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Date:	Wed, 20 Aug 2014 10:41:32 +0200
From:	Christian Borntraeger <>
To:	Razya Ladelsky <>,,
Subject: Re: [PATCH] vhost: Add polling mode

On 10/08/14 10:30, Razya Ladelsky wrote:
> From: Razya Ladelsky <>
> Date: Thu, 31 Jul 2014 09:47:20 +0300
> Subject: [PATCH] vhost: Add polling mode
> When vhost is waiting for buffers from the guest driver (e.g., more packets to
> send in vhost-net's transmit queue), it normally goes to sleep and waits for the
> guest to "kick" it. This kick involves a PIO in the guest, and therefore an exit
> (and possibly userspace involvement in translating this PIO exit into a file
> descriptor event), all of which hurts performance.
> If the system is under-utilized (has cpu time to spare), vhost can continuously
> poll the virtqueues for new buffers, and avoid asking the guest to kick us.
> This patch adds an optional polling mode to vhost, that can be enabled via a
> kernel module parameter, "poll_start_rate".
> When polling is active for a virtqueue, the guest is asked to disable
> notification (kicks), and the worker thread continuously checks for new buffers.
> When it does discover new buffers, it simulates a "kick" by invoking the
> underlying backend driver (such as vhost-net), which thinks it got a real kick
> from the guest, and acts accordingly. If the underlying driver asks not to be
> kicked, we disable polling on this virtqueue.
> We start polling on a virtqueue when we notice it has work to do. Polling on
> this virtqueue is later disabled after 3 seconds of polling turning up no new
> work, as in this case we are better off returning to the exit-based notification
> mechanism. The default timeout of 3 seconds can be changed with the
> "poll_stop_idle" kernel module parameter.
> This polling approach makes lot of sense for new HW with posted-interrupts for
> which we have exitless host-to-guest notifications. But even with support for
> posted interrupts, guest-to-host communication still causes exits. Polling adds
> the missing part.
> When systems are overloaded, there won't be enough cpu time for the various
> vhost threads to poll their guests' devices. For these scenarios, we plan to add
> support for vhost threads that can be shared by multiple devices, even of
> multiple vms.
> Our ultimate goal is to implement the I/O acceleration features described in:
> KVM Forum 2013: Efficient and Scalable Virtio (by Abel Gordon)
> and
> I ran some experiments with TCP stream netperf and filebench (having 2 threads
> performing random reads) benchmarks on an IBM System x3650 M4.
> I have two machines, A and B. A hosts the vms, B runs the netserver.
> The vms (on A) run netperf, its destination server is running on B.
> All runs loaded the guests in a way that they were (cpu) saturated. For example,
> I ran netperf with 64B messages, which is heavily loading the vm (which is why
> its throughput is low).
> The idea was to get it 100% loaded, so we can see that the polling is getting it
> to produce higher throughput.
> The system had two cores per guest, as to allow for both the vcpu and the vhost
> thread to run concurrently for maximum throughput (but I didn't pin the threads
> to specific cores).
> My experiments were fair in a sense that for both cases, with or without
> polling, I run both threads, vcpu and vhost, on 2 cores (set their affinity that
> way). The only difference was whether polling was enabled/disabled.
> Results:
> Netperf, 1 vm:
> The polling patch improved throughput by ~33% (1516 MB/sec -> 2046 MB/sec).
> Number of exits/sec decreased 6x.
> The same improvement was shown when I tested with 3 vms running netperf
> (4086 MB/sec -> 5545 MB/sec).
> filebench, 1 vm:
> ops/sec improved by 13% with the polling patch. Number of exits was reduced by
> 31%.
> The same experiment with 3 vms running filebench showed similar numbers.
> Signed-off-by: Razya Ladelsky <>

Gave it a quick try on s390/kvm. As expected it makes no difference for big streaming workload like iperf.
uperf with a 1-1 round robin got indeed faster by about 30%.
The high CPU consumption is something that bothers me though, as virtualized systems tend to be full.

> +static int poll_start_rate = 0;
> +module_param(poll_start_rate, int, S_IRUGO|S_IWUSR);
> +MODULE_PARM_DESC(poll_start_rate, "Start continuous polling of virtqueue when rate of events is at least this number per jiffy. If 0, never start polling.");
> +
> +static int poll_stop_idle = 3*HZ; /* 3 seconds */
> +module_param(poll_stop_idle, int, S_IRUGO|S_IWUSR);
> +MODULE_PARM_DESC(poll_stop_idle, "Stop continuous polling of virtqueue after this many jiffies of no work.");

This seems ridicoudly high. Even one jiffie is an eternity, so setting it to 1 as a default would reduce the CPU overhead for most cases.
If we dont have a packet in one millisecond, we can surely go back to the kick approach, I think.


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