Re: Excessive stall times on ext4 in 3.9-rc2

From: Tvrtko Ursulin
Date: Fri Apr 12 2013 - 06:19:18 EST

Hi all,

On Thursday 11 April 2013 22:57:08 Theodore Ts'o wrote:
> That's an interesting theory. If the workload is one which is very
> heavy on reads and writes, that could explain the high latency. That
> would explain why those of us who are using primarily SSD's are seeing
> the problems, because would be reads are nice and fast.
> If that is the case, one possible solution that comes to mind would be
> to mark buffer_heads that contain metadata with a flag, so that the
> flusher thread can write them back at the same priority as reads.
> The only problem I can see with this hypothesis is that if this is the
> explanation for what Mel and Jiri are seeing, it's something that
> would have been around for a long time, and would affect ext3 as well
> as ext4. That isn't quite consistent, however, with Mel's observation
> that this is a probablem which has gotten worse in relatively
> recently.

Dropping in as a casual observer and having missed the start of the thread,
risking that I will just muddle the water for you.

I had a similar problem for quite a while with ext4, at least that was my
conclusion since the fix was to migrate one filesystem to xfs which fixed it
for me. Time period when I observed this was between 3.5 and 3.7 kernels.

Situation was I had an ext4 filesystem (on top of LVM, which was on top of MD
RAID 1, which was on top of two mechanical hard drives) which was dedicated to
holding a large SVN check-out. Other filesystems were also ext4 on different
logical volumes (but same spindles).

Symptoms were long stalls of everything (including window management!) on a
relatively heavily loaded desktop (which was KDE). Stalls would last anything
from five to maybe even 30 seconds. Not sure exactly but long enough that you
think the system has actually crashed. I couldn't even switch away to a
different virtual terminal during the stall, nothing.

Eventually I traced it down to kdesvn (subversion client) periodically
refreshing (or something) it's metadata and hence generating some IO on that
dedicated filesystem. That combined with some other desktop activity had an
effect of stalling everything else. I thought it was very weird, but I suppose
KDE and all the rest nowadays do to much IO in everything they do.

Following a hunch I reformatted that filesystem as XFS which fixed the

I can't reproduce this now to run any tests so I know this is not very helpful
now. But perhaps some of the info will be useful to someone.


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