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SubjectRe: Let's talk about the elephant in the room - the Linux kernel's inability to gracefully handle low memory pressure
On Tue, Aug 6, 2019 at 7:36 AM Michal Hocko <mhocko@kernel.org> wrote:
>
> On Tue 06-08-19 10:27:28, Johannes Weiner wrote:
> > On Tue, Aug 06, 2019 at 11:36:48AM +0200, Vlastimil Babka wrote:
> > > On 8/6/19 3:08 AM, Suren Baghdasaryan wrote:
> > > >> @@ -1280,3 +1285,50 @@ static int __init psi_proc_init(void)
> > > >> return 0;
> > > >> }
> > > >> module_init(psi_proc_init);
> > > >> +
> > > >> +#define OOM_PRESSURE_LEVEL 80
> > > >> +#define OOM_PRESSURE_PERIOD (10 * NSEC_PER_SEC)
> > > >
> > > > 80% of the last 10 seconds spent in full stall would definitely be a
> > > > problem. If the system was already low on memory (which it probably
> > > > is, or we would not be reclaiming so hard and registering such a big
> > > > stall) then oom-killer would probably kill something before 8 seconds
> > > > are passed.
> > >
> > > If oom killer can act faster, than great! On small embedded systems you probably
> > > don't enable PSI anyway?

We use PSI triggers with 1 sec tracking window. PSI averages are less
useful on such systems because in 10 secs (which is the shortest PSI
averaging window) memory conditions can change drastically.

> > > > If my line of thinking is correct, then do we really
> > > > benefit from such additional protection mechanism? I might be wrong
> > > > here because my experience is limited to embedded systems with
> > > > relatively small amounts of memory.
> > >
> > > Well, Artem in his original mail describes a minutes long stall. Things are
> > > really different on a fast desktop/laptop with SSD. I have experienced this as
> > > well, ending up performing manual OOM by alt-sysrq-f (then I put more RAM than
> > > 8GB in the laptop). IMHO the default limit should be set so that the user
> > > doesn't do that manual OOM (or hard reboot) before the mechanism kicks in. 10
> > > seconds should be fine.
> >
> > That's exactly what I have experienced in the past, and this was also
> > the consistent story in the bug reports we have had.
> >
> > I suspect it requires a certain combination of RAM size, CPU speed,
> > and IO capacity: the OOM killer kicks in when reclaim fails, which
> > happens when all scanned LRU pages were locked and under IO. So IO
> > needs to be slow enough, or RAM small enough, that the CPU can scan
> > all LRU pages while they are temporarily unreclaimable (page lock).
> >
> > It may well be that on phones the RAM is small enough relative to CPU
> > size.
> >
> > But on desktops/servers, we frequently see that there is a wider
> > window of memory consumption in which reclaim efficiency doesn't drop
> > low enough for the OOM killer to kick in. In the time it takes the CPU
> > to scan through RAM, enough pages will have *just* finished reading
> > for reclaim to free them again and continue to make "progress".
> >
> > We do know that the OOM killer might not kick in for at least 20-25
> > minutes while the system is entirely unresponsive. People usually
> > don't wait this long before forcibly rebooting. In a managed fleet,
> > ssh heartbeat tests eventually fail and force a reboot.

Got it. Thanks for the explanation.

> > I'm not sure 10s is the perfect value here, but I do think the kernel
> > should try to get out of such a state, where interacting with the
> > system is impossible, within a reasonable amount of time.
> >
> > It could be a little too short for non-interactive number-crunching
> > systems...
>
> Would it be possible to have a module with tunning knobs as parameters
> and hook into the PSI infrastructure? People can play with the setting
> to their need, we wouldn't really have think about the user visible API
> for the tuning and this could be easily adopted as an opt-in mechanism
> without a risk of regressions.

PSI averages stalls over 10, 60 and 300 seconds, so implementing 3
corresponding thresholds would be easy. The patch Johannes posted can
be extended to support 3 thresholds instead of 1. I can take a stab at
it if Johannes is busy.
If we want more flexibility we could use PSI triggers with
configurable tracking window but that's more complex and probably not
worth it.

> I would really love to see a simple threshing watchdog like the one you
> have proposed earlier. It is self contained and easy to play with if the
> parameters are not hardcoded.
>
> --
> Michal Hocko
> SUSE Labs

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