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Re: [PATCH 03/27] xfs: use write_cache_pages for writeback clustering

To: Dave Chinner <david@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Subject: Re: [PATCH 03/27] xfs: use write_cache_pages for writeback clustering
From: Mel Gorman <mgorman@xxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 5 Jul 2011 15:10:16 +0100
Cc: Christoph Hellwig <hch@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, Johannes Weiner <jweiner@xxxxxxxxxx>, Wu Fengguang <fengguang.wu@xxxxxxxxx>, xfs@xxxxxxxxxxx, jack@xxxxxxx, linux-mm@xxxxxxxxx
In-reply-to: <20110702024219.GT561@dastard>
References: <20110629140109.003209430@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> <20110629140336.950805096@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> <20110701022248.GM561@dastard> <20110701041851.GN561@dastard> <20110701093305.GA28531@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> <20110701145935.GB29530@xxxxxxx> <20110702024219.GT561@dastard>
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.21 (2010-09-15)
On Sat, Jul 02, 2011 at 12:42:19PM +1000, Dave Chinner wrote:
> On Fri, Jul 01, 2011 at 03:59:35PM +0100, Mel Gorman wrote:
> > On Fri, Jul 01, 2011 at 05:33:05AM -0400, Christoph Hellwig wrote:
> > > Johannes, Mel, Wu,
> > 
> > Am adding Jan Kara as he has been working on writeback efficiency
> > recently as well.
> Writeback looks to be working fine - it's kswapd screwing up the
> writeback patterns that appears to be the problem....

Not a new complaint.

> > > Dave has been stressing some XFS patches of mine that remove the XFS
> > > internal writeback clustering in favour of using write_cache_pages.
> > 
> > Against what kernel? 2.6.38 was a disaster for reclaim I've been
> > finding out this week. I don't know about 2.6.39 was better.
> 3.0-rc4


> ....
> > The number of pages written from reclaim is exceptionally low (2.6.38
> > was a total disaster but that release was bad for a number of reasons,
> > haven't tested yet) but reduced by 2.6.37 as expected. Direct
> > reclaim usage was reduced and efficiency (ratio of pages scanned to
> > pages reclaimed) was high.
> And is that consistent across ext3/ext4/xfs/btrfs filesystems? I
> doubt it very much, as all have very different .writepage
> behaviours...

Some preliminary results are in and it looks like it is close to the
same across filesystems which was a suprise to me. Sometimes the
filesystem makes a difference to how many pages are written back but
it's not consistent across all tests i.e. in comparing ext3, ext4 and
xfs, there are big differences in performance but moderate differences
in pages written back. This implies that for the configurations I was
testing that pages are generally cleaned before reaching the end of the

In all cases, the machines had ample memory. More on that later.

> BTW, called a workload "fsmark" tells us nothing about the workload
> being tested - fsmark can do a lot of interesting things. IOWs, you
> need to quote the command line for it to be meaningful to anyone...

My bad.

./fs_mark -d /tmp/fsmark-14880 -D 225  -N  22500  -n  3125  -L  15 -t  16  -S0  
-s  131072

> > As I look through the results I have at the moment, the number of
> > pages written back was simply really low which is why the problem fell
> > off my radar.
> It doesn't take many to completely screw up writeback IO patterns.
> Write a few random pages to a 10MB file well before writeback would
> get to the file, and instead of getting optimal sequential writeback
> patterns when writeback gets to it, we get multiple disjoint IOs
> that require multiple seeks to complete.
> Slower, less efficient writeback IO causes memory pressure to last
> longer and hence more likely to result in kswapd writeback, and it's
> just a downward spiral from there....

Yes, I see the negative feedback loop. This has always been a struggle
in that kswapd needs pages from a particular zone to be cleaned and
freed but calling writepage can make things slower. There were
prototypes in the past to give hints to the flusher threads on what
inode and pages to be freed and they were never met with any degree of

The consensus (amount VM people at least) was as long as that number was
low, it wasn't much of a problem. I know you disagree.

> > > > That means the test is only using 1GB of disk space, and
> > > > I'm running on a VM with 1GB RAM. It appears to be related to the VM
> > > > triggering random page writeback from the LRU - 100x10MB files more
> > > > than fills memory, hence it being the smallest test case i could
> > > > reproduce the problem on.
> > > > 
> > 
> > My tests were on a machine with 8G and ext3. I'm running some of
> > the tests against ext4 and xfs to see if that makes a difference but
> > it's possible the tests are simply not agressive enough so I want to
> > reproduce Dave's test if possible.
> To tell the truth, I don't think anyone really cares how ext3
> performs these days.

I do but the reasoning is weak. I wanted to be able to compare kernels
between 2.6.32 and today with few points of variability. ext3 changed
relatively little between those times.

> XFS seems to be the filesystem that brings out
> all the bad behaviour in the mm subsystem....
> FWIW, the mm subsystem works well enough when there is RAM
> available, so I'd suggest that your reclaim testing needs to focus
> on smaller memory configurations to really stress the reclaim
> algorithms. That's one of the reason why I regularly test on 1GB, 1p
> machines - they show problems that are hard to rep???oduce on larger
> configs....

Based on the results coming in, I fully agree. I'm going to let the
tests run to completion so I'll have the data in the future. I'll then
go back and test for 1G, 1P configurations and it should be

> > I'm assuming "test 180" is from xfstests which was not one of the tests
> > I used previously. To run with 1000 files instead of 100, was the file
> > "180" simply editted to make it look like this loop instead?
> I reduced it to 100 files simply to speed up the testing process for
> the "bad file size" problem I was trying to find. If you want to
> reproduce the IO collapse in a big way, run it with 1000 files, and
> it happens about 2/3rds of the way through the test on my hardware.

Ok, I have a test prepared that will run this. At the rate tests are
currently going though, it could be Thursday before I can run them
though :(

> > > > It is very clear that from the IO completions that we are getting a
> > > > *lot* of kswapd driven writeback directly through .writepage:
> > > > 
> > > > $ grep "xfs_setfilesize:" t.t |grep "4096$" | wc -l
> > > > 801
> > > > $ grep "xfs_setfilesize:" t.t |grep -v "4096$" | wc -l
> > > > 78
> > > > 
> > > > So there's ~900 IO completions that change the file size, and 90% of
> > > > them are single page updates.
> > > > 
> > > > $ ps -ef |grep [k]swap
> > > > root       514     2  0 12:43 ?        00:00:00 [kswapd0]
> > > > $ grep "writepage:" t.t | grep "514 " |wc -l
> > > > 799
> > > > 
> > > > Oh, now that is too close to just be a co-incidence. We're getting
> > > > significant amounts of random page writeback from the the ends of
> > > > the LRUs done by the VM.
> > > > 
> > > > <sigh>
> > 
> > Does the value for nr_vmscan_write in /proc/vmstat correlate? It must
> > but lets me sure because I'm using that figure rather than ftrace to
> > count writebacks at the moment.
> The number in /proc/vmstat is higher. Much higher.  I just ran the
> test at 1000 files (only collapsed to ~3000 iops this time because I
> ran it on a plain 3.0-rc4 kernel that still has the .writepage
> clustering in XFS), and I see:
> nr_vmscan_write 6723
> after the test. The event trace only capture ~1400 writepage events
> from kswapd, but it tends to miss a lot of events as the system is
> quite unresponsive at times under this workload - it's not uncommon
> to have ssh sessions not echo a character for 10s... e.g: I started
> the workload ~11:08:22:

Ok, I'll be looking at nr_vmscan_write as the basis for "badness".

> $ while [ 1 ]; do date; sleep 1; done
> Sat Jul  2 11:08:15 EST 2011
> Sat Jul  2 11:08:16 EST 2011
> Sat Jul  2 11:08:17 EST 2011
> Sat Jul  2 11:08:18 EST 2011
> Sat Jul  2 11:08:19 EST 2011
> Sat Jul  2 11:08:20 EST 2011
> Sat Jul  2 11:08:21 EST 2011
> Sat Jul  2 11:08:22 EST 2011         <<<<<<<< start test here
> Sat Jul  2 11:08:23 EST 2011
> Sat Jul  2 11:08:24 EST 2011
> Sat Jul  2 11:08:25 EST 2011
> Sat Jul  2 11:08:26 EST 2011         <<<<<<<<
> Sat Jul  2 11:08:27 EST 2011         <<<<<<<<
> Sat Jul  2 11:08:30 EST 2011         <<<<<<<<
> Sat Jul  2 11:08:35 EST 2011         <<<<<<<<
> Sat Jul  2 11:08:36 EST 2011
> Sat Jul  2 11:08:37 EST 2011
> Sat Jul  2 11:08:38 EST 2011         <<<<<<<<
> Sat Jul  2 11:08:40 EST 2011         <<<<<<<<
> Sat Jul  2 11:08:41 EST 2011
> Sat Jul  2 11:08:42 EST 2011
> Sat Jul  2 11:08:43 EST 2011
> And there are quite a few more multi-second holdoffs during the
> test, too.
> > A more relevant question is this -
> > how many pages were reclaimed by kswapd and what percentage is 799
> > pages of that? What do you consider an acceptable percentage?
> I don't care what the percentage is or what the number is. kswapd is
> reclaiming pages most of the time without affect IO patterns, and
> when that happens I just don't care because it is working just fine.

I do care. I'm looking at some early XFS results here based on a laptop
(4G). For fsmark with the command line above, the number of pages
written back by kswapd was 0. The worst test by far was sysbench using a
particularly large database. The number of writes was 48745 which is
0.27% of pages scanned or 0.28% of pages reclaimed. Ordinarily I would
ignore that.

If I run this at 1G and get a similar ratio, I will assume that I
am not reproducing your problem at all unless I know what ratio you
are seeing.

So .... How many pages were reclaimed by kswapd and what percentage
is 799 pages of that?

You answered my second question. You consider 0% to be the acceptable

> What I care about is what kswapd is doing when it finds dirty pages
> and it decides they need to be written back. It's not a problem that
> they are found or need to be written, the problem is the utterly
> crap way that memory reclaim is throwing the pages at the filesystem.
> I'm not sure how to get through to you guys that single, random page
> writeback is *BAD*.

It got through. The feedback during discussions on the VM side was
that as long as the percentage was sufficiently low it wasn't a problem
because on occasion, the VM really needs pages from a particular zone.
A solution that addressed both problems has never been agreed on and
energy and time runs out before it gets fixed each time.

> Using .writepage directly is considered harmful
> to IO throughput, and memory reclaim needs to stop doing that.
> We've got hacks in the filesystems to try to make the IO memory
> reclaim executes suck less, but ultimately the problem is the IO
> memory reclaim is doing. And now the memory reclaim IO patterns are
> getting in the way of further improving the writeback path in XFS
> because were finding the hacks we've been carrying for years are
> *still* the only thing that is making IO under memory pressure not
> suck completely.
> What I find extremely frustrating is that this is not a new issue.

I know.

> We (filesystem people) have been asking for a long time to have the
> memory reclaim subsystem either defer IO to the writeback threads or
> to use the .writepages interface.

There was a prototypes along these lines. One of the criticisms was
that it was fixing the wrong problem because dirty pages should be
at the end of the LRU at all. Later work focused on fixing that and
it was never revisited (at least not by me).

There was a bucket of complains about the initial series at
https://lkml.org/lkml/2010/6/8/82 . Despite the fact I wrote it,
I will have to read back to see why I stopped working on it but I
think it's because I focused on avoiding dirty pages reading the
end of the LRU judging by https://lkml.org/lkml/2010/6/11/157 and
eventually was satisified that the ratio of pages scanned to pages
written was acceptable.

> We're not asking this to be
> difficult, we're asking for this so that we can cluster IO in an
> optimal manner to avoid these IO collapses that memory reclaim
> currently triggers.  We now have generic methods of handing off IO
> to flusher threads that also provide some level of throttling/
> blocking while IO is submitted (e.g.  writeback_inodes_sb_nr()), so
> this shouldn't be a difficult problem to solve for the memory
> reclaim subsystem.
> Hell, maybe memory reclaim should take a leaf from the IO-less
> throttle work we are doing - hit a bunch of dirty pages on the LRU,
> just back off and let the writeback subsystem clean a few more pages
> before starting another scan. 

Prototyped this before although I can't find it now. I think I
concluded at the time that it didn't really help and another direction
was taken. There was also the problem that the time to clean a page
from a particular zone was potentially unbounded and a solution didn't
present itself.

> Letting the writeback code clean
> pages is the fastest way to get pages cleaned in the system, so if
> we've already got a generic method for cleaning and/or waiting for
> pages to be cleaned, why not aim to use that?
> And while I'm ranting, when on earth is the issue-writeback-from-
> direct-reclaim problem going to be fixed so we can remove the hacks
> in the filesystem .writepage implementations to prevent this from
> occurring?

Prototyped that too, same thread. Same type of problem, writeback
from direct reclaim should happen so rarely that it should not be
optimised for. See https://lkml.org/lkml/2010/6/11/32

> I mean, when we combine the two issues, doesn't it imply that the
> memory reclaim subsystem needs to be redesigned around the fact it
> *can't clean pages directly*?  This IO collapse issue shows that we
> really don't 't want kswapd issuing IO directly via .writepage, and
> we already reject IO from direct reclaim in .writepage in ext4, XFS
> and BTRFS because we'll overrun the stack on anything other than
> trivial storage configurations.
> That says to me in a big, flashing bright pink neon sign way that
> memory reclaim simply should not be issuing IO at all. Perhaps it's
> time to rethink the way memory reclaim deals with dirty pages to
> take into account the current reality?
> </rant>

At the risk of pissing you off, this isn't new information so I'll
consider myself duly nudged into revisiting.

> > > On Fri, Jul 01, 2011 at 07:20:21PM +1000, Dave Chinner wrote:
> > > > > Looks good.  I still wonder why I haven't been able to hit this.
> > > > > Haven't seen any 180 failure for a long time, with both 4k and 512 
> > > > > byte
> > > > > filesystems and since yesterday 1k as well.
> > > > 
> > > > It requires the test to run the VM out of RAM and then force enough
> > > > memory pressure for kswapd to start writeback from the LRU. The
> > > > reproducer I have is a 1p, 1GB RAM VM with it's disk image on a
> > > > 100MB/s HW RAID1 w/ 512MB BBWC disk subsystem.
> > > > 
> > 
> > You say it's a 1G VM but you don't say what architecure.
> x86-64 for both the guest and the host.


Mel Gorman

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