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Date:	Wed, 24 Jun 2009 15:27:32 -0700
From:	Andrew Morton <>
To:	Richard Kennedy <>
Cc:,,, Jens Axboe <>
Subject: Re: [RFC][PATCH] mm: stop balance_dirty_pages doing too much work

On Wed, 24 Jun 2009 11:38:24 +0100
Richard Kennedy <> wrote:

> When writing to 2 (or more) devices at the same time, stop
> balance_dirty_pages moving dirty pages to writeback when it has reached
> the bdi threshold. This prevents balance_dirty_pages overshooting its
> limits and moving all dirty pages to writeback.     
> Signed-off-by: Richard Kennedy <>
> ---
> balance_dirty_pages can overreact and move all of the dirty pages to
> writeback unnecessarily.
> balance_dirty_pages makes its decision to throttle based on the number
> of dirty plus writeback pages that are over the calculated limit,so it
> will continue to move pages even when there are plenty of pages in
> writeback and less than the threshold still dirty.
> This allows it to overshoot its limits and move all the dirty pages to
> writeback while waiting for the drives to catch up and empty the
> writeback list. 
> A simple fio test easily demonstrates this problem.  
> fio --name=f1 --directory=/disk1 --size=2G -rw=write
> 	--name=f2 --directory=/disk2 --size=1G --rw=write 		--startdelay=10
> The attached graph before.png shows how all pages are moved to writeback
> as the second write starts and the throttling kicks in.
> after.png is the same test with the patch applied, which clearly shows
> that it keeps dirty_background_ratio dirty pages in the buffer.
> The values and timings of the graphs are only approximate but are good
> enough to show the behaviour.  
> This is the simplest fix I could find, but I'm not entirely sure that it
> alone will be enough for all cases. But it certainly is an improvement
> on my desktop machine writing to 2 disks.
> Do we need something more for machines with large arrays where
> bdi_threshold * number_of_drives is greater than the dirty_ratio ?

um.  Interesting find.  Jens, was any of your performance testing using
multiple devices?  If so, it looks like the results just got invalidated :)

> diff --git a/mm/page-writeback.c b/mm/page-writeback.c
> index 7b0dcea..7687879 100644
> --- a/mm/page-writeback.c
> +++ b/mm/page-writeback.c
> @@ -541,8 +541,11 @@ static void balance_dirty_pages(struct address_space *mapping)
>  		 * filesystems (i.e. NFS) in which data may have been
>  		 * written to the server's write cache, but has not yet
>  		 * been flushed to permanent storage.
> +		 * Only move pages to writeback if this bdi is over its
> +		 * threshold otherwise wait until the disk writes catch
> +		 * up.
>  		 */
> -		if (bdi_nr_reclaimable) {
> +		if (bdi_nr_reclaimable > bdi_thresh) {
>  			writeback_inodes(&wbc);
>  			pages_written += write_chunk - wbc.nr_to_write;
>  			get_dirty_limits(&background_thresh, &dirty_thresh,

yup, we need to think about the effect with zillions of disks.  Peter,
could you please take a look?

Also...  get_dirty_limits() is rather hard to grok.  The callers of
get_dirty_limits() treat its three return values as "thresholds", but
they're not named as thresholds within get_dirty_limits() itself, which
is a bit confusing.  And the meaning of each of those return values is
pretty obscure from the code - could we document them please?

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