Home > SQL Server > How Can You Spot the Procedure Cache Being Flooded?

How Can You Spot the Procedure Cache Being Flooded?


This comes from a question I had a couple of days ago – the SQL Server: Buffer Manager : Page Life Expectancy provides a performance counter that indicates the current lifetime of a page within memory. As data pages and query object pages are being added to the buffer pool they will of course build up and SQL will come under memory pressure as a result. The normal advice is that this figure should be above 300 seconds, indicating that a page should stay in memory for at least 5 minutes.

This figure however, includes both the data cache and the procedure cache – which means you can not determine whether the pages being flushed are a result of churning data pages or you are in a situation where ad hoc queries are flooding the procedure cache. You can of course look at the procedure cache using DMV’s and see the number of objects grow and then shrink, but this is not particularly scientific, nor is it measurable within a trace.

The page life expectancy can easily be traced within Perfmon, but how do you measure the procedure cache? well are a couple of events you can trace in SQL profiler, the primary one I would like to be working do not seem to properly register the event, whilst the secondary does at least work. The two counters are SP:Cache Remove and SP:Cache Insert.

The SP:Cache Remove has 2 Event Sub Classes listed in documentation produced by the SQL Programmability team, sub class 2 is for a deliberate procedure cache flush, such as a DBCC FreeProcCache command, sub class 1 is for when a compiled plan is removed due to memory pressure. In testing the deliberate procedure cache flush does show up in the profiler traces, with an event subclass value of ‘2 – Proc Cache Flush’ – but after a number of tests, I can not ever get the event to be raised when the procedure cache is under memory pressure. If it did then we  would have exactly what I was after, an easy, traceable and recordable way to show a procedure cache under too much pressure.

The SP:Cache Insert is more of a backup mechanism to show the procedure cache is being flooded, but only on the basis that you would count the number of times this event shows up within a trace over a period of time. In essence a SP:Cache Insert is only going to occur if a query does not have a matching query plan within the cache. A large number of these within a short period of time is also going to be an indication that the procedure cache is potentially being flooded.

Combine a large number of SP:Cache Inserts with a low Page Life Expectancy and you can suspect you definitely have a procedure cache flooding problem.

So there is a kind of mechanism to determine whether a low page life expectancy is from data page churn or query page churn, but if the SP:Cache Remove subclass 1 event actually worked, it would be a lot easier. Once you know your plan cache is being flooded, you are then looking to check whether forced parameterization is the worth using to eliminate the issue.

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