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Date:   Thu, 21 Dec 2017 15:54:51 +0000
From:   Trond Myklebust <trondmy@...marydata.com>
To:     "neilb@...e.com" <neilb@...e.com>,
        "chuck.lever@...cle.com" <chuck.lever@...cle.com>
CC:     "Anna.Schumaker@...app.com" <Anna.Schumaker@...app.com>,
        "linux-kernel@...r.kernel.org" <linux-kernel@...r.kernel.org>,
        "linux-nfs@...r.kernel.org" <linux-nfs@...r.kernel.org>,
        "linux-fsdevel@...r.kernel.org" <linux-fsdevel@...r.kernel.org>
Subject: Re: [PATCH/RFC] NFS: add nostatflush mount option.

On Thu, 2017-12-21 at 10:39 -0500, Chuck Lever wrote:
> Hi Neil-
> 
> 
> > On Dec 20, 2017, at 9:57 PM, NeilBrown <neilb@...e.com> wrote:
> > 
> > 
> > When an i_op->getattr() call is made on an NFS file
> > (typically from a 'stat' family system call), NFS
> > will first flush any dirty data to the server.
> > 
> > This ensures that the mtime reported is correct and stable,
> > but has a performance penalty.  'stat' is normally thought
> > to be a quick operation, and imposing this cost can be
> > surprising.
> 
> To be clear, this behavior is a POSIX requirement.
> 
> 
> > I have seen problems when one process is writing a large
> > file and another process performs "ls -l" on the containing
> > directory and is blocked for as long as it take to flush
> > all the dirty data to the server, which can be minutes.
> 
> Yes, a well-known annoyance that cannot be addressed
> even with a write delegation.
> 
> 
> > I have also seen a legacy application which frequently calls
> > "fstat" on a file that it is writing to.  On a local
> > filesystem (and in the Solaris implementation of NFS) this
> > fstat call is cheap.  On Linux/NFS, the causes a noticeable
> > decrease in throughput.
> 
> If the preceding write is small, Linux could be using
> a FILE_SYNC write, but Solaris could be using UNSTABLE.
> 
> 
> > The only circumstances where an application calling 'stat()'
> > might get an mtime which is not stable are times when some
> > other process is writing to the file and the two processes
> > are not using locking to ensure consistency, or when the one
> > process is both writing and stating.  In neither of these
> > cases is it reasonable to expect the mtime to be stable.
> 
> I'm not convinced this is a strong enough rationale
> for claiming it is safe to disable the existing
> behavior.
> 
> You've explained cases where the new behavior is
> reasonable, but do you have any examples where the
> new behavior would be a problem? There must be a
> reason why POSIX explicitly requires an up-to-date
> mtime.
> 
> What guidance would nfs(5) give on when it is safe
> to specify the new mount option?
> 
> 
> > In the most common cases where mtime is important
> > (e.g. make), no other process has the file open, so there
> > will be no dirty data and the mtime will be stable.
> 
> Isn't it also the case that make is a multi-process
> workload where one process modifies a file, then
> closes it (which triggers a flush), and then another
> process stats the file? The new mount option does
> not change the behavior of close(2), does it?
> 
> 
> > Rather than unilaterally changing this behavior of 'stat',
> > this patch adds a "nosyncflush" mount option to allow
> > sysadmins to have applications which are hurt by the current
> > behavior to disable it.
> 
> IMO a mount option is at the wrong granularity. A
> mount point will be shared between applications that
> can tolerate the non-POSIX behavior and those that
> cannot, for instance.

Agreed. 

The other thing to note here is that we now have an embryonic statx()
system call, which allows the application itself to decide whether or
not it needs up to date values for the atime/ctime/mtime. While we
haven't yet plumbed in the NFS side, the intention was always to use
that information to turn off the writeback flushing when possible.

Cheers
  Trond

-- 
Trond Myklebust
Linux NFS client maintainer, PrimaryData
trond.myklebust@...marydata.com

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