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    Subject[PATCH 04/14] vmscan: reduce wind up shrinker->nr when shrinker can't do work
    From: Dave Chinner <>

    When a shrinker returns -1 to shrink_slab() to indicate it cannot do
    any work given the current memory reclaim requirements, it adds the
    entire total_scan count to shrinker->nr. The idea ehind this is that
    whenteh shrinker is next called and can do work, it will do the work
    of the previously aborted shrinker call as well.

    However, if a filesystem is doing lots of allocation with GFP_NOFS
    set, then we get many, many more aborts from the shrinkers than we
    do successful calls. The result is that shrinker->nr winds up to
    it's maximum permissible value (twice the current cache size) and
    then when the next shrinker call that can do work is issued, it
    has enough scan count built up to free the entire cache twice over.

    This manifests itself in the cache going from full to empty in a
    matter of seconds, even when only a small part of the cache is
    needed to be emptied to free sufficient memory.

    Under metadata intensive workloads on ext4 and XFS, I'm seeing the
    VFS caches increase memory consumption up to 75% of memory (no page
    cache pressure) over a period of 30-60s, and then the shrinker
    empties them down to zero in the space of 2-3s. This cycle repeats
    over and over again, with the shrinker completely trashing the іnode
    and dentry caches every minute or so the workload continues.

    This behaviour was made obvious by the shrink_slab tracepoints added
    earlier in the series, and made worse by the patch that corrected
    the concurrent accounting of shrinker->nr.

    To avoid this problem, stop repeated small increments of the total
    scan value from winding shrinker->nr up to a value that can cause
    the entire cache to be freed. We still need to allow it to wind up,
    so use the delta as the "large scan" threshold check - if the delta
    is more than a quarter of the entire cache size, then it is a large
    scan and allowed to cause lots of windup because we are clearly
    needing to free lots of memory.

    If it isn't a large scan then limit the total scan to half the size
    of the cache so that windup never increases to consume the whole
    cache. Reducing the total scan limit further does not allow enough
    wind-up to maintain the current levels of performance, whilst a
    higher threshold does not prevent the windup from freeing the entire
    cache under sustained workloads.

    Signed-off-by: Dave Chinner <>
    mm/vmscan.c | 15 +++++++++++++++
    1 files changed, 15 insertions(+), 0 deletions(-)

    diff --git a/mm/vmscan.c b/mm/vmscan.c
    index 666d811..01036ed 100644
    --- a/mm/vmscan.c
    +++ b/mm/vmscan.c
    @@ -277,6 +277,21 @@ unsigned long shrink_slab(struct shrink_control *shrink,

    + * We need to avoid excessive windup on filesystem shrinkers
    + * due to large numbers of GFP_NOFS allocations causing the
    + * shrinkers to return -1 all the time. This results in a large
    + * nr being built up so when a shrink that can do some work
    + * comes along it empties the entire cache due to nr >>>
    + * max_pass. This is bad for sustaining a working set in
    + * memory.
    + *
    + * Hence only allow the shrinker to scan the entire cache when
    + * a large delta change is calculated directly.
    + */
    + if (delta < max_pass / 4)
    + total_scan = min(total_scan, max_pass / 2);
    + /*
    * Avoid risking looping forever due to too large nr value:
    * never try to free more than twice the estimate number of
    * freeable entries.
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