[PATCH 1/3] mm, proc: be more verbose about unstable VMA flags in /proc/<pid>/smaps

From: Michal Hocko
Date: Tue Dec 11 2018 - 09:37:15 EST

From: Michal Hocko <mhocko@xxxxxxxx>

Even though vma flags exported via /proc/<pid>/smaps are explicitly
documented to be not guaranteed for future compatibility the warning
doesn't go far enough because it doesn't mention semantic changes to
those flags. And they are important as well because these flags are
a deep implementation internal to the MM code and the semantic might
change at any time.

Let's consider two recent examples:
: commit e1fb4a086495 "dax: remove VM_MIXEDMAP for fsdax and device dax" has
: removed VM_MIXEDMAP flag from DAX VMAs. Now our testing shows that in the
: mean time certain customer of ours started poking into /proc/<pid>/smaps
: and looks at VMA flags there and if VM_MIXEDMAP is missing among the VMA
: flags, the application just fails to start complaining that DAX support is
: missing in the kernel.

: Commit 1860033237d4 ("mm: make PR_SET_THP_DISABLE immediately active")
: introduced a regression in that userspace cannot always determine the set
: of vmas where thp is ineligible.
: Userspace relies on the "nh" flag being emitted as part of /proc/pid/smaps
: to determine if a vma is eligible to be backed by hugepages.
: Previous to this commit, prctl(PR_SET_THP_DISABLE, 1) would cause thp to
: be disabled and emit "nh" as a flag for the corresponding vmas as part of
: /proc/pid/smaps. After the commit, thp is disabled by means of an mm
: flag and "nh" is not emitted.
: This causes smaps parsing libraries to assume a vma is eligible for thp
: and ends up puzzling the user on why its memory is not backed by thp.

In both cases userspace was relying on a semantic of a specific VMA
flag. The primary reason why that happened is a lack of a proper
internface. While this has been worked on and it will be fixed properly,
it seems that our wording could see some refinement and be more vocal
about semantic aspect of these flags as well.

Cc: Dan Williams <dan.j.williams@xxxxxxxxx>
Cc: David Rientjes <rientjes@xxxxxxxxxx>
Acked-by: Jan Kara <jack@xxxxxxx>
Acked-by: Dan Williams <dan.j.williams@xxxxxxxxx>
Acked-by: David Rientjes <rientjes@xxxxxxxxxx>
Acked-by: Mike Rapoport <rppt@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Acked-by: Vlastimil Babka <vbabka@xxxxxxx>
Signed-off-by: Michal Hocko <mhocko@xxxxxxxx>
Documentation/filesystems/proc.txt | 4 +++-
1 file changed, 3 insertions(+), 1 deletion(-)

diff --git a/Documentation/filesystems/proc.txt b/Documentation/filesystems/proc.txt
index 12a5e6e693b6..2a4e63f5122c 100644
--- a/Documentation/filesystems/proc.txt
+++ b/Documentation/filesystems/proc.txt
@@ -496,7 +496,9 @@ flags associated with the particular virtual memory area in two letter encoded

Note that there is no guarantee that every flag and associated mnemonic will
be present in all further kernel releases. Things get changed, the flags may
-be vanished or the reverse -- new added.
+be vanished or the reverse -- new added. Interpretation of their meaning
+might change in future as well. So each consumer of these flags has to
+follow each specific kernel version for the exact semantic.

This file is only present if the CONFIG_MMU kernel configuration option is