Re: [PATCH 5/6] vmscan: Write out ranges of pages contiguous tothe inode where possible

From: Mel Gorman
Date: Fri Jun 11 2010 - 08:50:00 EST

On Thu, Jun 10, 2010 at 11:10:45PM -0700, Andrew Morton wrote:
> On Tue, 8 Jun 2010 10:02:24 +0100 Mel Gorman <mel@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> > Page reclaim cleans individual pages using a_ops->writepage() because from
> > the VM perspective, it is known that pages in a particular zone must be freed
> > soon, it considers the target page to be the oldest and it does not want
> > to wait while background flushers cleans other pages. From a filesystem
> > perspective this is extremely inefficient as it generates a very seeky
> > IO pattern leading to the perverse situation where it can take longer to
> > clean all dirty pages than it would have otherwise.
> >
> > This patch recognises that there are cases where a number of pages
> > belonging to the same inode are being written out. When this happens and
> > writepages() is implemented, the range of pages will be written out with
> > a_ops->writepages. The inode is pinned and the page lock released before
> > submitting the range to the filesystem. While this potentially means that
> > more pages are cleaned than strictly necessary, the expectation is that the
> > filesystem will be able to writeout the pages more efficiently and improve
> > overall performance.
> >
> > ...
> >
> > + /* Write single page */
> > + switch (write_reclaim_page(cursor, mapping, PAGEOUT_IO_ASYNC)) {
> > + case PAGE_KEEP:
> > + case PAGE_ACTIVATE:
> > + case PAGE_CLEAN:
> > + unlock_page(cursor);
> > + break;
> > + case PAGE_SUCCESS:
> > + break;
> > + }
> > + } else {
> > + /* Grab inode under page lock before writing range */
> > + struct inode *inode = igrab(mapping->host);
> > + unlock_page(cursor);
> > + if (inode) {
> > + do_writepages(mapping, &wbc);
> > + iput(inode);
> Buggy.

It's buggy all right. Under heavy stress on one machine using XFS, it locks
up. I setup the XFS-based tests after I posted the series which is why I
missed it.

> I did this, umm ~8 years ago and ended up reverting it because it was
> complex and didn't seem to buy us anything. Of course, that was before
> we broke the VM and started writing out lots of LRU pages. That code
> was better than your code - it grabbed the address_space and did
> writearound around the target page.

I considered duplicating the writing around the target page but decided
that the VM had no idea if they needed to be cleaned or not. That's why this
patch only considered ranges of pages the VM wanted to clean now.

> The reason this code is buggy is that under extreme memory pressure
> (<oldfart>the sort of testing nobody does any more</oldfart>) it can be
> the case that this iput() is the final iput() on this inode.
> Now go take a look at iput_final(), which I bet has never been executed
> on this path in your testing.

I didn't check if iput_final was being hit or not. Certainly the lockup I
experienced was under heavy load when a lot of files were being created and
deleleted but I hadn't pinned down where it went wrong before this mail. I
think it was because I wasn't unlocking all the pages in the list properly.

> It takes a large number of high-level
> VFS locks. Locks which cannot be taken from deep within page reclaim
> without causing various deadlocks.

Can you explain this a bit more please? I can see the inode_lock is very
important in this path for example but am not seeing how page reclaim taking
it would cause a deadlock.

> I did solve that problem before reverting it all but I forget how. By
> holding a page lock to pin the address_space rather than igrab(),
> perhaps.

But this is what I did. That function has a list of locked pages. When I
call igrab(), the page is locked so the address_space should be pinned. I
unlock the page after I call igrab.

> Go take a look - it was somewhere between 2.5.1 and 2.5.10 if
> I vaguely recall correctly.
> Or don't take a look - we shouldn't need to do any of this anyway.

I'll take a closer look if there is real interest in having the VM use
writepages() but it sounds like it's a waste of time. I'll focus on

a) identifying how many dirty pages the VM is really writing back with
b) not using writepage from direct reclaim because it overflows the

Mel Gorman
Part-time Phd Student Linux Technology Center
University of Limerick IBM Dublin Software Lab
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