One of my older posts talked about SQL Server Memory Basics. The infamous MemToLeave region was shown with a default value of 384MB. This post was penned a long time back and the SQL landscape has changed since then. Since the post was mainly based on showing the memory architecture for SQL Servers in a 32-bit environment, the calculations shown were based on the 2GB user address space limitation for x86 architecture.
With the adoption of 64-bit architecture, the 2GB user mode address space (3GB if you use the /3GB switch) went out of the window. One of the lesser known facts that I have seen multiple times while addressing memory related concerns for non-BPool memory consumption on MSDN is that the non-BPool region is now not just 384MB.
Before I go onto explain this, I would like to point out that the Max Server Memory setting for SQL Server (irrespective of architecture) is concerned with the BPool region. This doesn’t limit the amount of memory that can be used by components which request for contiguous allocations above 8KB in size. The non-BPool region is now limited not by your virtual address space in 64-bit environments but by your physical memory (RAM) on the server. Let me explain this with an example.
If you have a SQL Server instance on a 64-bit box with Max Server Memory set to 24GB and the total physical memory on the server is 32GB, then your SQL instance can now theoretically use the remaining 8GB for contiguous memory allocations requested above 8KB in size. This is where I keep advocating the understanding of the environment before setting Max Server Memory for the SQL instance. Leaving 2 or 3GB for your Operating System and the non-BPool memory is just not going to cut it if you have components active within SQL Server which require huge amounts of contiguous memory. I have already listed out the non-BPool memory consumers in a previous post which outlines the most common consumers. The reason this happens is that on 64-bit environments you are no longer constrained by the 2 or 3GB user address space limitation because your address space runs into a few TBs. So, the limiting factor here is your physical memory (RAM). Once you have set Max Server Memory to finite value, the SQL instance is told that the Buffer Pool cannot grow beyond this value but this doesn’t limit non-BPool allocations. As long as you have available physical memory on the server, SQL can continue using that for contiguous allocation requests above 8KB in size. This makes it highly important for you to evaluate which components in your SQL environment can make such allocation request and set the Max Server Memory in such a manner that you do not starve either of the two memory regions in the SQL Server or any of the other applications running on the server or the Operating System. Unless you do this, you could end up troubleshooting SQL Memory Pressure very frequently on the box especially issues like paging or general server unresponsiveness/sluggishness before you hit the nail on the head!
To summarize, two points that you need to keep in mind for 64-bit SQL environments:
1. Max Server Memory setting only limits Buffer Pool
2. Non-BPool memory region for SQL is effectively now: Total Physical Memory – (Max Server Memory + Physical Memory used by OS and other applications)