Re: [patch 1/2] x86_64 page fault NMI-safe

From: Peter Zijlstra
Date: Wed Aug 04 2010 - 02:47:59 EST

On Tue, 2010-08-03 at 14:25 -0400, Mathieu Desnoyers wrote:
> * Peter Zijlstra (peterz@xxxxxxxxxxxxx) wrote:
> > On Thu, 2010-07-15 at 12:26 -0400, Mathieu Desnoyers wrote:
> >
> > > I was more thinking along the lines of making sure a ring buffer has the proper
> > > support for your use-case. It shares a lot of requirements with a standard ring
> > > buffer:
> > >
> > > - Need to be lock-less
> > > - Need to reserve space, write data in a buffer
> > >
> > > By configuring a ring buffer with 4k sub-buffer size (that's configurable
> > > dynamically),
> >
> > FWIW I really utterly detest the whole concept of sub-buffers.
> This reluctance against splitting a buffer into sub-buffers might contribute to
> explain the poor performance experienced with the Perf ring buffer.

That's just unsubstantiated FUD.

> These
> "sub-buffers" are really nothing new: these are called "periods" in the audio
> world. They help lowering the ring buffer performance overhead because:
> 1) They allow writing into the ring buffer without SMP-safe synchronization
> primitives and memory barriers for each record. Synchronization is only needed
> across sub-buffer boundaries, which amortizes the cost over a large number of
> events.

The only SMP barrier we (should) have is when we update the user visible
head pointer. The buffer code itself uses local{,64}_t for all other
atomic ops.

If you want to amortize that barrier, simply hold off the head update
for a while, no need to introduce sub-buffers.

> 2) They are much more splice (and, in general, page-exchange) friendly, because
> records written after a synchronization point start at the beginning of a page.
> This removes the need for extra copies.

This just doesn't make any sense at all, I could splice full pages just
fine, splice keeps page order so these synchronization points aren't
critical in any way.

The only problem I have with splice atm is that we don't have a buffer
interface without mmap() and we cannot splice pages out from under
mmap() on all architectures in a sane manner.

> So I have to ask: do you detest the sub-buffer concept only because you are tied
> to the current Perf userspace ABI which cannot support this without an ABI
> change ?

No because I don't see the point.

> I'm trying to help out here, but it does not make the task easy if we have both
> hands tied in our back because we have to keep backward ABI compatibility for a
> tool (perf) forever, even considering its sources are shipped with the kernel.

Dude, its a published user<->kernel ABI, also you're not saying why you
would want to break it. In your other email you allude to things like
flight recorder mode, that could be done with the current set-up, no
need to break the ABI at all. All you need to do is track the tail
pointer and publish it.

> Nope. I'm thinking that we can use a buffer just to save the stack as we call
> functions and return, e.g.

We don't have a callback on function entry, and I'm not going to use
mcount for that, that's simply insane.

> call X -> reserve space to save "X" and arguments.
> call Y -> same for Y.
> call Z -> same for Z.
> return -> discard event for Z.
> return -> discard event for Y.
> if we grab the buffer content at that point, then we have X and its arguments,
> which is the function currently executed. That would require the ability to
> uncommit and unreserve an event, which is not a problem as long as we have not
> committed a full sub-buffer.

Again, I'm not really seeing the point of using sub-buffers at all.

Also, what happens when we write an event after Y? Then the discard must
fail or turn Y into a NOP, leaving a hole in the buffer.

> I thought that this buffer was chasing the function entry/exits rather than
> doing a stack unwind, but I might be wrong. Perhaps Frederic could tell us more
> about his use-case ?

No, its a pure stack unwind from NMI context. When we get an event (PMI,
tracepoint, whatever) we write out event, if the consumer asked for a
stacktrace with each event, we unwind the stack for him.

> > Additionally, if you have multiple consumers you can simply copy the
> > stacktrace again, avoiding the whole pointer chase exercise. While you
> > could conceivably copy from one ringbuffer into another that will result
> > in very nasty serialization issues.
> Assuming Frederic is saving information to this stack-like ring buffer at each
> function entry and discarding at each function return, then we don't have the
> pointer chase.
> What I am proposing does not even involve a copy: when we want to take a
> snapshot, we just have to force a sub-buffer switch on the ring buffer. The
> "returns" happening at the beginning of the next (empty) sub-buffer would
> clearly fail to discard records (expecting non-existing entry records). We would
> then have to save a small record saying that a function return occurred. The
> current stack frame at the end of the next sub-buffer could be deduced from the
> complete collection of stack frame samples.

And suppose the stack-trace was all of 16 entries (not uncommon for a
kernel stack), then you waste a whole page for 128 bytes (assuming your
sub-buffer is page sized). I'll take the memcopy, thank you.

To unsubscribe from this list: send the line "unsubscribe linux-kernel" in
the body of a message to majordomo@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
More majordomo info at
Please read the FAQ at