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SubjectPopulating multiple ptes at fault time
Avi and I were discussing whether we should populate multiple ptes at
pagefault time, rather than one at at time as we do now.

When Linux is operating as a virtual guest, pte population will
generally involve some kind of trap to the hypervisor, either to
validate the pte contents (in Xen's case) or to update the shadow
pagetable (kvm). This is relatively expensive, and it would be good to
amortise the cost by populating multiple ptes at once.

Xen and kvm already batch pte updates where multiple ptes are explicitly
updated at once (mprotect and unmap, mostly), but in practise that's
relatively rare. Most pages are demand faulted into a process one at a
time.

It seems to me there are two cases: major faults, and minor faults:

Major faults: the page in question is physically missing, and so the
fault invokes IO. If we blindly pull in a lot of extra pages that are
never used, then we'll end up wasting a lot of memory. However, page at
a time IO is pretty bad performance-wise too, so I guess we do clustered
fault-time IO? If we can distinguish between random and linear fault
patterns, then we can use that as a basis for deciding how much
speculative mapping to do. Certainly, we should create mappings for any
nearby page which does become physically present.

Minor faults are easier; if the page already exists in memory, we should
just create mappings to it. If neighbouring pages are also already
present, then we can can cheaply create mappings for them too.


This seems like an obvious idea, so I'm wondering if someone has
prototyped it already to see what effects there are. In the native
case, pte updates are much cheaper, so perhaps it doesn't help much
there, though it would potentially reduce the number of faults needed.
But I think there's scope for measurable benefits in the virtual case.

Thanks,
J


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