Re: Read I/O starvation with writeback RAID controller

From: Nicholas A. Bellinger
Date: Wed Feb 20 2013 - 15:48:22 EST

Hi Martin,

CC'ing linux-scsi here, as aacraid doesn't have an official maintainer


On Wed, 2013-02-20 at 16:38 +0100, Martin Svec wrote:
> Hello,
> I've noticed read I/O starvation problems of LIO iSCSI target when
> used on top of writeback-enabled HW RAID controller (PERC H700 with
> 1GB cache). For intensive mixed read-write workload in virtualized
> environments, writes are able to consume over 95% of the IOPS
> throughput and cause starvation of reads.
> After a number of tests it seems to me it's a general issue of block
> layer I/O scheduling when running on top of a writeback device. If
> there is a write-intensive task, all writes go to the writeback cache
> with near-zero latency. This allows writer to quickly saturate the
> device with thousands of writes while using only a minimal fraction of
> queue depth. However, non-cached reads depend on spinning drive
> latencies which are orders of magnitude higher than writeback cache
> latencies, and so readers cannot submit so many requests per second as
> writers. Consequently, I guess the controller has totally wrong view
> of the incoming workload pattern, tries to satisfy the write flood
> first and the net result is inacceptable starvation of reads, with
> latencies up to hundreds of milliseconds.
> A simple fio test with 1TiB block device where one thread does 4k
> random sync writes with iodepth=32 and one thread does 4k random reads
> with iodepth=32 shows that instead of the theoretical 50:50 IOPS
> ratio, the block device runs with 95:5 ratio in favor of writes. In
> fact, the imbalance is so high that even write iodepth=2 is enaugh to
> achieve the same numbers.
> Real workloads that tend to exhibit this problem are: initial zeroing
> of a virtual machine disk, virtual machine migration, virtual machine
> cloning, intensive swapping of one virtual machine etc.
> I tried to set WCE=1 on target iblock device, played with queue
> depths, tested all three I/O schedulers and their parameters,
> controller's parameters, but with no luck. To achieve reasonably good
> fairness, the only solution is to set nr_requests to 1 or disable
> controller's writeback cache at all -- at the expense of degraded
> overall performance :-(
> Regarding nr_requests, there's obvious relation between iodepths and
> read starvation: if (nr_requests >= workload iodepth) then starvation
> surely occurs. Lowering nr_requests below this threshold slowly starts
> improving fairness and for every rd+wr iodepths pair, there exists
> sufficiently low nr_requests value at which IOPS ratio is finally
> balanced according to rd:wr iodepth ratio. Unfortunately it means
> there is no minimal nr_requests value suitable for all workloads. For
> iodepths around 2 to 8, only nr_requests=1 provides fair load balancing.
> Is this a known problem? Does anybody find block layer parameters that
> elliminate this problem for iscsi-target storage in mixed random
> read-write environments like virtualization? Or should I start writing
> my own I/O scheduler? ;-)
> Update: I've just found (Read
> starvation by sync writes), where Jan Kara describes identical
> symptoms. But setting nr_requests=10000 doesn't help in my case.
> CC'ing LKML too (I'm not LKML subscriber).
> Thanks,
> Martin
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