Server Fault is a question and answer site for system and network administrators. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I need to find out about the impact different levels of disk I/O have on my application. To do so I am looking for a way to generate different amounts of disk load while I am running the application in a benchmark mode.

We currently get complaints from users about slow performance, however the information we get is very thin, so we cannot yet determine where exactly the problem is. I/O is the primary suspect, however we'd like to know for sure.

For starters I would be fine with something to create a configurable continuous read or write load, e. g. from /dev/zero to a tmp file or something. I know I can use dd, but this will push the disk to the limit immediately whereas I'd like some kind of throttle to make different test runs with increasing amounts of background traffic.

To make things a little more challenging, this has to run on RedHat9 boxes, which means kernel 2.4. So ideally this would be some kind of script that makes use of the default tools present anyway.

share|improve this question
up vote 3 down vote accepted

You could make a big file (eg 1GB) and then use rsync to copy the file. rsync has a built in option to limit the bandwith. So you could copy the file at 10KiB/sec, or 50KiB/sec or 2MiB/sec, etc.

share|improve this answer
This is a great idea, especially since our production system is handed some of the data to write via the network. This would reflect the actual environment even a little more. – Daniel Schneller Jun 23 '09 at 9:44

As far as I remember, Bonnie can create some load : If it does not work the way you want it to, compose a small bash script that will, using various utilities such as dd, rm, ls (or the mentioned rsync).

share|improve this answer
Bonnie++'s very good at simulating different types of I/O. But you can't throttle what it does. It's all or nothing. – Dan Carley Jun 23 '09 at 10:50

If you have a benchmark mode can you spin up multiple instances of it? If so you can keep running copies until you get something close to your production load.

share|improve this answer

You may use a scriptable tool to stress the disks with the proper pattern. For instance :

  • IOZone is a cli tool, quite easy to set up, gives directly CVS or XLS files ( )
  • IOMeter has a windows GUI to remotely control what's happening in real time. ( )

Both allow you to choose precisely how to balance read and write, IO size, etc.

share|improve this answer

rugg is a disk testing utility that may do the trick for you. You can control the number of threads it uses to perform its tests thus controlling the load on the disk(s) and the system. It also allows you to control whether it does its tests in parallel or sequentially, adding another level of control.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.