Re: 2.6.35 Regression: Ages spent discarding blocks that weren't used!

From: Nigel Cunningham
Date: Fri Aug 06 2010 - 00:41:10 EST


On 06/08/10 11:15, Hugh Dickins wrote:
On Wed, Aug 4, 2010 at 11:28 PM, Nigel Cunningham<nigel@xxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
On 05/08/10 13:58, Hugh Dickins wrote:
I agree it would make more sense to discard swap when freeing rather
than when allocating, I wish we could. But at the freeing point we're
often holding a page_table spinlock at an outer level, and it's just
one page we're given to free. Freeing is an operation you want to be
comfortable doing when you're short of resources, whereas discard is a
kind of I/O operation which needs resources.

The more I think about this, the more it seems to me that doing the discard at allocation time is just wrong. How about a strategy in which you do the discard immediately if resources permit, or flag it as in need of doing (at a future swap free of that page or swap off time) if things are too pressured at the moment? I haven't put thought into what data structures could be used for that - just want to ask for now if you'd be happy with the idea of looking into a strategy like that.

It happens that in the allocation path, there was already a place at
which we scanned for a cluster of 1MB free (I'm thinking of 4kB pages
when I say 1MB), so that was the neatest point at which to site the
discard - though even there we have to be careful about racing

Makes sense when you put it like that :)

I know it's a bit messier, but would it be possible for us to modify the
behaviour depending on the reason for the allocation? (No page_table
spinlock holding when we're hibernating).

But if we moved it to the swap free, it would occur in the swap free
(if any) _prior_ to hibernating, when testing for hibernation would
just say "no".

I see what you mean. I'm not so worried by that because if we're having to free swap in order to hibernate, things are going to be slow anyway and discards aren't going to stand out nearly so much.

I'm much more concerned by the fact that we're currently doing discards for swap that wasn't even being used. If I reboot, swapon and then hibernate without having touched swap so far, I still get the 'hit' on the whole 4GB. I don't think we should be storing on disk a "this hasn't been used since last discarded" flag, so I'm looking for other solutions.

I did once try to go back and get it to work when freeing instead of
allocating, gathering the swap slots up then freeing when convenient.
It was messy, didn't work very well, and didn't show an improvement in
performance (on what we were testing at the time).

When I tried gathering together the frees, there were just too many
short extents to make the discards worth doing that way.


For one or two at a time, I can see that would be the case. If it is
possible to do the discard of pages used for hibernation after we're
finished reading the image, that would be good. Even better would be to only
do the discard for pages that were actually used and just do a simple free
for ones that were only allocated.

There are optimizations which could be done e.g. we discard the whole
of swap at swapon time, then re-discard each 1MB as we begin to
allocate from it. Clearly that has a certain stupidity to it! But
the initial discard of the whole of swap should be efficient and worth
doing. We could keep track of which swap pages have already been
discarded since last used, but that would take up another... it's not
immediately clear to me whether it's another value or another bit of
the swap count.

We could provide an interface for hibernation, to do a minimal number
of maximal range discards to suit hibernation (but we need to be very
careful about ongoing allocation, as in another thread).

But are these things worth doing? I think not. Discard is supposed
to be helping not hindering: if the device only supports discard in a
way that's so inefficient, we'd do better to blacklist it as not
supporting discard at all. My suspicion is that your SSD is of that
kind: that it used not to be recognized as supporting discard, but now
in 2.6.35 it is so recognized. However, that's just a suspicion: let
me not slander your SSD when it may be my code or someone else's to
blame: needs testing.

I've done the bisect now - spent the time today instead of on the place, and it took me to fbbf055692aeb25c54c49d9ca84532de836fbba0. This is Christoph's Hellwig's patch "block: fix DISCARD_BARRIER requests".

Could the problem be that we're using DISCARD_FL_BARRIER too much? (I'm still looking at the code here, so am writing without having thought everything through _really_ carefully.

Of course I'm talking in ideals without having an intimate knowledge of the
swap allocation code or exactly how ugly the above would make it :)

I've not been able to test swap, with SSDs, for several months: that's
a dreadful regression you've found, thanks a lot for reporting it:
I'll be very interested to hear where you locate the cause. If it
needs changes to the way swap does discard, so be it.

I'm traveling to the US on Saturday and have apparently been given one of
those nice seats with power, so I'll try and get the bisection done then.

That would be helpful, but displays greater dedication than I'd offer myself!

Done without an airplane now. I don't have to be credited with too much dedication! :)

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