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Subject[PATCH AUTOSEL 3.18 19/19] mm, proc: be more verbose about unstable VMA flags in /proc/<pid>/smaps
From: Michal Hocko <>

[ Upstream commit 7550c6079846a24f30d15ac75a941c8515dbedfb ]

Patch series "THP eligibility reporting via proc".

This series of three patches aims at making THP eligibility reporting much
more robust and long term sustainable. The trigger for the change is a
regression report [2] and the long follow up discussion. In short the
specific application didn't have good API to query whether a particular
mapping can be backed by THP so it has used VMA flags to workaround that.
These flags represent a deep internal state of VMAs and as such they
should be used by userspace with a great deal of caution.

A similar has happened for [3] when users complained that VM_MIXEDMAP is
no longer set on DAX mappings. Again a lack of a proper API led to an

The first patch in the series tries to emphasise that that the semantic of
flags might change and any application consuming those should be really

The remaining two patches provide a more suitable interface to address [2]
and provide a consistent API to query the THP status both for each VMA and
process wide as well. [1] [2]

This patch (of 3):

Even though vma flags exported via /proc/<pid>/smaps are explicitly
documented to be not guaranteed for future compatibility the warning
doesn't go far enough because it doesn't mention semantic changes to those
flags. And they are important as well because these flags are a deep
implementation internal to the MM code and the semantic might change at
any time.

Let's consider two recent examples:
: commit e1fb4a086495 "dax: remove VM_MIXEDMAP for fsdax and device dax" has
: removed VM_MIXEDMAP flag from DAX VMAs. Now our testing shows that in the
: mean time certain customer of ours started poking into /proc/<pid>/smaps
: and looks at VMA flags there and if VM_MIXEDMAP is missing among the VMA
: flags, the application just fails to start complaining that DAX support is
: missing in the kernel.
: Commit 1860033237d4 ("mm: make PR_SET_THP_DISABLE immediately active")
: introduced a regression in that userspace cannot always determine the set
: of vmas where thp is ineligible.
: Userspace relies on the "nh" flag being emitted as part of /proc/pid/smaps
: to determine if a vma is eligible to be backed by hugepages.
: Previous to this commit, prctl(PR_SET_THP_DISABLE, 1) would cause thp to
: be disabled and emit "nh" as a flag for the corresponding vmas as part of
: /proc/pid/smaps. After the commit, thp is disabled by means of an mm
: flag and "nh" is not emitted.
: This causes smaps parsing libraries to assume a vma is eligible for thp
: and ends up puzzling the user on why its memory is not backed by thp.

In both cases userspace was relying on a semantic of a specific VMA flag.
The primary reason why that happened is a lack of a proper interface.
While this has been worked on and it will be fixed properly, it seems that
our wording could see some refinement and be more vocal about semantic
aspect of these flags as well.

Signed-off-by: Michal Hocko <>
Acked-by: Jan Kara <>
Acked-by: Dan Williams <>
Acked-by: David Rientjes <>
Acked-by: Mike Rapoport <>
Acked-by: Vlastimil Babka <>
Cc: Dan Williams <>
Cc: David Rientjes <>
Cc: Paul Oppenheimer <>
Cc: William Kucharski <>
Signed-off-by: Andrew Morton <>
Signed-off-by: Linus Torvalds <>
Signed-off-by: Sasha Levin <>
Documentation/filesystems/proc.txt | 4 +++-
1 file changed, 3 insertions(+), 1 deletion(-)

diff --git a/Documentation/filesystems/proc.txt b/Documentation/filesystems/proc.txt
index 04b23a83ce68..3172a2465ff2 100644
--- a/Documentation/filesystems/proc.txt
+++ b/Documentation/filesystems/proc.txt
@@ -439,7 +439,9 @@ manner. The codes are the following:

Note that there is no guarantee that every flag and associated mnemonic will
be present in all further kernel releases. Things get changed, the flags may
-be vanished or the reverse -- new added.
+be vanished or the reverse -- new added. Interpretation of their meaning
+might change in future as well. So each consumer of these flags has to
+follow each specific kernel version for the exact semantic.

This file is only present if the CONFIG_MMU kernel configuration option is
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