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How To: Manage Memory in Neo4j

Goals
In this guide, we will learn how to both measure and restrict memory usage in Neo4j.
Prerequisites
Please have Neo4j (version 4.1 or later) downloaded and installed. Familiarity with the Cypher query language is required to understand the examples used in this guide.
Intermediate

In Neo4j (v4.1+), we can measure and restrict the amount of memory used by transactions running on the server. This feature can be used to avoid OutOfMemory exceptions when running our workloads and ensure fairness across databases and transactions.

Movie dataset

The examples in this guide are based on the built-in movies dataset. This can be loaded by running the :play movies command in the Neo4j Browser and following the instructions to import the dataset. We can see a sample of the graph in the Neo4j Browser visualization below:

Measuring memory usage of one transaction

We can measure the memory usage of individual Cypher queries when profiling them using the PROFILE clause.

The following query takes all pairs of people and returns the longest path between the pair of nodes up to a maximum distance of 5 hops.

PROFILE
MATCH (p1:Person), (p2:Person)
WHERE p1 <> p2
MATCH path = (p1)-[*..5]-(p2)
WITH p1, p2, path
ORDER BY p1, p2, length(path) DESC
WITH p1, p2, collect(path)[0] AS path
RETURN p1.name, p2.name, [rel in relationships(path) | type(rel)];

We can run this query in the Neo4j Browser, which returns a visual representation of the query plan that contains memory usage information. We can see the output from running this query in the image below:

The total memory usage of 17,062,912 bytes is included on the ProduceResults operator. That memory usage is broken down across the following operators:

  • OrderedAggregation – 376,272 bytes
  • Sort – 16,687,456 bytes
  • NodeByLabelScan – 64 bytes

Alternatively, we can run the query in the Cypher Shell, which returns the following output (truncated for brevity):

Plan Statement Version Planner Runtime Time DbHits Rows Memory (Bytes)

“PROFILE”

“READ_ONLY”

“CYPHER 4.1”

“COST”

“PIPELINED”

68

484361

7890

17062912

Operator Estimated Rows Rows DB Hits Time (ms) Memory (Bytes)

+ProduceResults@memorymanagement

2

7890

0

16.498

+Projection@memorymanagement

2

7890

46424

48.497

+Projection@memorymanagement

2

7890

0

5.987

+OrderedAggregation@memorymanagement

2

7890

0

26.009

376272

+Projection@memorymanagement

5

33440

0

54.526

+Sort@memorymanagement

5

33440

0

96.382

16687456

+Projection@memorymanagement

5

33440

134704

+Filter@memorymanagement

5

33440

114163

+VarLengthExpand(All)@memorymanagement

256

115305

188936

The output from Cypher Shell contains the total memory usage information in a separate summary table, rather than including it as part of the final operator. The summary table contains a column indicating the memory usage of 17062184 bytes or 17MB.

Measuring memory usage on server

We can also measure the memory usage on the Neo4j server using the following procedures:

Procedure

Description

CALL dbms.listPools()

describes thread pool memory usage

CALL dbms.listTransactions()

describes memory usage by running transactions

CALL dbms.listQueries()

describes memory usage by running queries

For example, we can see the memory usage when our all pairs of people query is running, by executing the following query:

CALL dbms.listQueries()
YIELD queryId, username, database, query, allocatedBytes
RETURN queryId, username, database, query, allocatedBytes;
queryId username database query allocatedBytes

“query-32”

“neo4j”

“memorymanagement”

” PROFILE MATCH (p1:Person), (p2:Person) WHERE p1 <> p2 MATCH path = (p1)-[*..5]-(p2) WITH p1, p2, path ORDER BY p1, p2, length(path) DESC WITH p1, p2, collect(path)[0] AS path RETURN p1.name, p2.name, [rel in relationships(path) | type(rel)];”

3234176

“query-34”

“neo4j”

“neo4j”

“CALL dbms.listQueries() YIELD queryId, username, database, query, allocatedBytes RETURN queryId, username, database, query, allocatedBytes”

64

At the time that we ran this query, our all pairs of people query was only using 3,234,176 bytes of memory out of the 17,062,912 that we know it uses in total.

Restricting memory usage

We can restrict the amount of heap memory available to transactions by specifying the following config settings in $NEO4J_HOME/neo4j.conf.

Setting Description

dbms.memory.transaction.global_max_size

configures the global maximum memory usage for all of the transactions running on the server.

dbms.memory.transaction.database_max_size

limits the transaction memory usage per database

dbms.memory.transaction.max_size

limits the memory usage per transaction

If we want to restrict the amount of memory used by an individual transaction to 10MB, we can set the following config:

neo4j.conf
dbms.memory.transaction.max_size=10m

Our query from the measuring memory usage of one transaction section uses more memory than this, so if we re-run that query, we’ll see the following error message:

The allocation of 64.3 KiB would use more than the limit 10.0 MiB. Currently using 9.9 MiB. dbms.memory.transaction.max_size threshold reached