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Where I just started work we run large processes for simulations and
testing of semi-conductors. Currently we use Solaris because of past
limitations on the amount of RAM that a single process can address under
Linux. Recently we tried to run some tests on a Dell dual Xeon 1.7GHz
with 4GB of RAM running Redhat 7.1 box (with the stock Redhat SMP kernel).
Speedwise it kicked the crap out of our Sunblade (Dual 750MHz with 8GB of
RAM)but we had problems with process dying right around 2.3GB (according
to top).

So I started to investigate, and quickly discovered that there is no good
source for finding this sort of information on line. At least not that I
could find. Nearly every piece of information I found conflicted in at
least some small way with another piece of information I found.
So I ask here in the hopes of a definitive answer.

* What is the maximum amount of RAM that a *single* process can address
under a 2.4 kernel, with PAE enabled? Without?

* And, what (if any) paramaters can effect this (recompiling the app
etc)?

What I think I know so far is listed below. I welcome being flamed, told
that I'm stupid and that I should have looked "here" so long as said
messages also contain pointers to definitive information :-)

Linux 2.4 does support greater then 4GB of RAM with these caveats ...

* It does this by supporting Intel's PAE (Physical Address Extension)
features which are in all Pentium Pro and newer CPU's.
* The PAE extensions allow up to a maximum of 64GB of RAM that the OS
(not a process) can address.
* It does this via indirect pointers to the higher memory locations, so
there is a CPU and RAM hit for using this.
* Benchmarks seem to indicated around 3-6% CPU hit just for using the PAE
extensions (ie. it applies regardless of whether you are actually
accessing memory locations greater then 4GB).
* If the kernel is compiled to use PAE, Linux will not boot on a computer
whose hardware doesn't support PAE.
* PAE does not increase Linux's ability for *single* processes to see
greater then 3GB of RAM (see below).

So what are the limits without using PAE? Here I'm still having a little
problem finding definitive answers but ...

* With PAE compiled into the kernel the OS can address a maximum of 4GB
of RAM.
* With 2.4 kernels (with a large memory configuration) a single process
can address up to the total amount of RAM in the machine minus 1GB
(reserved for the kernel), to a maximum 3GB.
* By default the kernel reserves 1GB for it's own use, however I think
that this is a tunable parameter so if we have 4GB of RAM in a box we
can tune it so that most of that should be available to the processes
(?).

I have documented the below information on my web site, and will post
whatever answers I recieve there:

http://www.spack.org/index.cgi/LinuxRamLimits

Thanks,
Adam.




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