RFC: I/O bandwidth controller (was Re: Too many I/O controller patches)

Andrea Righi righi.andrea at gmail.com
Thu Aug 7 00:46:07 PDT 2008

Fernando Luis Vázquez Cao wrote:
> This RFC ended up being a bit longer than I had originally intended, but
> hopefully it will serve as the start of a fruitful discussion.

Thanks for posting this detailed RFC! A few comments below.

> As you pointed out, it seems that there is not much consensus building
> going on, but that does not mean there is a lack of interest. To get the
> ball rolling it is probably a good idea to clarify the state of things
> and try to establish what we are trying to accomplish.
> *** State of things in the mainstream kernel<BR>
> The kernel has had somewhat adavanced I/O control capabilities for quite
> some time now: CFQ. But the current CFQ has some problems:
>   - I/O priority can be set by PID, PGRP, or UID, but...
>   - ...all the processes that fall within the same class/priority are
> scheduled together and arbitrary grouping are not possible.
>   - Buffered I/O is not handled properly.
>   - CFQ's IO priority is an attribute of a process that affects all
> devices it sends I/O requests to. In other words, with the current
> implementation it is not possible to assign per-device IO priorities to
> a task.
> *** Goals
>   1. Cgroups-aware I/O scheduling (being able to define arbitrary
> groupings of processes and treat each group as a single scheduling
> entity).
>   2. Being able to perform I/O bandwidth control independently on each
> device.
>   3. I/O bandwidth shaping.
>   4. Scheduler-independent I/O bandwidth control.
>   5. Usable with stacking devices (md, dm and other devices of that
> ilk).
>   6. I/O tracking (handle buffered and asynchronous I/O properly).

The same above also for IO operations/sec (bandwidth intended not only
in terms of bytes/sec), plus:

7. Optimal bandwidth usage: allow to exceed the IO limits to take
advantage of free/unused IO resources (i.e. allow "bursts" when the
whole physical bandwidth for a block device is not fully used and then
"throttle" again when IO from unlimited cgroups comes into place)

8. "fair throttling": avoid to throttle always the same task within a
cgroup, but try to distribute the throttling among all the tasks
belonging to the throttle cgroup

> The list of goals above is not exhaustive and it is also likely to
> contain some not-so-nice-to-have features so your feedback would be
> appreciated.
> 1. & 2.- Cgroups-aware I/O scheduling (being able to define arbitrary
> groupings of processes and treat each group as a single scheduling
> identity)
> We obviously need this because our final goal is to be able to control
> the IO generated by a Linux container. The good news is that we already
> have the cgroups infrastructure so, regarding this problem, we would
> just have to transform our I/O bandwidth controller into a cgroup
> subsystem.
> This seems to be the easiest part, but the current cgroups
> infrastructure has some limitations when it comes to dealing with block
> devices: impossibility of creating/removing certain control structures
> dynamically and hardcoding of subsystems (i.e. resource controllers).
> This makes it difficult to handle block devices that can be hotplugged
> and go away at any time (this applies not only to usb storage but also
> to some SATA and SCSI devices). To cope with this situation properly we
> would need hotplug support in cgroups, but, as suggested before and
> discussed in the past (see (0) below), there are some limitations.
> Even in the non-hotplug case it would be nice if we could treat each
> block I/O device as an independent resource, which means we could do
> things like allocating I/O bandwidth on a per-device basis. As long as
> performance is not compromised too much, adding some kind of basic
> hotplug support to cgroups is probably worth it.
> (0) http://lkml.org/lkml/2008/5/21/12

What about using major,minor numbers to identify each device and account
IO statistics? If a device is unplugged we could reset IO statistics
and/or remove IO limitations for that device from userspace (i.e. by a
deamon), but pluggin/unplugging the device would not be blocked/affected
in any case. Or am I oversimplifying the problem?

> 3. & 4. & 5. - I/O bandwidth shaping & General design aspects
> The implementation of an I/O scheduling algorithm is to a certain extent
> influenced by what we are trying to achieve in terms of I/O bandwidth
> shaping, but, as discussed below, the required accuracy can determine
> the layer where the I/O controller has to reside. Off the top of my
> head, there are three basic operations we may want perform:
>   - I/O nice prioritization: ionice-like approach.
>   - Proportional bandwidth scheduling: each process/group of processes
> has a weight that determines the share of bandwidth they receive.
>   - I/O limiting: set an upper limit to the bandwidth a group of tasks
> can use.

Use a deadline-based IO scheduling could be an interesting path to be
explored as well, IMHO, to try to guarantee per-cgroup minimum bandwidth

> If we are pursuing a I/O prioritization model à la CFQ the temptation is
> to implement it at the elevator layer or extend any of the existing I/O
> schedulers.
> There have been several proposals that extend either the CFQ scheduler
> (see (1), (2) below) or the AS scheduler (see (3) below). The problem
> with these controllers is that they are scheduler dependent, which means
> that they become unusable when we change the scheduler or when we want
> to control stacking devices which define their own make_request_fn
> function (md and dm come to mind). It could be argued that the physical
> devices controlled by a dm or md driver are likely to be fed by
> traditional I/O schedulers such as CFQ, but these I/O schedulers would
> be running independently from each other, each one controlling its own
> device ignoring the fact that they part of a stacking device. This lack
> of information at the elevator layer makes it pretty difficult to obtain
> accurate results when using stacking devices. It seems that unless we
> can make the elevator layer aware of the topology of stacking devices
> (possibly by extending the elevator API?) evelator-based approaches do
> not constitute a generic solution. Here onwards, for discussion
> purposes, I will refer to this type of I/O bandwidth controllers as
> elevator-based I/O controllers.
> A simple way of solving the problems discussed in the previous paragraph
> is to perform I/O control before the I/O actually enters the block layer
> either at the pagecache level (when pages are dirtied) or at the entry
> point to the generic block layer (generic_make_request()). Andrea's I/O
> throttling patches stick to the former variant (see (4) below) and
> Tsuruta-san and Takahashi-san's dm-ioband (see (5) below) take the later
> approach. The rationale is that by hooking into the source of I/O
> requests we can perform I/O control in a topology-agnostic and
> elevator-agnostic way. I will refer to this new type of I/O bandwidth
> controller as block layer I/O controller.
> By residing just above the generic block layer the implementation of a
> block layer I/O controller becomes relatively easy, but by not taking
> into account the characteristics of the underlying devices we might risk
> underutilizing them. For this reason, in some cases it would probably
> make sense to complement a generic I/O controller with elevator-based
> I/O controller, so that the maximum throughput can be squeezed from the
> physical devices.
> (1) Uchida-san's CFQ-based scheduler: http://lwn.net/Articles/275944/
> (2) Vasily's CFQ-based scheduler: http://lwn.net/Articles/274652/
> (3) Naveen Gupta's AS-based scheduler: http://lwn.net/Articles/288895/
> (4) Andrea Righi's i/o bandwidth controller (I/O throttling):http://thread.gmane.org/gmane.linux.kernel.containers/5975
> (5) Tsuruta-san and Takahashi-san's dm-ioband: http://thread.gmane.org/gmane.linux.kernel.virtualization/6581
> 6.- I/O tracking
> This is arguably the most important part, since to perform I/O control
> we need to be able to determine where the I/O is coming from.
> Reads are trivial because they are served in the context of the task
> that generated the I/O. But most writes are performed by pdflush,
> kswapd, and friends so performing I/O control just in the synchronous
> I/O path would lead to large inaccuracy. To get this right we would need
> to track ownership all the way up to the pagecache page. In other words,
> it is necessary to track who is dirtying pages so that when they are
> written to disk the right task is charged for that I/O.
> Fortunately, such tracking of pages is one of the things the existing
> memory resource controller is doing to control memory usage. This is a
> clever observation which has a useful implication: if the rather
> imbricated tracking and accounting parts of the memory resource
> controller were split the I/O controller could leverage the existing
> infrastructure to track buffered and asynchronous I/O. This is exactly
> what the bio-cgroup (see (6) below) patches set out to do.
> It is also possible to do without I/O tracking. For that we would need
> to hook into the synchronous I/O path and every place in the kernel
> where pages are dirtied (see (4) above for details). However controlling
> the rate at which a cgroup can generate dirty pages seems to be a task
> that belongs in the memory controller not the I/O controller. As Dave
> and Paul suggested its probably better to delegate this to the memory
> controller. In fact, it seems that Yamamoto-san is cooking some patches
> that implement just that: dirty balancing for cgroups (see (7) for
> details).
> Another argument in favor of I/O tracking is that not only block layer
> I/O controllers would benefit from it, but also the existing I/O
> schedulers and the elevator-based I/O controllers proposed by
> Uchida-san, Vasily, and Naveen (Yoshikawa-san, who is CCed, and myself
> are working on this and hopefully will be sending patches soon).
> (6) Tsuruta-san and Takahashi-san's I/O tracking patches: http://lkml.org/lkml/2008/8/4/90
> (7) Yamamoto-san dirty balancing patches: http://lwn.net/Articles/289237/
> *** How to move on
> As discussed before, it probably makes sense to have both a block layer
> I/O controller and a elevator-based one, and they could certainly
> cohabitate. As discussed before, all of them need I/O tracking
> capabilities so I would like to suggest the plan below to get things
> started:
>   - Improve the I/O tracking patches (see (6) above) until they are in
> mergeable shape.
>   - Fix CFQ and AS to use the new I/O tracking functionality to show its
> benefits. If the performance impact is acceptable this should suffice to
> convince the respective maintainer and get the I/O tracking patches
> merged.
>   - Implement a block layer resource controller. dm-ioband is a working
> solution and feature rich but its dependency on the dm infrastructure is
> likely to find opposition (the dm layer does not handle barriers
> properly and the maximum size of I/O requests can be limited in some
> cases). In such a case, we could either try to build a standalone
> resource controller based on dm-ioband (which would probably hook into
> generic_make_request) or try to come up with something new.
>   - If the I/O tracking patches make it into the kernel we could move on
> and try to get the Cgroup extensions to CFQ and AS mentioned before (see
> (1), (2), and (3) above for details) merged.
>   - Delegate the task of controlling the rate at which a task can
> generate dirty pages to the memory controller.
> This RFC is somewhat vague but my feeling is that we build some
> consensus on the goals and basic design aspects before delving into
> implementation details.
> I would appreciate your comments and feedback.

Very nice RFC.


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