Re: [RFC 0/6] mm: support madvise(MADV_FREE)

From: Andy Lutomirski
Date: Tue Mar 18 2014 - 13:55:37 EST

On 03/13/2014 11:37 PM, Minchan Kim wrote:
> This patch is an attempt to support MADV_FREE for Linux.
> Rationale is following as.
> Allocators call munmap(2) when user call free(3) if ptr is
> in mmaped area. But munmap isn't cheap because it have to clean up
> all pte entries, unlinking a vma and returns free pages to buddy
> so overhead would be increased linearly by mmaped area's size.
> So they like madvise_dontneed rather than munmap.
> "dontneed" holds read-side lock of mmap_sem so other threads
> of the process could go with concurrent page faults so it is
> better than munmap if it's not lack of address space.
> But the problem is that most of allocator reuses that address
> space soonish so applications see page fault, page allocation,
> page zeroing if allocator already called madvise_dontneed
> on the address space.
> For avoidng that overheads, other OS have supported MADV_FREE.
> The idea is just mark pages as lazyfree when madvise called
> and purge them if memory pressure happens. Otherwise, VM doesn't
> detach pages on the address space so application could use
> that memory space without above overheads.

I must be missing something.

If the application issues MADV_FREE and then writes to the MADV_FREEd
range, the kernel needs to know that the pages are no longer safe to
lazily free. This would presumably happen via a page fault on write.
For that to happen reliably, the kernel has to write protect the pages
when MADV_FREE is called, which in turn requires flushing the TLBs.

How does this end up being faster than munmap?

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