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Subjectmaybe revert commit c275a57f5ec3 "xen/balloon: Set balloon's initial state to number of existing RAM pages"
I have a question about a problem introduced by this commit:
c275a57f5ec3056f732843b11659d892235faff7
"xen/balloon: Set balloon's initial state to number of existing RAM pages"

It changed the xen balloon current_pages calculation to start with the
number of physical pages in the system, instead of max_pfn. Since
get_num_physpages() does not include holes, it's always less than the
e820 map's max_pfn.

However, the problem that commit introduced is, if the hypervisor sets
the balloon target to equal to the e820 map's max_pfn, then the
balloon target will *always* be higher than the initial current pages.
Even if the hypervisor sets the target to (e820 max_pfn - holes), if
the OS adds any holes, the balloon target will be higher than the
current pages. This is the situation, for example, for Amazon AWS
instances. The result is, the xen balloon will always immediately
hotplug some memory at boot, but then make only (max_pfn -
get_num_physpages()) available to the system.

This balloon-hotplugged memory can cause problems, if the hypervisor
wasn't expecting it; specifically, the system's physical page
addresses now will exceed the e820 map's max_pfn, due to the
balloon-hotplugged pages; if the hypervisor isn't expecting pt-device
DMA to/from those physical pages above the e820 max_pfn, it causes
problems. For example:
https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/linux/+bug/1668129

The additional small amount of balloon memory can cause other problems
as well, for example:
https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/linux/+bug/1518457

Anyway, I'd like to ask, was the original commit added because
hypervisors are supposed to set their balloon target to the guest
system's number of phys pages (max_pfn - holes)? The mailing list
discussion and commit description seem to indicate that. However I'm
not sure how that is possible, because the kernel reserves its own
holes, regardless of any predefined holes in the e820 map; for
example, the kernel reserves 64k (by default) at phys addr 0 (the
amount of reservation is configurable via CONFIG_X86_RESERVE_LOW). So
the hypervisor really has no way to know what the "right" target to
specify is; unless it knows the exact guest OS and kernel version, and
kernel config values, it will never be able to correctly specify its
target to be exactly (e820 max_pfn - all holes).

Should this commit be reverted? Should the xen balloon target be
adjusted based on kernel-added e820 holes? Should something else be
done?

For context, Amazon Linux has simply disabled Xen ballooning
completely. Likewise, we're planning to disable Xen ballooning in the
Ubuntu kernel for Amazon AWS-specific kernels (but not for non-AWS
Ubuntu kernels). However, if reverting this patch makes sense in a
bigger context (i.e. Xen users besides AWS), that would allow more
Ubuntu kernels to work correctly in AWS instances.

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