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Date:	Tue, 19 Aug 2008 13:29:14 -0700
From:	Andrew Morton <>
Subject: Re: [PATCH 2/2] improve ext3 fsync batching

Could I just point out that this is a very very painful way of writing
a changelog?  All these new revelations are important and relevant and
should have been there!

On Tue, 19 Aug 2008 14:08:31 -0400
Ric Wheeler <> wrote:

> Andrew Morton wrote:
> > On Tue, 19 Aug 2008 07:01:11 -0400 Ric Wheeler <> wrote:
> >
> >   
> >> It would be great to be able to use this batching technique for faster 
> >> devices, but we currently sleep 3-4 times longer waiting to batch for an 
> >> array than it takes to complete the transaction.
> >>     
> >
> > Obviously, tuning that delay down to the minimum necessary is a good
> > thing.  But doing it based on commit-time seems indirect at best.  What
> > happens on a slower disk when commit times are in the tens of
> > milliseconds?  When someone runs a concurrent `dd if=/dev/zero of=foo'
> > when commit times go up to seconds?
> >   
> Transactions on that busier drive would take longer, we would sleep 
> longer which would allow us to batch up more into one transaction. That 
> should be a good result and it should reset when the drive gets less 
> busy (and transactions shorter) to a shorter sleep time.

Has this been empirically confirmed?

Commits can takes tens of seconds and causing an fsync() to block
itself for such periods could have quite bad effects.  How do we (ie:
I) know that there are no such scenarios with this change?

> > Perhaps a better scheme would be to tune it based on how many other
> > processes are joining that transaction.  If it's "zero" then decrease
> > the timeout.  But one would need to work out how to increase it, which
> > perhaps could be done by detecting the case where process A runs an
> > fsync when a commit is currently in progress, and that commit was
> > caused by process B's fsync.
> >   
> This is really, really a property of the device's latency at any given 
> point in time. If there are no other processes running, we could do an 
> optimization and not wait.

well yes.  This represents yet another attempt to predict future
application behaviour.  The way in which we _usually_ do that is by
monitoring past application behaviour.

Only this patch didn't do that (directly) and I'm wondering why not.

> > But before doing all that I would recommend/ask that the following be
> > investigated:
> >
> > - How effective is the present code?
> >   
> It causes the most expensive storage (arrays) to run 3-4 times slower 
> than they should on a synchronous write workload (NFS server, mail 
> server?) with more than 1 thread. For example, against a small EMC 
> array, I saw single threaded write rates of 720 files/sec against ext3 
> with 1 thread, 225 (if I remember correctly) with 2 ;-)

Current code has:

	 * Implement synchronous transaction batching.  If the handle
	 * was synchronous, don't force a commit immediately.  Let's
	 * yield and let another thread piggyback onto this transaction.
	 * Keep doing that while new threads continue to arrive.
	 * It doesn't cost much - we're about to run a commit and sleep
	 * on IO anyway.  Speeds up many-threaded, many-dir operations
	 * by 30x or more...
	 * But don't do this if this process was the most recent one to
	 * perform a synchronous write.  We do this to detect the case where a
	 * single process is doing a stream of sync writes.  No point in waiting
	 * for joiners in that case.

has the 30x been reproduced?  If not, what broke?  If so, what effect
did the proposed change have upon it?

> >   - What happens when it is simply removed?
> >   
> If you remove the code, you will not see the throughput rise when you go 
> multithreaded on existing slow devices (S-ATA/ATA for example). Faster 
> devices will not see that 2 threaded drop.

See above - has this been tested and confirmed?

> >   - Add instrumentation (a counter and a printk) to work out how
> >     many other tasks are joining this task's transaction.
> >
> >     - If the answer is "zero" or "small", work out why.
> >
> >   - See if we can increase its effectiveness.
> >
> > Because it could be that the code broke.  There might be issues with
> > higher-level locks which are preventing the batching.  For example, if
> > all the files which the test app is syncing are in the same directory,
> > perhaps all the tasks are piling up on that directory's i_mutex?
> >   
> I have to admit that I don't see the down side here - we have shown a 
> huge increase for arrays (embarrassingly huge  increase for RAM disks) 
> and see no degradation for the S-ATA/ATA case.
> The code is not broken (having been there and done the performance 
> tuning on the original code), it just did not account for the widely 
> varying average response times for different classes of storage ;-)

Well, as I said - last time I checked, it did seem to be broken.  By
what means did you confirm that it is still effective, and what were
the results?

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