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SubjectRe: [rfc][patch] remove racy sync_page?
Linus Torvalds wrote:
> On Tue, 30 May 2006, Nick Piggin wrote:
>>For workloads where plugging helps (ie. lots of smaller, contiguous
>>requests going into the IO layer), the request pattern should be
>>pretty good without plugging these days, due to multiple page
>>readahead and writeback.
> No.
> That's fundamentally wrong.
> The fact is, plugging is not about read-ahead and writeback. It's very
> fundamentally about the _boundaries_ between multiple requests, and in
> particular the time when the queue starts out empty so that we can build
> up things for devices that wand big requests, but even more so for devices
> where _seeking_ is very expensive.
> Those boundaries haven't gone anywhere. The fact that we do read-ahead and
> write-back in chunks doesn't change anything: yes, we often have the "big
> requests" thing handled, but (a) not always and (b) upper layers
> fundamentally don't fix the seek issues.

The requests can only get merged if contiguous requests from the upper
layers come down, right?

So in a random IO workload, plugging is unlikely to help at all. In a
contiguous IO workload, mpage should take *some* of the burden off
plugging. But OK, it turns out not always, I accept that.

> I want to know that the block layer could - if we wanted to - do things
> like read-ahead for many distinct files, and for metadata. We don't
> currently do much of that yet, but the point is, plugging _allows_ us to.
> Exactly because it doesn't depend on upper layers feeding everything in
> one go.
> Look at "sys_readahead()", and realize that it can be used to start IO for
> read ahead _across_many_small_files_. Last I tried it, it was hugely
> faster at populating the page cache than reading individual files (I used
> to do it with BK to bring everything into cache so that the regular ops
> would be fster - now git doesn't much need it).
> And maybe it was just my imagination, but the disk seemed quieter too. It
> should be able to do better seek patterns at the beginning due to plugging
> (ie we won't start IO after the first file, but after the request queue
> fills up or something else needs to wait and we do an unplug event).
> THAT is what plugging is good for. Our read-ahead does well for large
> requests, and that's important for some disk controllers in particular.
> But plugging is about avoiding startign the IO too early.

Why would plugging help if the requests can't get merged, though?

> Think about the TCP plugging (which is actually newer, but perhaps easier
> to explain): it's useful not for the big file case (just use large reads
> and writes), but for the "different sources" case - for handling the gap
> between a header and the actual file contents. Exactly because it plugs in
> _between_ events.

TCP plugging is a bit different because there is no page cache between
the application and the device; and it is stream based so everything can
be merged (within a single socket).

The same high level concept I agree, but I never said the concept was
wrong; just hoped that as a heuristic, the block plugging was no longer
useful. I've been set straight about that though ;)

SUSE Labs, Novell Inc.
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