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From: Dave Chinner <>
Subject: [PATCH] [Regression, v5.0] mm: boosted kswapd reclaim b0rks system cache balance
Date: Wed,  7 Aug 2019 19:18:58 +1000
Message-ID: <> (raw)

From: Dave Chinner <>

When running a simple, steady state 4kB file creation test to
simulate extracting tarballs larger than memory full of small files
into the filesystem, I noticed that once memory fills up the cache
balance goes to hell.

The workload is creating one dirty cached inode for every dirty
page, both of which should require a single IO each to clean and
reclaim, and creation of inodes is throttled by the rate at which
dirty writeback runs at (via balance dirty pages). Hence the ingest
rate of new cached inodes and page cache pages is identical and
steady. As a result, memory reclaim should quickly find a steady
balance between page cache and inode caches.

It doesn't.

The moment memory fills, the page cache is reclaimed at a much
faster rate than the inode cache, and evidence suggests taht the
inode cache shrinker is not being called when large batches of pages
are being reclaimed. In roughly the same time period that it takes
to fill memory with 50% pages and 50% slab caches, memory reclaim
reduces the page cache down to just dirty pages and slab caches fill
the entirity of memory.

At the point where the page cache is reduced to just the dirty
pages, there is a clear change in write IO patterns. Up to this
point it has been running at a steady 1500 write IOPS for ~200MB/s
of write throughtput (data, journal and metadata). Once the page
cache is trimmed to just dirty pages, the write IOPS immediately
start spiking to 5-10,000 IOPS and there is a noticable change in
IO sizes and completion times. The SSD is fast enough to soak these
up, so the measured performance is only slightly affected (numbers
below). It results in > ~50% throughput slowdowns on a spinning
disk with a NVRAM RAID cache in front of it, though. I didn't
capture the numbers at the time, and it takes far to long for me to
care to run it again and get them.

SSD perf degradation as the LRU empties to just dirty pages:

FSUse%        Count         Size    Files/sec     App Overhead
     0      4320000         4096      51349.6          1370049
     0      4480000         4096      48492.9          1362823
     0      4640000         4096      48473.8          1435623
     0      4800000         4096      46846.6          1370959
     0      4960000         4096      47086.6          1567401
     0      5120000         4096      46288.8          1368056
     0      5280000         4096      46003.2          1391604
     0      5440000         4096      46033.4          1458440
     0      5600000         4096      45035.1          1484132
     0      5760000         4096      43757.6          1492594
     0      5920000         4096      40739.4          1552104
     0      6080000         4096      37309.4          1627355
     0      6240000         4096      42003.3          1517357
real    3m28.093s
user    0m57.852s
sys     14m28.193s

Average rate: 51724.6+/-2.4e+04 files/sec.

At first memory full point:

MemFree:          432676 kB
Active(file):      89820 kB
Inactive(file):  7330892 kB
Dirty:           1603576 kB
Writeback:          2908 kB
Slab:            6579384 kB
SReclaimable:    3727612 kB
SUnreclaim:      2851772 kB

A few seconds later at about half the page cache reclaimed:

MemFree:         1880588 kB
Active(file):      89948 kB
Inactive(file):  3021796 kB
Dirty:           1097072 kB
Writeback:          2600 kB
Slab:            8900912 kB
SReclaimable:    5060104 kB
SUnreclaim:      3840808 kB

And at about the 6080000 count point in the results above, right to
the end of the test:

MemFree:          574900 kB
Active(file):      89856 kB
Inactive(file):   483120 kB
Dirty:            372436 kB
Writeback:           324 kB
KReclaimable:    6506496 kB
Slab:           11898956 kB
SReclaimable:    6506496 kB
SUnreclaim:      5392460 kB

So the LRU is largely full of dirty pages, and we're getting spikes
of random writeback from memory reclaim so it's all going to shit.
Behaviour never recovers, the page cache remains pinned at just dirty
pages, and nothing I could tune would make any difference.
vfs_cache_pressure makes no difference - I would it up so high it
should trim the entire inode caches in a singel pass, yet it didn't
do anything. It was clear from tracing and live telemetry that the
shrinkers were pretty much not running except when there was
absolutely no memory free at all, and then they did the minimum
necessary to free memory to make progress.

So I went looking at the code, trying to find places where pages got
reclaimed and the shrinkers weren't called. There's only one -
kswapd doing boosted reclaim as per commit 1c30844d2dfe ("mm: reclaim
small amounts of memory when an external fragmentation event
occurs"). I'm not even using THP or allocating huge pages, so this
code should not be active or having any effect onmemory reclaim at
all, yet the majority of reclaim is being done with "boost" and so
it's not reclaiming slab caches at all. It will only free clean
pages from the LRU.

And so when we do run out memory, it switches to normal reclaim,
which hits dirty pages on the LRU and does some shrinker work, too,
but then appears to switch back to boosted reclaim one watermarks
are reached.

The patch below restores page cache vs inode cache balance for this
steady state workload. It balances out at about 40% page cache, 60%
slab cache, and sustained performance is 10-15% higher than without
this patch because the IO patterns remain in control of dirty
writeback and the filesystem, not kswapd.

Performance with boosted reclaim also running shrinkers over the
same steady state portion of the test as above.

FSUse%        Count         Size    Files/sec     App Overhead
     0      4320000         4096      51341.9          1409983
     0      4480000         4096      51157.5          1486421
     0      4640000         4096      52041.5          1421837
     0      4800000         4096      52124.2          1442169
     0      4960000         4096      56266.6          1388865
     0      5120000         4096      52892.2          1357650
     0      5280000         4096      51879.5          1326590
     0      5440000         4096      52178.7          1362889
     0      5600000         4096      53863.0          1345956
     0      5760000         4096      52538.7          1321422
     0      5920000         4096      53144.5          1336966
     0      6080000         4096      53647.7          1372146
     0      6240000         4096      52434.7          1362534

real    3m11.543s
user    0m57.506s
sys     14m20.913s

Average rate: 57634.2+/-2.8e+04 files/sec.

So it completed ~10% faster (both wall time and create rate) and had
far better IO patterns so the differences would be even more
pronounced on slow storage.

This patch is not a fix, just a demonstration of the fact that the
heuristics this "boosted reclaim for compaction" are based on are
flawed, will have nasty side effects for users that don't use THP
and so needs revisiting.

Signed-off-by: Dave Chinner <>
 mm/vmscan.c | 4 ++--
 1 file changed, 2 insertions(+), 2 deletions(-)

diff --git a/mm/vmscan.c b/mm/vmscan.c
index 9034570febd9..702e6523f8ad 100644
--- a/mm/vmscan.c
+++ b/mm/vmscan.c
@@ -2748,10 +2748,10 @@ static bool shrink_node(pg_data_t *pgdat, struct scan_control *sc)
 			shrink_node_memcg(pgdat, memcg, sc, &lru_pages);
 			node_lru_pages += lru_pages;
-			if (sc->may_shrinkslab) {
+			//if (sc->may_shrinkslab) {
 				shrink_slab(sc->gfp_mask, pgdat->node_id,
 				    memcg, sc->priority);
-			}
+			//}
 			/* Record the group's reclaim efficiency */
 			vmpressure(sc->gfp_mask, memcg, false,

             reply index

Thread overview: 14+ messages / expand[flat|nested]  mbox.gz  Atom feed  top
2019-08-07  9:18 Dave Chinner [this message]
2019-08-07  9:30 ` Michal Hocko
2019-08-07 15:03   ` Mel Gorman
2019-08-07 20:56     ` Mel Gorman
2019-08-07 22:32       ` Dave Chinner
2019-08-07 23:48         ` Mel Gorman
2019-08-08  0:26           ` Dave Chinner
2019-08-08 15:36       ` Christoph Hellwig
2019-08-08 17:04         ` Mel Gorman
2019-08-07 22:08     ` Dave Chinner
2019-08-07 22:33       ` Dave Chinner
2019-08-07 23:55       ` Mel Gorman
2019-08-08  0:30         ` Dave Chinner
2019-08-08  5:51           ` Dave Chinner

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