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SubjectProblems with the block-layer timeouts
James and Jens:

I spent most of the day yesterday debugging some tricky problems in the
new block-layer timeout scheme. Clearly it is in need of more work.

A major reason for these problems was that there doesn't seem to be a
clear a idea of when the timeout period should begin. In
blk_add_timer() a comment says:

* Each request has its own timer, and as it is added to the queue, we
* set up the timer.

On the other hand, elv_next_request() says:

* We are now handing the request to the hardware,
* add the timeout handler

(Note that this comment is wrong for an additional reason.
elv_next_request() doesn't hand the request to the hardware; it hands
the request to a driver. What the driver chooses to do with the
request is its own affair.)

So when should the timeout begin? The most logical time is when the
driver does send the request to the hardware. Of course, the block
core has no way to know when that happens, so a suitable proxy might be
when the request is removed from the block queue. (On the other hand,
are there drivers which don't bother to dequeue a request until it has
completed?) Either way, both the comments above and the actual code
should be changed.


The real source of the problems I encountered is in the SCSI midlayer.
scsi_request_fn() can call elv_next_request() long before it is ready
to begin executing the request. In particular, it does so before
checking scsi_dev_queue_ready(). So if the lower-level driver can
handle up to N simultaneous requests, the midlayer will call
elv_next_request() N+1 times. The last request has to wait until one
of the first N completes. Surely this waiting period doesn't deserve
to be counted as part of the last request's timeout.

In my case N was 1, and request #1 ended up being requeued. Requeuing
restarts the timer; as a result, the timer for request #2 expired
before request #1's second incarnation timed out. And this was before
request #2 had even begun!

That's not so terribly bad in itself. However the scsi_times_out()
routine is completely unprepared to handle timeouts for requests that
haven't yet been dispatched to the LLD. Or, for that matter, requests
which have been returned by the LLD but were requeued and have not yet
been sent back down.

So what happened was that the midlayer tried to abort a request which
hadn't started yet. Or, depending on the exact timing, it found itself
being asked to abort two requests when only one was running, so it gave
up and did nothing. One way leads to processes hanging, the other way
leads to a system crash.

How should this be fixed? It would help to call scsi_dev_queue_ready()
before elv_next_request(), but that's not sufficient.
scsi_times_out() needs to recognize that a timeout for a non-running
request can be handled by directly returning BLK_EH_HANDLED. Right?


While I'm on the subject, there are a few related items that could be
improved. In my tests, I was generating I/O requests simply by doing

dd if=/dev/sda ...

I don't know where the timeouts for these requests are determined, but
they were set to 60 seconds. That seems much too long.

In blk_del_timer(), there's no reason to test q->rq_timed_out_fn. If
the method pointer is NULL then req->deadline would be 0 anyway. In
addition, req->deadline should be set to 0 and the end of the routine,
just in case req gets requeued.

In blk_add_timer(), the line

expiry = round_jiffies(req->deadline);

is not optimal. round_jiffies() will sometimes round a value _down_ to
the nearest second. But blk_rq_timed_out_timer() tests whether
req->deadline is in the past -- and if the deadline was rounded down
then this won't be true the first time through. You wind up getting an
unnecessary timer interrupt. Instead there should be a
round_jiffies_up() utility routine, and it should be used in both
blk_add_timer() and blk_rq_timed_out_timer().

Alan Stern



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