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Date:   Thu, 23 Nov 2017 22:15:17 +0100
From:   Vlastimil Babka <>
To:     Mel Gorman <>, Johannes Weiner <>
Cc:     Andrew Morton <>,
        Joonsoo Kim <>,,,
Subject: Re: [PATCH] mm, compaction: direct freepage allocation for async
 direct compaction

On 11/23/2017 03:08 PM, Mel Gorman wrote:
> 1. This indirectly uses __rmqueue to allocate a MIGRATE_MOVABLE page but
>    that is allowed to fallback to other pageblocks and potentially even
>    steal them. I think it's very bad that an attempt to defragment can
>    itself indirectly cause more fragmentation events by altering pageblocks.
>    Please consider using __rmqueue_fallback (within alloc_pages_zone of
>    course)

Agree. That should be simpler to do in the new version of the patch and
its __rmqueue_compact(). It might happen though that we deplete all free
pages on movable lists. Then the only option is to fallback to others
(aborting compaction in that case makes little sense IMHO) but perhaps
without the usual fallback heuristics of trying to steal the largest
page, whole pageblock etc.

> 2. One of the reasons a linear scanner was used was because I wanted the
>    possibility that MIGRATE_UNMOVABLE and MIGRATE_RECLAIMABLE pageblocks
>    would also be scanned and we would avoid future fragmentation events.

Hmm are you talking about the free scanner here, or the migration
scanner? The free scanner generally avoids these pageblocks, by the way
of suitable_migration_target() (and I think it used to be like this all
the time). Only recently an override of cc->ignore_block_suitable was added.

>    This had a lot of overhead and was reduced since but it's still a
>    relevant problem.  Granted, this patch is not the correct place to fix
>    that issue and potential solutions have been discussed elsewhere. However,
>    this patch potentially means that never happens. It doesn't necessarily
>    kill the patch but the long-lived behaviour may be that no compaction
>    occurs because all the MIGRATE_MOVABLE pageblocks are full and you'll
>    either need to reclaim to fix it or we'll need kcompactd to migration
>    MIGRATE_MOVABLE pages from UNMOVABLE and RECLAIMABLE pageblocks out
>    of band.
>    For THP, this point doesn't matter but if you need this patch for
>    high-order allocations for network buffers then at some point, you
>    really will have to clean out those pageblocks or it'll degrade.

Hmm this really reads like about the migration scanner. That one is
unchanged by this patch, there is still a linear scanner. In fact, it
gets better, because now it can see the whole zone, not just the first
1/3 - 1/2 until it meets the free scanner (my past observations). And
some time ago the async direct compaction was adjusted so that it only
scans the migratetype matching the allocation (see
suitable_migration_source()). So to some extent, the cleaning already

> 3. Another reason a linear scanner was used was because we wanted to
>    clear entire pageblocks we were migrating from and pack the target
>    pageblocks as much as possible. This was to reduce the amount of
>    migration required overall even though the scanning hurts. This patch
>    takes MIGRATE_MOVABLE pages from anywhere that is "not this pageblock".
>    Those potentially have to be moved again and again trying to randomly
>    fill a MIGRATE_MOVABLE block. Have you considered using the freelists
>    as a hint? i.e. take a page from the freelist, then isolate all free
>    pages in the same pageblock as migration targets? That would preserve
>    the "packing property" of the linear scanner.
>    This would increase the amount of scanning but that *might* be offset by
>    the number of migrations the workload does overall. Note that migrations
>    potentially are minor faults so if we do too many migrations, your
>    workload may suffer.

I have considered the "freelist as a hint", but I'm kinda sceptical
about it, because with increasing uptime reclaim should be freeing
rather random pages, so finding some free page in a pageblock doesn't
mean there would be more free pages there than in the other pageblocks?

Instead my plan is to make the migration scanner smarter by expanding
the "skip_on_failure" feature in isolate_migratepages_block(). The
scanner should not even start isolating if the block ahead contains a
page that's not free or lru-isolatable/PageMovable. The current
"look-ahead" is effectively limited by COMPACT_CLUSTER_MAX (32) isolated
pages followed by a migration, after which the scanner might immediately
find a non-migratable page, so if it was called for a THP, that work has
been wasted.

This should be straightforward for direct compaction, but will be
trickier for kcompactd becoming more proactive than the current

> 4. One problem the linear scanner avoids is that a migration target is
>    subsequently used as a migration source and leads to a ping-pong effect.
>    I don't know how bad this is in practice or even if it's a problem at
>    all but it was a concern at the time

I think this is "just" the worst case of the problem 3. It would likely
happen with manually triggered compaction from /proc which would create
a range of free pages near the zone start and then move it along to the
zone end, because there's no other termination criteria. The
"look-ahead" heuristics described above might be the trickiest here...

> 5. Consider two processes A and B compacting at the same time with A_s
>    and A_t being the source pageblock and target pageblock that process
>    A is using and B_s/B_t being B's pageblocks. Nothing prevents A_s ==
>    B_t and B_s == A_t. Maybe it rarely happens in practice but it was one
>    problem the linear scanner was meant to avoid.

I hope that ultimately this problem is not worse than the existing
problem where B would not be compacting, but simply allocating the pages
that A just created... Maybe if the "look-ahead" idea turns out to have
high enough success rate of really creating the high-order page where it
decides to isolate and migrate (which probably depends mostly on the
migration failure rate?) we could resurrect the old idea of doing a
pageblock isolation (MIGRATE_ISOLATE) beforehand. That would block all

> I can't shake the feeling I had another concern when I started this
> email but then forgot it before I got to the end so it can't be that
> important :(.

Thanks a lot for the feedback. I totally see how the approach of two
linear scanners makes many things simpler, but seems we are now really
paying too high a price for the free page scanning. So hopefully there
is a way out, although not a simple one.

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