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SubjectRe: [PATCH 10/10] mm: per device dirty threshold
On Tue, 2007-04-24 at 12:58 +1000, Neil Brown wrote:
> On Friday April 20, wrote:
> > Scale writeback cache per backing device, proportional to its writeout speed.
> So it works like this:
> We account for writeout in full pages.
> When a page has the Writeback flag cleared, we account that as a
> successfully retired write for the relevant bdi.
> By using floating averages we keep track of how many writes each bdi
> has retired 'recently' where the unit of time in which we understand
> 'recently' is a single page written.

That is actually that period I keep referring to. So recently is the
last 'period' number of writeout completions.

> We keep a floating average for each bdi, and a floating average for
> the total writeouts (that 'average' is, of course, 1.)

1 in the sense of unity, yes :-)

> Using these numbers we can calculate what faction of 'recently'
> retired writes were retired by each bdi (get_writeout_scale).
> Multiplying this fraction by the system-wide number of pages that are
> allowed to be dirty before write-throttling, we get the number of
> pages that the bdi can have dirty before write-throttling the bdi.
> I note that the same fraction is *not* applied to background_thresh.
> Should it be? I guess not - there would be interesting starting
> transients, as a bdi which had done no writeout would not be allowed
> any dirty pages, so background writeout would start immediately,
> which isn't what you want... or is it?

This is something I have not been able to come to a conclusive answer

> For each bdi we also track the number of (dirty, writeback, unstable)
> pages and do not allow this to exceed the limit set for this bdi.
> The calculations involving 'reserve' in get_dirty_limits are a little
> confusing. It looks like you calculating how much total head-room
> there is for the bdi (pages that the system can still dirty - pages
> this bdi has dirty) and making sure the number returned in pbdi_dirty
> doesn't allow more than that to be used.

Yes, it limits the earned share of the total dirty limit to the possible
share, ensuring that the total dirty limit is never exceeded.

This is especially relevant when the proportions change faster than the
pages get written out, ie. when the period << total dirty limit.

> This is probably a
> reasonable thing to do but it doesn't feel like the right place. I
> think get_dirty_limits should return the raw threshold, and
> balance_dirty_pages should do both tests - the bdi-local test and the
> system-wide test.

Ok, that makes sense I guess.

> Currently you have a rather odd situation where
> + if (bdi_nr_reclaimable + bdi_nr_writeback <= bdi_thresh)
> + break;
> might included numbers obtained with bdi_stat_sum being compared with
> numbers obtained with bdi_stat.

Yes, I was aware of that. The bdi_thresh is based on bdi_stat() numbers,
whereas the others could be bdi_stat_sum(). I think this is ok, since
the threshold is a 'guess' anyway, we just _need_ to ensure we do not
get trapped by writeouts not arriving (due to getting stuck in the per
cpu deltas). -- I have all this commented in the new version.

> With these patches, the VM still (I think) assumes that each BDI has
> a reasonable queue limit, so that writeback_inodes will block on a
> full queue. If a BDI has a very large queue, balance_dirty_pages
> will simply turn lots of DIRTY pages into WRITEBACK pages and then
> think "We've done our duty" without actually blocking at all.

It will block once we exceed the total number of dirty pages allowed for
that BDI. But yes, this does not take away the need for queue limits.

This work was primarily aimed at allowing multiple queues to not
interfere as much, so they all can make progress and not get starved.

> With the extra accounting that we now have, I would like to see
> balance_dirty_pages dirty pages wait until RECLAIMABLE+WRITEBACK is
> actually less than 'threshold'. This would probably mean that we
> would need to support per-bdi background_writeout to smooth things
> out. Maybe that it fodder for another patch-set.

Indeed, I still have to wrap my mind around the background thing. Your
input is appreciated.

> You set:
> + vm_cycle_shift = 1 + ilog2(vm_total_pages);
> Can you explain that?

You found the one random knob I hid :-)

> My experience is that scaling dirty limits
> with main memory isn't what we really want. When you get machines
> with very large memory, the amount that you want to be dirty is more
> a function of the speed of your IO devices, rather than the amount
> of memory, otherwise you can sometimes see large filesystem lags
> ('sync' taking minutes?)
> I wonder if it makes sense to try to limit the dirty data for a bdi
> to the amount that it can write out in some period of time - maybe 3
> seconds. Probably configurable. You seem to have almost all the
> infrastructure in place to do that, and I think it could be a
> valuable feature.
> At least, I think vm_cycle_shift should be tied (loosely) to
> dirty_ratio * vm_total_pages
> ??

Yes, I initially tried that; but I convinced myself that the math doing
the floating average couldn't handle vm_cycle_shift shrinking (getting
larger does seem fine).

I will look at that again, because I think you are absolutely right.

The current set variable, is related to the initial dirty limit, in that
that too is set based on vm_total_pages. It just doesn't adjust
afterwards :-(

In specific, what goes wrong is that when we shrink vm_cycle_shift, the
total cycle count gains bits from the average, and will not match up
with the BDI cycle anymore. This could blow away the full BDI average.

Hmm, that might not be as bad as I thought, people don't fiddle with
dirty_ratio that often anyway.

Yes, I shall tie it to dirty_ratio once again.

> On the whole, looks good!

Thanks for taking the time to look at it in detail!

The latest code is online here:

I shall post it again after the new -mm kernel hits the streets, and
incorporate all feedback.

I hope the comments made things cleared, not create more confusion... It
seems I have a lot to learn when it comes to writing skillz :-/

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