Latency Numbers Every Programmer Should Know

2 minute read Published:

Latency is the time interval between initiating a query, transmission, or process, and receiving or detecting the results, often given as an average value over a large number of events.

I’m sure that the most of the developers don’t care about latency these days. It’s fair behavior because of the software itself. To be honest, there are no high load, no real-time, no network extensive operations or even the huge amount of customers. Even so, it always helpful to know how latency can affect your applications.

Below is a cheat sheet of most frequent latency numbers every programmer “should know” (just know that they exist):

Task ns us ms
L1 cache reference 0.5
Branch mispredict 5
L2 cache reference 7 14x L1 cache
Mutex lock/unlock 25
Main memory reference 100 20x L2 cache, 200x L1 cache
Compress 1K bytes with Zippy 3,000 3
Send 1K bytes over 1 Gbps network 10,000 10
Read 4K randomly from SSD* 150,000 150 ~1GB/sec SSD
Read 1 MB sequentially from memory 250,000 250
Round trip within same datacenter 500,000 500
Read 1 MB sequentially from SSD* 1,000,000 1,000 1 ~1GB/sec SSD, 4X memory
Disk seek 10,000,000 10,000 10 20x datacenter roundtrip
Read 1 MB sequentially from disk 20,000,000 20,000 20 80x memory, 20X SSD
Send packet
150,000,000 150,000 150


  • 1 = 10^-9 seconds
  • 1 = 10^-6 seconds = 1,000 ns
  • 1 ms = 10^-3 seconds = 1,000 = 1,000,000 ns


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