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Subject[RFC] writeback and cgroup
Hello, guys.

So, during LSF, I, Fengguang and Jan had a chance to sit down and talk
about how to cgroup support to writeback. Here's what I got from it.

Fengguang's opinion is that the throttling algorithm implemented in
writeback is good enough and blkcg parameters can be exposed to
writeback such that those limits can be applied from writeback. As
for reads and direct IOs, Fengguang opined that the algorithm can
easily be extended to cover those cases and IIUC all IOs, whether
buffered writes, reads or direct IOs can eventually all go through
writeback layer which will be the one layer controlling all IOs.

Unfortunately, I don't agree with that at all. I think it's a gross
layering violation and lacks any longterm design. We have a well
working model of applying and propagating resource pressure - we apply
the pressure where the resource exists and propagates the back
pressure through buffers to upper layers upto the originator. Think
about network, the pressure exists or is applied at the in/egress
points which gets propagated through socket buffers and eventually
throttles the originator.

Writeback, without cgroup, isn't different. It consists a part of the
pressure propagation chain anchored at the IO device. IO devices
these days generate very high pressure, which gets propgated through
the IO sched and buffered requests, which in turn creates pressure at
writeback. Here, the buffering happens in page cache and pressure at
writeback increases the amount of dirty page cache. Propagating this
IO pressure to the dirtying task is one of the biggest
responsibililties of the writeback code, and this is the underlying
design of the whole thing.

IIUC, without cgroup, the current writeback code works more or less
like this. Throwing in cgroup doesn't really change the fundamental
design. Instead of a single pipe going down, we just have multiple
pipes to the same device, each of which should be treated separately.
Of course, a spinning disk can't be divided that easily and their
performance characteristics will be inter-dependent, but the place to
solve that problem is where the problem is, the block layer.

We may have to look for optimizations and expose some details to
improve the overall behavior and such optimizations may require some
deviation from the fundamental design, but such optimizations should
be justified and such deviations kept at minimum, so, no, I don't
think we're gonna be expose blkcg / block / elevator parameters
directly to writeback. Unless someone can *really* convince me
otherwise, I'll be vetoing any change toward that direction.

Let's please keep the layering clear. IO limitations will be applied
at the block layer and pressure will be formed there and then
propagated upwards eventually to the originator. Sure, exposing the
whole information might result in better behavior for certain
workloads, but down the road, say, in three or five years, devices
which can be shared without worrying too much about seeks might be
commonplace and we could be swearing at a disgusting structural mess,
and sadly various cgroup support seems to be a prominent source of
such design failures.

IMHO, treating cgroup - device/bdi pair as a separate device should
suffice as the underlying design. After all, blkio cgroup support's
ultimate goal is dividing the IO resource into separate bins.
Implementation details might change as underlying technology changes
and we learn more about how to do it better but that is the goal which
we'll always try to keep close to. Writeback should (be able to)
treat them as separate devices. We surely will need adjustments and
optimizations to make things work at least somewhat reasonably but
that is the baseline.

In the discussion, for such implementation, the following obstacles
were identified.

* There are a lot of cases where IOs are issued by a task which isn't
the originiator. ie. Writeback issues IOs for pages which are
dirtied by some other tasks. So, by the time an IO reaches the
block layer, we don't know which cgroup the IO belongs to.

Recently, block layer has grown support to attach a task to a bio
which causes the bio to be handled as if it were issued by the
associated task regardless of the actual issuing task. It currently
only allows attaching %current to a bio - bio_associate_current() -
but changing it to support other tasks is trivial.

We'll need to update the async issuers to tag the IOs they issue but
the mechanism is already there.

* There's a single request pool shared by all issuers per a request
queue. This can lead to priority inversion among cgroups. Note
that problem also exists without cgroups. Lower ioprio issuer may
be holding a request holding back highprio issuer.

We'll need to make request allocation cgroup (and hopefully ioprio)
aware. Probably in the form of separate request pools. This will
take some work but I don't think this will be too challenging. I'll
work on it.

* cfq cgroup policy throws all async IOs, which all buffered writes
are, into the shared cgroup regardless of the actual cgroup. This
behavior is, I believe, mostly historical and changing it isn't
difficult. Prolly only few tens of lines of changes. This may
cause significant changes to actual IO behavior with cgroups tho. I
personally think the previous behavior was too wrong to keep (the
weight was completely ignored for buffered writes) but we may want
to introduce a switch to toggle between the two behaviors.

Note that blk-throttle doesn't have this problem.

* Unlike dirty data pages, metadata tends to have strict ordering
requirements and thus is susceptible to priority inversion. Two
solutions were suggested - 1. allow overdrawl for metadata writes so
that low prio metadata writes don't block the whole FS, 2. provide
an interface to query and wait for bdi-cgroup congestion which can
be called from FS metadata paths to throttle metadata operations
before they enter the stream of ordered operations.

I think combination of the above two should be enough for solving
the problem. I *think* the second can be implemented as part of
cgroup aware request allocation update. The first one needs a bit
more thinking but there can be easier interim solutions (e.g. throw
META writes to the head of the cgroup queue or just plain ignore
cgroup limits for META writes) for now.

* I'm sure there are a lot of design choices to be made in the
writeback implementation but IIUC Jan seems to agree that the
simplest would be simply deal different cgroup-bdi pairs as
completely separate which shouldn't add too much complexity to the
already intricate writeback code.

So, I think we have something which sounds like a plan, which at least
I can agree with and seems doable without adding a lot of complexity.

Jan, Fengguang, I'm pretty sure I missed some stuff from writeback's
side and IIUC Fengguang doesn't agree with this approach too much, so
please voice your opinions & comments.

Thank you.


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