At the most basic level, a file is simply a collection of bits stored on persistent media. When a process wants to access data from a file, the operating system brings the data into main memory, where the process can examine it, alter it, and then request that the data be saved to disk.
The operating system could read and write data directly to and from the disk for each request, but the response time and throughput would be poor due to slow disk access times. The operating system therefore attempts to minimize the frequency of disk accesses by buffering data in main memory, within a structure called the file buffer cache. On a file read request, the file system first attempts to read the requested data
from the buffer cache. If the data is not already present in the buffer cache, it is read from disk and cached in the buffer cache.
Similarly, writes to a file are cached so that future reads can be satisfied without necessitating a disk access, and to reduce the frequency of disk writes. The use of a file buffer cache can be extremely effective when the cache hit rate is high. It also enables the use of sequential read-ahead and write-behind policies to reduce the frequency of physical disk I/O’s.
Another benefit is in making file writes asynchronous, since the application can continue execution without waiting for the disk write to complete.
While the file buffer cache improves I/O performance, it also consumes a significant portion of system memory. AIX’s Enhanced JFS, also known as JFS2, allows the system administrator to control the maximum amount of memory that can be used by the file system for caching. JFS2 uses a certain percentage of real memory for its file buffer cache, specified by the maxclient% parameter. The value of max-client% can be tuned via the vmo command. By default it is set to 80, which implies that JFS2 can use up to 80% of real memory for its file buffer cache. The range of acceptable values for maxclient% is from 1 to 100. For example, the following command will reduce the maximum amount of memory that can be used for the file buffer cache to 50% of real memory: vmo –o maxclient%=50.
Oracle manages data caching itself, so he does not need the file system to implement this service for him. The
use of a file buffer cache results in undesirable overheads in such cases, since data is first moved from the disk to the file buffer cache and from there to the application buffer. This “double-copying” of data results in additional CPU consumption. Also, the duplication of application data within the file buffer cache increases the amount of memory used for the same data, making less memory available for the application, and resulting in additional system overheads due to memory management.