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Date:	Wed, 8 Sep 2010 14:34:40 -0600
From:	Andreas Dilger <>
To:	Lukas Czerner <>
Subject: Re: [PATCH 0/5 v2] Lazy itable initialization for Ext4

On 2010-09-08, at 10:59, Lukas Czerner wrote:
>  Second patch adds new pair of mount
> options (inititable/noinititable), so you can enable or disable this
> feature. In default it is off (noinititable), so in order to try the new
> code you should moutn the fs like this:
typo             ^^^^^^

>  mount -o noinititable /dev/sda /mnt/
typo       ^^^

It should use "inititable" if you want to try the new code.

> To Andreas:
> You suggested the approach with reading the table first to
> determine if the device is sparse, or thinly provisioned, or trimmed SSD.
> In this case the reading would be much more efficient than writing, so it
> would be a win. But I just wonder, if we de believe the device, that
> when returning zeroes it is safe to no zero the inode table, why not do it
> at mkfs time instead of kernel ?

Good question, but I think the answer is that reading the full itable at
mke2fs time, just like writing it at mke2fs time, is _serialized_ time
spent waiting for the filesystem to become useful.  Doing it in the
background in the kernel can happen in parallel with other operations
(e.g. formatting other disks, waiting for user input from the installer,
downloading updates, etc).

> To Ted:
> You were suggesting that it would be nice if the thread will not run, or
> just quits when the system runs on the battery power. I agree that in that
> case we probably should not do this to save some battery life. But is it
> necessary, or wise to do this in kernel ? What we should do when the
> system runs on battery and user still want to run the lazy initialization
> ? I would rather let the userspace handle it. For example just remount the
> filesystem with -o noinititable.

I would tend to agree with Ted.  There will be _some_ time that the system
is plugged in to charge the battery, and this is very normal when installing
the system initially, so delaying the zeroing will not affect most users.
For the case where the user IS on battery power for some reason, I think it
is better to avoid consuming the battery in that case.

Maybe a good way to compromise is to just put the thread to sleep for 5- or
10-minute intervals while on battery power, and only start zeroing once
plugged in.  That solves the situation where (like me) the laptop stays on
for months at a time with only suspend/resume, and is only rarely rebooted,
but it is plugged in to recharge often.

Since we don't expect to need the itable zeroing unless there is corruption
of the on-disk group descriptor data, I don't think that it is urgent to do
this immediately after install.  If there is corruption within hours of
installing a system, there are more serious problems with the system that
we cannot fix.

> In my benchmark I have set different values of multipliers
> (EXT4_LI_WAIT_MULT) to see how it affects performance. As a tool for
> performance measuring I have used postmark (see parameters bellow). I have
> created average from five postmark runs to gen more stable results. In
> each run I have created ext4 filesystem on the device (with
> lazy_itable_init set properly), mounted with inititable/noinititable mount
> option and run the postmark measuring the running time and number of
> groups the ext4lazyinit thread initializes in one run. 
> Type                              |NOPATCH      MULT=10      DIFF    |
> ==================================+==================================+
> Total_duration                    |130.00       132.40       1.85%   |
> Duration_of_transactions          |77.80        80.80        3.86%   |
> Transactions/s                    |642.73       618.82       -3.72%  |
> [snip]
> Read_B/s                          |21179620.40  20793522.40  -1.82%  |
> Write_B/s                         |66279880.00  65071617.60  -1.82%  |
> ==================================+==================================+

This is a relatively minor overhead, and when one considers that this is
a very metadata-heavy benchmark being run immediately after reformatting
the filesystem, it is not a very realistic real-world situation.

The good (expected) news is that there is no performance impact when the
thread is not active, so this is a one-time hit.  In fairness, the
"NOPATCH" test times should include the full mke2fs time as well, if one
wants to consider the real-world impact of a much faster mke2fs run and
a slightly-slower runtime for a few minutes.

Do you have any idea of how long the zeroing takes to complete in
the case of MULT=10 without any load, as a function of the filesystem
size?  That would tell us what the minimum time after startup that the
system might be slowed down by the zeroing thread.

> The benchmark showed, that patch itself does not introduce any performance
> loss (at least for postmark), when ext4lazyinit thread is not activated.
> However, when it is activated, there is explicit performance loss due to
> inode table zeroing, but with EXT4_LI_WAIT_MULT=10 it is just about 1.8%,
> which may, or may not be much, so when I think about it now we should
> probably make this settable via sysfs. What do you think ?

I don't think it is necessary to have a sysfs parameter for this.  Instead
I would suggest making the "inititable" mount option take an optional
numeric parameter that specifies the MULT factor.  The ideal solution is
to make the zeroing happen with a MULT=100 under IO load, but run full-out (i.e. MULT=0?) while there is no IO load.  That said, I don't think it is
critical enough to delay this patch from landing to implement that.

Cheers, Andreas

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