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Subjectkswap spinning
Hi,

Jumping from 2.4.7 to 2.4.9 has shown up a problem with the VM balancing
code.
Under load, I've seen kswapd become a CPU hog (on a 5GB box). Now that
I've got a theory, I cannot reproduce the problem for confirmation, but
here is the theory anyway.

The tests in free_shortage() and inactive_shortage() assume that the
memory state for a zone can be improved by calling refill_inactive_scan(),
page_launder(), the inode/dcache shrinking functions, and the general
slab-cache reaping func. Usually, some combination of the reaping
functions will improve a zone's state - but not always.

The problem is the DMA zone. As it is (relatively) small on some archs
(IA-32 for example), it is possible that almost all pages from this zone
are being used by a sub-systems which simply won't give them up. Examples
of use are; vmalloc()ed page for modules, pre-allocated socket buffs
for NICs, task-structs/kernel-stack - you get the idea.

In the case I believe I'm seeing, both free_shortage() and
inactive_shortage() are returning a shortage for the DMA zone which
triggers all the work in do_try_to_free_pages(). But as there aren't any
DMA pages left in the page-cache, being used as anonymous pages, or being
used in the other places the code looks, do_try_to_free_pages() returns
non-zero to kswapd() and off we go again. This also causes callers of
try_to_free_pages() (from __alloc_pages()) to suck CPU cycles as well.

On HIGHMEM boxes, it is possible for the NORMAL zone to get into the
same state (although v unlikely).

I'd rather not get into having specialist code in mm/vmscan.c (or arch
specific code) to handle a small DMA zone - so what are the other
solutions? (Assuming the above theory holds true.)

One possible solution is not to give DMA memory out, except for;
o explicit DMA allocations
o page-cache, anonymous page, allocations
assuming explicit DMA allocations are low, we'll at least know the
remaining DMA pages are somewhere we can get at them - would need to be
trigger by an arch specific flag for those that don't have a "tiny" zone.
However, I don't like this, feels like fixing the wrong problem. :(

Mark

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