A significant part of my job is to evaluate how SQL Server (and sometimes other DBMSs) performs on various hardware platforms, in particular on the processors and its related chipsets as they are being released. So naturally, I’ve been paying attention to performance analysis of DBMSs.
One of the papers at the top of my reference list for this area was written by a group of researchers from University of Wisconsin: “DBMSs On A Modern Processor: Where Does Time Go?” This paper was published in 1999, but its findings and methodology are still interesting.
The key conclusion of the paper is that when data is memory resident, the main bottleneck to the DBMS performance is L2 data cache misses, and to some extent L1 instruction cache misses. This conclusion appears to be valid even with today’s commercial DBMSs, given that the conclusion is still being quoted in recently published studies.
If you are interested in the DBMS performance with respect to processors and memory hierarchies, I highly recommend this paper.