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Subjectswapping and the value of /proc/sys/vm/swappiness
Andrew (et al),

The attached results started as an exercise to try to understand what value of
"swappiness" we should be recommending to our Altix customers when they start
running Linux 2.6 kernels. The benchmark is very simple -- a task first
mallocs around 90% of memory, touches all of the memory, then sleeps forever.
After the task begins to sleep, we start up a bunch of "dd" copies. When the
dd's all complete, we record the amount of swap used, the size of the page
cache, and the data rates for the dd's. (Exact details are given in the
attachment.) The benchmark was repeated for swappiness values of 0, 20, 40,
60, 80, 100, for a number of recent 2.6 kernels.

What is unexpected is that the amount of swap space used at a particular
swappiness setting varies dramatically with the kernel version being tested,
in spite of the fact that the basic swap_tendency calculation in
refile_ianctive_zone() is unchanged. (Other, subtle changes in the vm as a
whole and this routine in particular clearly effect the impact of that
computation.)

For example, at a swappiness value of 0, Kernel 2.6.5 swapped out 0 bytes,
whereas Kernel 2.6.9-rc1-mm3 swapped out 10 GB. Similarly, most kernels
have a significant change in behavior for swappiness values near 100, but
for SLES9 the change point occurs at swappness=60.

A scan of the change logs for swappiness related changes shows nothing that
might explain these changes. My question is: "Is this change in behavior
deliberate, or just a side effect of other changes that were made in the vm?"
and "What kind of swappiness behavior might I expect to find in future kernels?".
Lots more detail is in the attachment.
--
Best Regards,
Ray
-----------------------------------------------
Ray Bryant
512-453-9679 (work) 512-507-7807 (cell)
raybry@sgi.com raybry@austin.rr.com
The box said: "Requires Windows 98 or better",
so I installed Linux.
-----------------------------------------------Swappiness Tests
----------------
The following was the result of attempt to quantify what swappiness
values people should be using on Altix. As can be seen from the
tables, swappiness seems to have undergone a minor change in meaning or
implementation between kernel 2.6.6 and 2.6.7, with some minor changes
in behavior after that.

The benchmark was to do the following:

(1) Malloc and touch around 90% of memory. (The test system has
29.4 GB of RAM, of which 27.7 were "free" after system boot.
The test program malloc'd 25.3 GB, leaving 2.4 GB free, or
8.6% memory free.) Once the memory has been touched, the
malloc program sleeps forever, not touching the memory again.
(2) Start up 8 dd copies, copying around 17 GB of data from /dev/zero
to a disk file; each dd was targeted to a different physical
disk.
(3) When the dd's completed, record the amount of swap used and
the amount of page cache used. Also record the run times (
(4) Kill off the malloc process, remove the dd output files, clear
swap by swapon/swapoff. (Removing the files frees up any
remaining buffer cache associated with those files.)
(5) Repeat above so that we have 5 trials of each case.

The test system was a 32 CPU Altix system.

The benchmarks were repeated for swappiness values of 0, 20, 40, 60,
80, and 100. The tests are moderately time consuming, so that
limited the number of swappiness values that could be benchmarked.

The tables below show total I/O rate in MB/s for the dd commands,
avg swap (of the 5 trials), min and max observed swap, average page
cache size, min and max page cache size (all of the latter are in MB).
Also, as a general rule, the data shows it is better from an I/O
bandwidth standpoint to run with a smaller page cache and not allow
swapping to occur.

Here is a discussion of the results in the tables:

(1) 2.6.5 and 2.6.6: These two kernels behave about the same, with
practically nothing swapped out until swappiness is 100, at which
point the entire malloc'd area is swapped out. The I/O rate
for 2.6.6 is significantly below that of SLES9.

(2) 2.6.5-7.97-default (SLES9) Swaps nothing until swappiness is >=60
at which point all of the malloc'd area is swapped out. I/O rate
is high until swapping starts. This kernel is the only one
tested fow which the swappiness change point was swappiness=60
instead of swappiness=100.

(3) 2.6.7: Avg swapout is 1600-1900 MB for all values of swappiness
below 100, but there is wide variation in the trials (see the
max and min values). Max I/O rate is significantly better than
for previous kernels. At swappiness of 100, entire malloc'd
area is swapped out.

(4) 2.6.8.1-mm4: much like 2.6.7, except the average swap is smaller
below swappiness of 100. I/O rate is similar to that of 2.6.7.
Still significant variations among the trials, but not quite as
severe as 2.6.7.

(5) 2.6.9-rc1-mm3: Well, it almost looks as if the swappiness code
is broken in this version. Even for swappiness of 0, it swaps
out 10 GB worth of data. Can this be right?

A comparison of the refill_inactive_zone() routines from the above
kernel versions shows that there are subtle differences in the scanning
loop, but that the base calculation for swap_tendency (and hence for
the influence of swappiness on the decision to set reclaim_mapped) are
the same.

Scanning the changelogs for swappiness doesn't bring up any changes,
so I wonder if this change was deliberate or inadvertent?

So my question is, is all of this intended, and which variation of
swappiness behavior is the one I should expect in future kernels?

Kernel Version 2.6.5:
Total I/O Avg Swap min max pg cache min max
----------- --------- ------- ------ --------- ------- -------
0 279.56 MB/s 0 MB ( 0, 0) 3121 MB ( 3009, 3233)
20 273.99 MB/s 0 MB ( 0, 0) 3060 MB ( 3024, 3104)
40 285.12 MB/s 0 MB ( 0, 0) 2996 MB ( 2945, 3057)
60 289.46 MB/s 115 MB ( 62, 185) 3120 MB ( 3056, 3167)
80 288.58 MB/s 103 MB ( 68, 212) 3181 MB ( 3104, 3265)
100 151.31 MB/s 25513 MB ( 25380, 25699) 27760 MB ( 27569, 28093)
Kernel Version 2.6.5-7.97-default (SLES9):
Total I/O Avg Swap min max pg cache min max
----------- --------- ------- ------ --------- ------- -------
0 273.57 MB/s 0 MB ( 0, 0) 3191 MB ( 3168, 3229)
20 273.75 MB/s 0 MB ( 0, 0) 3151 MB ( 3088, 3180)
40 273.52 MB/s 0 MB ( 0, 0) 3096 MB ( 3076, 3124)
60 229.01 MB/s 23068 MB ( 22042, 24195) 25564 MB ( 24578, 26689)
80 195.63 MB/s 25587 MB ( 25227, 25815) 28046 MB ( 27681, 28260)
100 184.30 MB/s 26006 MB ( 26006, 26006) 28388 MB ( 28349, 28434)
Kernel Version 2.6.6:
Total I/O Avg Swap min max pg cache min max
----------- --------- ------- ------ --------- ------- -------
0 242.47 MB/s 0 MB ( 0, 0) 3195 MB ( 3138, 3266)
20 256.06 MB/s 0 MB ( 0, 0) 3170 MB ( 3074, 3234)
40 267.29 MB/s 0 MB ( 0, 0) 3189 MB ( 3137, 3234)
60 289.43 MB/s 666 MB ( 72, 1680) 3847 MB ( 3296, 4817)
80 286.49 MB/s 170 MB ( 86, 393) 3211 MB ( 2897, 3618)
100 154.87 MB/s 24663 MB ( 24320, 25054) 26708 MB ( 26274, 27154)
Kernel Version 2.6.7:
Total I/O Avg Swap min max pg cache min max
----------- --------- ------- ------ --------- ------- -------
0 287.52 MB/s 1688 MB ( 1590, 2069) 4966 MB ( 4819, 5363)
20 289.80 MB/s 1838 MB ( 25, 3741) 5081 MB ( 3265, 6932)
40 290.39 MB/s 1970 MB ( 1593, 3453) 5270 MB ( 4899, 6660)
60 290.25 MB/s 1271 MB ( 4, 1591) 4559 MB ( 3297, 4915)
80 288.89 MB/s 1599 MB ( 6, 3220) 4876 MB ( 3345, 6436)
100 158.67 MB/s 25768 MB ( 25474, 26004) 28363 MB ( 27968, 28753)
Kernel Version 2.6.8.1-mm4:
Total I/O Avg Swap min max pg cache min max
----------- --------- ------- ------ --------- ------- -------
0 287.28 MB/s 710 MB ( 46, 3060) 4082 MB ( 3426, 6308)
20 288.05 MB/s 508 MB ( 94, 1417) 3848 MB ( 3442, 4739)
40 287.03 MB/s 588 MB ( 199, 1251) 3909 MB ( 3570, 4515)
60 290.08 MB/s 640 MB ( 210, 1190) 3976 MB ( 3538, 4531)
80 287.73 MB/s 693 MB ( 316, 1195) 4049 MB ( 3713, 4545)
100 166.17 MB/s 26001 MB ( 26001, 26002) 28798 MB ( 28740, 28852)
Kernel Version 2.6.9-rc1-mm3:
Total I/O Avg Swap min max pg cache min max
----------- --------- ------- ------ --------- ------- -------
0 274.80 MB/s 10511 MB ( 5644, 14492) 13293 MB ( 8596, 17156)
20 267.02 MB/s 12624 MB ( 5578, 16287) 15298 MB ( 8468, 18889)
40 267.66 MB/s 13541 MB ( 6619, 17461) 16199 MB ( 9393, 20044)
60 233.73 MB/s 18094 MB ( 16550, 19676) 20629 MB ( 19103, 22192)
80 213.64 MB/s 20950 MB ( 15844, 22977) 23450 MB ( 18496, 25440)
100 164.58 MB/s 26004 MB ( 26004, 26004) 28410 MB ( 28327, 28455)
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