Re: [PATCH] mm: Stop kswapd early when nothing's waiting for it to free pages

From: Sultan Alsawaf
Date: Wed Feb 19 2020 - 14:40:11 EST

On Wed, Feb 19, 2020 at 11:13:21AM -0800, Dave Hansen wrote:
> On 2/19/20 10:25 AM, Sultan Alsawaf wrote:
> > Keeping kswapd running when all the failed allocations that invoked it
> > are satisfied incurs a high overhead due to unnecessary page eviction
> > and writeback, as well as spurious VM pressure events to various
> > registered shrinkers. When kswapd doesn't need to work to make an
> > allocation succeed anymore, stop it prematurely to save resources.
> But kswapd isn't just to provide memory to waiters. It also serves to
> get free memory back up to the high watermark. This seems like it might
> result in more frequent allocation stalls and kswapd wakeups, which
> consumes extra resources.
> I guess I'd wonder what positive effects you have observed as a result
> of this patch and whether you've gone looking for any negative effects.

This patch essentially stops kswapd from going overboard when a failed
allocation fires up kswapd. Otherwise, when memory pressure is really high,
kswapd just chomps through CPU time freeing pages nonstop when it isn't needed.
On a constrained system I tested (mem=2G), this patch had the positive effect of
improving overall responsiveness at high memory pressure.

On systems with more memory I tested (>=4G), kswapd becomes more expensive to
run at its higher scan depths, so stopping kswapd prematurely when there aren't
any memory allocations waiting for it prevents it from reaching the *really*
expensive scan depths and burning through even more resources.

Combine a large amount of memory with a slow CPU and the current problematic
behavior of kswapd at high memory pressure shows. My personal test scenario for
this was an arm64 CPU with a variable amount of memory (up to 4G RAM + 2G swap).