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SubjectRe: [PATCH 1/7] block: Add block_flush_device()
Linus Torvalds wrote:
> 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.

That sounds reasonable enough. The key thing is how to squeeze as much
reliability as possible out of what ever you have at the time.

> 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.

True - high end arrays (as you mention below) will probably ack a flush request
without flushing data, basically turning them into noops.

> 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.

Sure - really cheap & crappy storage is easy enough to find. Definitely I agree
that flush barriers would be wasted on them.

> 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.

File systems should try to do their best job with what they have, but we might
also want to use a non-transaction based file system (ext2? ext4 w/o the journal
like google?). Again, as you suggest, users (or distro installers?) can make
that kind of choice.

> 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
> activity.

For non-volatile write caches like these, you don't need to "flush" the storage
write cache, you just need to move the data to the storage in the correct order.

As far as I know, non of this kind of information is exposed to higher levels in
a standard way, so what people do today is to disable barriers (or assume,
correctly as far as I know, that arrays will drop the flush requests :-))

> 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.
> Linus

No room for a pony in my yard in any case :-)


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