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SubjectRe: [PATCH 0/8] Suspend block api (version 6)
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Arve Hjønnevåg <arve@android.com> writes:

> This patch series adds a suspend-block api that provides the same
> functionality as the android wakelock api. This version fixes a race
> in suspend blocking work, has some documentation changes and
> opportunistic suspend now uses the same workqueue as runtime pm.

Earlier this month, several folks intersted in embedded PM had a BoF
as part of the Embedded Linux Conference[1] in San Francisco. Many of
us had concerns about wakelocks/suspend-blockers and I wanted to share
some of mine here, since I don't know if embedded folks (other than
Google) were included in discussions during the LF Collab summmit.

I hope other embedded folks will chime in here as well. My background
is in embedded as one of the kernel developers on the TI OMAP SoCs,
and I work primarily on PM stuff.

My comments are not about this implementation of suspend blockers in
particular, but rather on the potential implications of suspend
blockers in general.

Sorry for the lengthy mail, it's broken up in to 3 parts:

- suspend blockers vs. runtime PM
- how to handle PM aware drivers?
- what about dumb or untrusted apps


Suspend blockers vs runtime PM
------------------------------
My primary concern is that suspend blockers attempt to address the
same problem(s) as runtime PM, but with a very different approach.
Suspend blockers use one very large hammer whereas runtime PM hands
out many little hammers. Since I believe power management to be a
problem of many little nails, I think many little hammers are better
suited for the job.

Currently in the kernel, we have two main forms of PM

- static PM (system PM, traditional suspend/resume etc.)
- dynamic PM (runtime PM, CPUfreq, CPUidle, etc.)

And with the addition of suspend blockers we have something in
between. In my simple world, I think of suspend_blockers as static PM
with a retrofit of some basic dynamic capabilities. In my view, a
poor man's dynamic PM.

The current design of suspend blockers was (presumably) taken due to
major limitations and/or problems in dynamic PM when it was designed.
However, since then, some very signifcant improvements in dynamic PM
have come along, particularily in the form of runtime PM. What I
still feel is missing from this discussion are details about why the
issues addressed by suspend blockers cannot be solved with runtime PM.

It seems to me the keypad/screen example given in the doc can very
easily be solved with runtime PM. The goal of that example is that
the keypad not turn on the screen unless a specific key is pressed.
That is rather easy to accomplish using runtime PM:

1. system is idle, all devices/drivers runtime suspended
(display and keypad drivers are both runtime suspended)
- keypress triggers wakeup ->runtime_resume() of keypad (screen is
still runtime suspended)
- key press trickles up to userspace
- keypad driver is done, goes idle and is runtime supended
- userspace decides whether or not to turn on screen based on key
- if not, goto 1, (display is still runtime suspended)
- if so, start using display and it will be runtime resumed

I realize this keypad example was only one example usage of suspend
blockers, but I suspect the others would be solved similarily using
runtime PM.

But anyways, to get back to the main point:

I feel the main problems tackled by _kernel_ suspend blockers (as I
understand them) are the same problems already addressed by runtime
PM. First and formost, both have the same guiding principle:

Rule #1: Always try for lowest power state, unless X

For runtime PM, X = "activity"
For suspend blockers, X = a held suspend_blocker

In addition, both have the same secondary goals:

- keep device PM independent of other devices (e.g. don't wake up
screen just because keypad was pressed)

- wakeups/events can be handled in a device specific way, without
affecting other devices or rest of the system, unless desired

So, the goals are the same, but the approaches are different. Runtime
PM makes each of the drivers and subsystems do the work, where suspend
blockers just forces the issue from on high. IMHO, the more flexible
and generic approach of runtime PM is more suited to a general purpose
kernel than the one-big-hammer approach currently taken by suspend
blockers.


What about PM aware drivers?
----------------------------
All of this brings up a second major concern regarding how to write PM
aware drivers.

At least from the kernel perspective, both suspend blockers and
runtime PM have the same goal. Given that, which framework should the
driver writer target? Both? Seems like duplicate effort. Using
suspend blockers assumes the system is in opportunitstic suspend mode
and (at least in the keypad example given) assumes a suspend-blocker
aware userspace (Android.) Without both, targeted power savings will
not be acheived.

To me, runtime PM is a generic and flexible approach that can be used
with any userspace. Driver writers should not have to care whether
the system is in "opportunistic" mode or about whether userspace is
suspend blocker capable. They should only have to think about when
the device is (or should be) idle.

From my experience with OMAP, we *really* do not want to care about
what userspace is or isn't capable of, or what suspend-mode the kernel
is in. Among other things, the OMAP linux kernel is used in the Nokia
N900 (Maemo), the Motorola Droid (Android) and the Palm Pre (webOS).
Comments on the future of each SW stack aside, we really want to run
the same kernel and drivers across all of those platforms as well as
whatever comes next.


What about dumb or untrusted apps?
---------------------------------------
In my view, the truly significant difference between suspend blockers
and runtime PM is what happens to userspace. So far, to me the only
compelling argument for suspend blockers is the goal of forcibly
shutting down userspace and thus forcing the system into idle
(although drivers could still reject a suspend request.)

Again, since suspend blockers were designed, there have been major
efforts to track and fix userspace as well as underlying timer issues
(deferrable timers, coalescing, timer slack ...) that led to
unnecessary wakeups from userspace. Wouldn't it be better to spend
our collective efforts in continuing in that direction instead of just
hiding the underlying problems by forcing suspend? Fixing the root
causes will be better for everyone, not just those using Android.

And if untrusted userspace apps remain as the major problem, maybe we
should aim for a solution directly targetting that problem. I'm just
shooting from the hip now, but maybe containing (cgroups?) untrusted
processes together into a set that could be frozen/idled so that runtime PM
would be more effective would be a workable solution?

Anyways, that's enough rambling for now. I hope that sheds some light
on the concerns I have with suspend blockers.

Kevin

[1] http://embeddedlinuxconference.com/elc_2010/index.html

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