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Re: do_sync() and XFSQA test 182 failures....

To: xfs@xxxxxxxxxxx, linux-fsdevel@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, linux-kernel@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Re: do_sync() and XFSQA test 182 failures....
From: Christoph Hellwig <hch@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 30 Oct 2008 18:46:25 -0400
In-reply-to: <20081030085020.GP17077@disturbed>
References: <20081030085020.GP17077@disturbed>
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.18 (2008-05-17)
On Thu, Oct 30, 2008 at 07:50:20PM +1100, Dave Chinner wrote:
> [*] Starting pdflush to sync data in the background when we are
>     about to start flushing ourselves is self-defeating. instead of
>     having a single thread doing optimal writeout patterns, we now
>     have two threads trying to sync the same filesystems and
>     competing with each other to write out dirty inodes.  This
>     actually causes bugs in sync because pdflush is doing async
>     flushes. Hence if pdflush races and wins during the sync flush
>     part of the sync process, sync_inodes(1) will return before all
>     the data/metadata is on disk because it can't be found to be
>     waited on.

Note that this is an XFS special.  Every other filesystem (at least the
major ones) rely on the VFS to write out data.

> Now the sync is _supposedly_ complete. But we still have a dirty
> log and superblock thanks to delayed allocation that may have
> occurred after the sync_supers() call. Hence we can immediately
> see that we cannot *ever* do a proper sync of an XFS filesystem
> in Linux without modifying do_sync() to do more callouts.
> Worse, XFS can also still have *dirty inodes* because sync_inodes(1)
> will remove inodes from the dirty list in the async pass, but they
> can get dirtied a short time later (if they had dirty data) when the
> data I/O completes. Hence if the second sync pass completes before
> the inode is dirtied again we'll miss flushing it. This will mean we
> don't write inode size updates during sync. This is the same race
> that pdflush running in the background can trigger.

This is a common problem that would hit any filesystem trying to have
some sort of ordered data or journaled data mode.

> However, I have a problem - I'm an expert in XFS, not the other tens
> of Linux filesystems so I can't begin to guess what the impact of
> changing do_sync() would be on those many filesystems. How many
> filesystems would such a change break? Indeed - how many are broken
> right now by having dirty inodes and superblocks slip through
> sync(1)?

I would guess more are broken now then a change in order would break.
Then again purely a change in order would still leave this code
fragile as hell.

> What are the alternatives? do_sync() operates above any particular
> filesystem, so it's hard to provide a filesystem specific ->do_sync
> method to avoid changing sync order for all filesystems. Do we
> change do_sync() to completely sync a superblock at a time instead
> of doing each operation across all superblocks before moving onto
> the next operation? Is there any particular reason (e.g. performance, 
> locking) for the current
> method that would prevent changing to completely-sync-a-superblock
> iteration algorithm so we can provide a custom ->do_sync method?

Locking can't be the reason as we should never hold locks while
returning from one of the VFS operations.  I think it's performance
or rather alledged performance as I think it doesn't really matter.
If it matters however there is an easy method to make it perform just
as well with a proper callout - just spawn a thread for every filesystem
to perform it in parallel.

> Are there any other ways that we can get a custom ->do_sync
> method for XFS? I'd prefer a custom method so we don't have to
> revalidate every linux filesystem, especially as XFS already has
> everything it needs to provide it's own sync method (used for
> freezing) and a test suite to validate it is working correctly.....

I think having a method for this would be useful.  And given that
a proper sync should be exactly the same as a filesysytem freeze
we should maybe use one method for both of those and use the chance
to give filesystem better control over the freeze process?

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