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SubjectRe: Linux 2.6.17-rc2

On Thu, 20 Apr 2006, Jens Axboe wrote:
> > - an ioctl/fcntl to set the maximum size of the buffer. Right now it's
> > hardcoded to 16 "buffer entries" (which in turn are normally limited to
> > one page each, although there's nothing that _requires_ that a buffer
> > entry always be a page).
> This is on a TODO, but not very high up since I've yet to see a case
> where the current 16 page limitation is an issue. I'm sure something
> will come up eventually, but until then I'd rather not bother.

The real reason for limiting the number of buffer entries is not to make
the number _larger_ (although that can be a performance optimization), but
to make it _smaller_ or at least knowing/limiting how big it is.

It doesn't matter with the current interfaces which are mostly agnostic as
to how big the buffer is, but it _does_ matter with vmsplice().


Simple: for a vmsplice() user, it's very important to know when they can
start re-using the buffer(s) that they used vmsplice() on previously. And
while the user could just ask the kernel how many bytes are left in the
pipe buffer, that's pretty inefficient for many normal streaming cases.

The _efficient_ way is to make the user-space buffer that you use for
splicing information to another entity a circular buffer that is at least
as large as any of the splice pipes involved in the transfer (depending on
use. In many cases, you will probably want to make the user-space buffer
_twice_ as big as the kernel buffer, which makes the tracking even easier:
while half of the buffer is busy, you can write to the half that is
guaranteed to not be in the kernel buffer, so you effectively do "double

So if you do that, then you can continue to write to the buffer without
ever worrying about re-use, because you know that by the time you wrap
around, the kernel buffer will have been flushed out, or the vmsplice()
would have blocked, waiting for the receiver. So now you no longer need to
worry about "how much has flushed" - you only need to worry about doing
the vmsplice() call at least twice per buffer traversal (assuming the
"user buffer is double the size of the kernel buffer" approach).

So you could do a very efficient "stdio-like" implementation for logging,
for example, since this allows you to re-use the same pages over and over
for splicing, without ever having any copying overhead, and without ever
having to play VM-related games (ie you don't need to do unmaps or
mprotects or anything expensive like that in order to get a new page or

But in order to do that, you really do need to know (and preferably set)
the size of the splice buffer. Otherwise, if the in-kernel splice buffer
is larger than the circular buffer you use in user space, the kernel will
add the same page _twice_ to the buffer, and you'll overwrite the data
that you already spliced.

(Now, you still need to be very careful with vmsplice() in general, since
it leaves the data page writable in the source VM and thus allows for all
kinds of confusion, but the theory here is "give them rope". Rope enough
to do clever things always ends up being rope enough to hang yourself too.

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