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Subject[PATCH] docs: block: Create blk-mq documentation
Create a documentation providing a background and explanation around the
operation of the Multi-Queue Block IO Queueing Mechanism (blk-mq).

The reference for writing this documentation was the source code and
"Linux Block IO: Introducing Multi-queue SSD Access on Multi-core
Systems", by Axboe et al.

Signed-off-by: André Almeida <>

This commit was tested using "make htmldocs" and the HTML output has
been verified.

Documentation/block/blk-mq.rst | 154 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Documentation/block/index.rst | 1 +
2 files changed, 155 insertions(+)
create mode 100644 Documentation/block/blk-mq.rst

diff --git a/Documentation/block/blk-mq.rst b/Documentation/block/blk-mq.rst
new file mode 100644
index 000000000000..4c37b37df50e
--- /dev/null
+++ b/Documentation/block/blk-mq.rst
@@ -0,0 +1,154 @@
+.. SPDX-License-Identifier: GPL-2.0
+Multi-Queue Block IO Queueing Mechanism (blk-mq)
+The Multi-Queue Block IO Queueing Mechanism is an API to enable fast storage
+devices to achieve a huge number of input/output operations per second (IOPS)
+through queueing and submitting IO requests to block devices simultaneously,
+benefiting from the parallelism offered by modern storage devices.
+Magnetic hard disks have been the de facto standard from the beginning of the
+development of the kernel. The Block IO subsystem aimed to achieve the best
+performance possible for those devices with a high penalty when doing random
+access, and the bottleneck was the mechanical moving parts, a lot more slower
+than any layer on the storage stack. One example of such optimization technique
+involves ordering read/write requests accordingly to the current position of
+the hard disk head.
+However, with the development of Solid State Drivers and Non-Volatile Memories
+without mechanical parts nor random access penalty and capable of performing
+high parallel access, the bottleneck of the stack had moved from the storage
+device to the operating system. In order to take advantage of the parallelism
+in those devices design, the multi-queue mechanism was introduced.
+The former design had a single queue to store block IO requests with a single
+lock, that did not scale well in SMP systems due to dirty data in cache and the
+bottleneck of having a single lock for multiple processors. This setup also
+suffered with congestion when different processes (or the same process, moving
+to different CPUs) wanted to perform block IO. Instead of this, this API spawns
+multiple queues with individual entry points local to the CPU, removing the
+need for a lock. A deeper explanation on how this works is covered in the
+following section (`Operation`_).
+When the userspace performs IO to a block device (reading or writing a file,
+for instance), the blk-mq takes action: it will store and manage IO requests to
+the block device, acting as a middleware between the userspace (and a file
+system, if present) and the block device driver.
+The blk-mq has two group of queues: software staging queues and hardware
+dispatch queues. When the request arrives the block layer, it will try the
+shortest path possible: send it directly to the hardware queue. However, there
+are two cases that it might not to do that: if there's an IO scheduler attached
+at the layer or if we want to try to merge requests. In both cases, requests
+will be sent to the software queue.
+Then, after the requests being processed at software queues, they will be
+placed at the hardware queue, a second stage queue were the hardware has direct
+access to process those requests. However, if the hardware has not enough
+resources to accept more requests, it will place requests at temporary queue,
+to be sent in the future, when the hardware is able.
+Software staging queues
+The block IO subsystem adds requests (represented by struct
+:c:type:`blk_mq_ctx`) in the software staging queues in case that they weren't
+sent directly to the driver. A request is a collection of BIOs. They arrived at
+the block layer through the data structures struct :c:type:`bio`. The block
+layer will then build a new structure from it, the struct :c:type:`request`
+that will be used to communicate with the device driver. Each queue has its
+owns lock and the number of queues is defined by a per-CPU or per-node basis.
+The staging queue can be used to merge requests for adjacent sectors. For
+instance, requests for sector 3-6, 6-7, 7-9 can become one request for 3-9.
+Even if random access to SSDs and NVMs have the same time of response compared
+to sequential access, grouped requests for sequential access decreases the
+number of individual requests. This technique of merging requests is called
+Along with that, the requests can be reordered to ensure fairness of system
+resources (e.g. to ensure that no application suffer from starvation) and/or to
+improve IO performance, by an IO scheduler.
+IO Schedulers
+There are several schedulers implemented by the block layer, each one following
+a heuristics to improve the IO performance. They are "pluggable" (as in plug
+and play), in the sense of they can be selected at run time using sysfs. You
+can read more about Linux's IO schedulers `here
+<>`_. The scheduling
+happens only between requests in the same queue, so it is not possible to merge
+requests from different queues, otherwise there would be cache trashing and a
+need to have a lock for each queue. After the scheduling, the requests are
+eligible to be sent to the hardware. One of the possibles schedulers to be
+selected is the NOOP scheduler, the most straightforward one, that implements a
+simple FIFO, without performing any reordering. This is useful in the following
+scenarios: when scheduling will be performed in a next step somewhere in the
+stack, like block devices controllers; the actual sector position of blocks are
+transparent for the host, meaning it hasn't enough information to take a proper
+decision; or the overhead of reordering is higher than the handicap of
+non-sequential accesses.
+Hardware dispatch queues
+The hardware queue is a memory space shared with the block device (e.g. DMA)
+where the hardware can access and dispatch requests (represented by struct
+:c:type:`blk_mq_hw_ctx`). To run this queue, the block layer removes
+requests from the associated software queues and tries to dispatch to the
+If it's not possible to send the requests directly to hardware, they will be
+added to a linked list (:c:type:`hctx->dispatched`) of requests. Then,
+next time the block layer runs a queue, it will send the requests laying at the
+:c:type:`dispatched` list first, to ensure a fairness dispatch with those
+requests that were ready to be sent first. The number of hardware queues
+depends on the number of hardware context supported by the hardware and its
+device driver, but it will not be more than the number of cores of the system.
+There is no reordering at this stage, and each software queues has a set of
+hardware queues to send requests for.
+.. note::
+ Neither the block layer nor the device protocols guarantee
+ the order of completion of requests. This must be handled by
+ higher layers, like the filesystem.
+Tag-based completion
+In order to indicate which request has been completed, every request is
+identified by an integer, ranging from 0 to the dispatch queue size. This tag
+is generated by the block layer and later reused by the device driver, removing
+the need to create a redundant identifier. When a request is completed in the
+drive, the tag is sent back to the block layer to notify it of the finalization.
+This removes the need to do a linear search to find out which IO has been
+Further reading
+- `Linux Block IO: Introducing Multi-queue SSD Access on Multi-core Systems <>`_
+- `NOOP scheduler <>`_
+- `Null block device driver <>`_
+Source code documentation
+.. kernel-doc:: include/linux/blk-mq.h
+.. kernel-doc:: block/blk-mq.c
diff --git a/Documentation/block/index.rst b/Documentation/block/index.rst
index 3fa7a52fafa4..3a3f38322185 100644
--- a/Documentation/block/index.rst
+++ b/Documentation/block/index.rst
@@ -10,6 +10,7 @@ Block
+ blk-mq
 \ /
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