinding
IF program_name() in ('Microsoft R Host', 'RStudio', ‘Python’, ‘Pythonw’) RETURN 'MLworkloadGroup';
RETURN 'default'

Once the function has been created, then the Resource Governor is directed to use the function so that all of the Python and R code are monitored in the external resource pool and turns on the Resource Governor with the reconfigure command.

ALTER RESOURCE GOVERNOR WITH (classifier_function = dbo.is_ML_app);

Going forward, all processes running R or Python will be classified and use all available memory.  After these steps are completed, you can obtain performance information from the DMVs sys.dm_resource_governor_resource_pool and  sys.dm_resource_governor_workload_groups by creating a query like this

USE master
SELECT a.session_id, a.login_name,  b.name
FROM sys.dm_exec_sessions AS a
JOIN sys.dm_resource_governor_workload_groups AS b
ON a.group_id = b.group_id


Using the Windows Performance Monitor, you will now be able to take a look at the resources being used for Machine Learning Services and can then determine how much memory is needed based upon actual usage on the server.

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

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