Re: [RFC] Parallelize IO for e2fsck

On Thu, Jan 24, 2008 at 06:32:15PM +0100, Bodo Eggert wrote:
Alan Cox <alan@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

I'd tried to advocate SIGDANGER some years ago as well, but none of
the kernel maintainers were interested. It definitely makes sense
to have some sort of mechanism like this. At the time I first brought
it up it was in conjunction with Netscape using too much cache on some
system, but it would be just as useful for all kinds of other memory-
hungry applications.

There is an early thread for a /proc file which you can add to your
poll() set and it will wake people when memory is low. Very elegant and
if async support is added it will also give you the signal variant for

IMO you'll need a userspace daemon. The kernel does only know about the
amount of memory available / recommended for a system (or container),
while the user knows which program's cache is most precious today.

(Off cause the userspace daemon will in turn need the /proc file.)

I think a single, system-wide signal is the second-to worst solution: All
applications (or the wrong one, if you select one) would free their caches
and start to crawl, and either stay in this state or slowly increase their
caches again until they get signaled again. And the signal would either
come too early or too late. The userspace daemon could collect the weighted
demand of memory from all applications and tell them how much to use.

I don't think that's something that would require finetuning on a
per-application basis - the kernel should tell all applications once to
reduce memory consumption and write a fat warning to the logs (which
will on well-maintained systems be mailed to the admin).

Your "and tell them how much to use" wouldn't work for most applications
- e.g. I've worked the last weeks with a computer with 512 MB RAM and no
Swap, which means usually only 200 MB of free RAM. I've gotten quite
used to git aborting with "fatal: Out of memory, malloc failed" when
200 MB weren't enough for git, and I don't think there is any reasonable
way for git to reduce the memory usage while continuing to run.

In practice, there is a small number of programs that are both the
common memory hogs and should be able to reduce their memory consumption
by 10% or 20% without big problems when requested (e.g. Java VMs,
Firefox and databases come into my mind).

And from a performance point of view letting applications voluntarily
free some memory is better even than starting to swap.



"Is there not promise of rain?" Ling Tan asked suddenly out
of the darkness. There had been need of rain for many days.
"Only a promise," Lao Er said.
Pearl S. Buck - Dragon Seed

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