fork on processes with lots of memory

From: Felix von Leitner
Date: Tue Jan 26 2016 - 11:13:40 EST

Dear Linux kernel devs,

I talked to someone who uses large Linux based hardware to run a
process with huge memory requirements (think 4 GB), and he told me that
if they do a fork() syscall on that process, the whole system comes to
standstill. And not just for a second or two. He said they measured a 45
minute (!) delay before the system became responsive again.

Their working theory is that all the pages need to be marked copy-on-write
in both processes, and if you touch one page, a copy needs to be made,
and than just takes a while if you have a billion pages.

I was wondering if there is any advice for such situations from the
memory management people on this list.

In this case the fork was for an execve afterwards, but I was going to
recommend fork to them for something else that can not be tricked around
with vfork.

Can anyone comment on whether the 45 minute number sounds like it could
be real? When I heard it, I was flabberghasted. But the other person
swore it was real. Can a fork cause this much of a delay? Is there a way
to work around it?

I was going to recommend the fork to create a boundary between the
processes, so that you can recover from memory corruption in one
process. In fact, after the fork I would want to munmap almost all of
the shared pages anyway, but there is no way to tell fork that.



PS: Please put me on Cc if you reply, I'm not subscribed to this mailing