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Date:	Mon,  5 Jan 2015 09:56:42 +0100
From:	Vlastimil Babka <>
To:	Andrew Morton <>,
Cc:, Vlastimil Babka <>,
	Vladimir Davydov <>,
	<>, Mel Gorman <>,
	Johannes Weiner <>,
	Michal Hocko <>, Rik van Riel <>
Subject: [PATCH V3 1/2] mm, vmscan: prevent kswapd livelock due to pfmemalloc-throttled process being killed

Charles Shirron and Paul Cassella from Cray Inc have reported kswapd stuck
in a busy loop with nothing left to balance, but kswapd_try_to_sleep() failing
to sleep. Their analysis found the cause to be a combination of several

1. A process is waiting in throttle_direct_reclaim() on pgdat->pfmemalloc_wait

2. The process has been killed (by OOM in this case), but has not yet been
   scheduled to remove itself from the waitqueue and die.

3. kswapd checks for throttled processes in prepare_kswapd_sleep():

        if (waitqueue_active(&pgdat->pfmemalloc_wait)) {
		return false; // kswapd will not go to sleep

   However, for a process that was already killed, wake_up() does not remove
   the process from the waitqueue, since try_to_wake_up() checks its state
   first and returns false when the process is no longer waiting.

4. kswapd is running on the same CPU as the only CPU that the process is
   allowed to run on (through cpus_allowed, or possibly single-cpu system).

5. CONFIG_PREEMPT_NONE=y kernel is used. If there's nothing to balance, kswapd
   encounters no voluntary preemption points and repeatedly fails
   prepare_kswapd_sleep(), blocking the process from running and removing
   itself from the waitqueue, which would let kswapd sleep.

So, the source of the problem is that we prevent kswapd from going to sleep
until there are processes waiting on the pfmemalloc_wait queue, and a process
waiting on a queue is guaranteed to be removed from the queue only when it
gets scheduled. This was done to make sure that no process is left sleeping
on pfmemalloc_wait when kswapd itself goes to sleep.

However, it isn't necessary to postpone kswapd sleep until the pfmemalloc_wait
queue actually empties. To prevent processes from being left sleeping, it's
actually enough to guarantee that all processes waiting on pfmemalloc_wait
queue have been woken up by the time we put kswapd to sleep.

This patch therefore fixes this issue by substituting 'wake_up' with
'wake_up_all' and removing 'return false' in the code snippet from
prepare_kswapd_sleep() above. Note that if any process puts itself in the
queue after this waitqueue_active() check, or after the wake up itself, it
means that the process will also wake up kswapd - and since we are under
prepare_to_wait(), the wake up won't be missed. Also we update the comment
prepare_kswapd_sleep() to hopefully more clearly describe the races it is

Fixes: 5515061d22f0 ("mm: throttle direct reclaimers if PF_MEMALLOC reserves
                      are low and swap is backed by network storage")
Signed-off-by: Vlastimil Babka <>
Signed-off-by: Vladimir Davydov <>
Cc: <>   # v3.6+
Cc: Mel Gorman <>
Cc: Johannes Weiner <>
Cc: Michal Hocko <>
Cc: Rik van Riel <>
Changes in v3 (v2 was sent by Vladimir Davydov, thanks for his new solution):

- split to two patches again, as I (and Michal Hocko) think it's more correct
- some rewording in changelog
- change the code comment again as in v1 with small updates (v2 dropped this
  part), since it has been clearly a source of confusion so far

 mm/vmscan.c | 24 +++++++++++++-----------
 1 file changed, 13 insertions(+), 11 deletions(-)

diff --git a/mm/vmscan.c b/mm/vmscan.c
index bd9a72b..ab2505c 100644
--- a/mm/vmscan.c
+++ b/mm/vmscan.c
@@ -2921,18 +2921,20 @@ static bool prepare_kswapd_sleep(pg_data_t *pgdat, int order, long remaining,
 		return false;
-	 * There is a potential race between when kswapd checks its watermarks
-	 * and a process gets throttled. There is also a potential race if
-	 * processes get throttled, kswapd wakes, a large process exits therby
-	 * balancing the zones that causes kswapd to miss a wakeup. If kswapd
-	 * is going to sleep, no process should be sleeping on pfmemalloc_wait
-	 * so wake them now if necessary. If necessary, processes will wake
-	 * kswapd and get throttled again
+	 * The throttled processes are normally woken up in balance_pgdat() as
+	 * soon as pfmemalloc_watermark_ok() is true. But there is a potential
+	 * race between when kswapd checks the watermarks and a process gets
+	 * throttled. There is also a potential race if processes get
+	 * throttled, kswapd wakes, a large process exits thereby balancing the
+	 * zones, which causes kswapd to exit balance_pgdat() before reaching
+	 * the wake up checks. If kswapd is going to sleep, no process should
+	 * be sleeping on pfmemalloc_wait, so wake them now if necessary. If
+	 * the wake up is premature, processes will wake kswapd and get
+	 * throttled again. The difference from wake ups in balance_pgdat() is
+	 * that here we are under prepare_to_wait().
-	if (waitqueue_active(&pgdat->pfmemalloc_wait)) {
-		wake_up(&pgdat->pfmemalloc_wait);
-		return false;
-	}
+	if (waitqueue_active(&pgdat->pfmemalloc_wait))
+		wake_up_all(&pgdat->pfmemalloc_wait);
 	return pgdat_balanced(pgdat, order, classzone_idx);

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