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SubjectRe: [PATCH 1/7] block: Add block_flush_device()

On Tue, 31 Mar 2009, Ric Wheeler wrote:
> The question is really what we do when you have a storage device in your box
> with a volatile write cache that does support flush or fua or similar.

Ok. Then you are talking about a different case - not EOPNOTSUPP.

[ Although it may be related in that maybe the admin can _force_ a
EOPNOTSUPP thing for when he wants to disable any "write barrier implies
flush" thing.

IOW, we may end up with an _implementation_ detail where we overload a
potential QUEUE_FLUSH_EOPNOTSUPP flag with two meanings - either "the
driver told me a barrier isn't supported" or "the admin set that same
flag by hand to disable barrier-related flush commands".

But that's just an implementation detail, of course. We could use two
different flags, we could do the flags at different levels, whatever. ]

> Using barriers & ordered transactions for these types of devices will
> give you a more reliable file system - less fsck time needed and better
> data integrity support for the (few?) applications that use fsync
> properly.

Sure. And it still shouldn't be the filesystem that _requires_ use of it.

The user (or low-level driver) may simply know better. The user may
know that he trusts the disk more than anything else, and prefers to
not actually emit the "FLUSH" command. Again, that's not something that
the filesystem should know about, or care about. If the user trusts the
disk subsystem and wants the performance, it's the users choice.

Even the _driver_ may know better.

Knowing the kinds of firmware bugs those drives have, it could even be a
driver that simply black-lists certain disks as having known-broken FLUSH
commands. We have _CPU's_ that corrupt memory on cache writeback
("wbinvl"), and those things are a lot more tested than most driver
firmware is.

Do you realize just how buggy some of those flash drives are? Some of them
will literally (a) report the wrong size and (b) lock up if you try to
read from the last sector. Oops. Do you really expect such crap to
even bother to honor some flush command? Good luck with that. They're
designed as a floppy replacement.

Now, you can tell me that I shouldn't put a reliable filesystem on an
el-cheapo flash drive and expect it to work, but I'm sorry, you're wrong.
People _are_ supposed to be able to move their data around, and the
filesystem shouldn't make judgement calls. If you want judgement calls,
call your mom. Not your filesystem.

For another example, the driver might be a driver for a high-end
battery-backup SCSI RAID controller. It knows that the controller _will_
write things out in the right order even in the case of a crash, but it
may also know that the controller _also_ has a way to force a flush to
actual hardware.

When do you want to force a flush? For hotplug events, for example. Maybe
the disks won't be _connected_ any more afterwards - then the battery
backup on the controller won't be helping, will it? So there may well be a
flush event thing, but it's really up to the admin to decide whether it
should be connected to a write barrier thing, or be a separate admin

Maybe the admin is extra careful and anal, and decides that he wants to
flush to disk platters _despite_ the battery backup. Maybe he doesn't
trust the card. Maybe he does. Whatever. The point is that the admin
might want to set a driver flag that does the flush or not, adn it's
totally not a filesystem issue.

See? The filesystem has absolutely _no_place_ deciding these kinds of
things. The only thing it can ask for is "please serialize", but what
_level_ of serialization is simply not a filesystem decision to make.

And that very much includes the level of serialization that says "no
serialization what-so-ever, and please go absolutely crazy with your
cache". Not your choice.

So no, you can't have a pony.


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