Kernel memory leak in ATAPI/CAM or ATAng?

Kevin Oberman oberman at
Fri Nov 7 10:37:13 PST 2003

> Date: Fri, 07 Nov 2003 00:45:47 -0700
> From: Scott Long <scottl at>
> Kevin Oberman wrote:
> >>Date: Thu, 6 Nov 2003 11:23:30 -0500 (EST)
> >>From: Robert Watson <rwatson at>
> >>
> >>
> >>On Thu, 6 Nov 2003, Kevin Oberman wrote:
> >>
> >>
> >>>I have learned a bit more about the problems I have been having with
> >>>the DVD drive on my T30 laptop. When I have run the drive for an
> >>>extended time (like 2 or 3 hours), I invariably have my system lock up
> >>>because it can't malloc kernel memory for the ATAPI/CAM or ATA
> >>>device. (Usually it's both.)
> >>>
> >>>The only recovery seems to be to reboot the system.
> >>
> >>Is it possible to drop to DDB and generate a coredump at that point?  If
> >>so, you can run vmstat on the core to look at memory use statistics in a
> >>post-mortem way.  As to what to look for: "big numbers" is about the limit
> >>of what I can suggest, I'm afraid :-).  Usually the activity of choice is
> >>to compare vmstat statistics (with -m and -z) during normal operation and
> >>when the leak has occurred, and look for any marked differences.  It's
> >>worth observing that there are two failure modes here that appear almost
> >>identical: (1) a memory leak resulting in address space exhaustion for the
> >>kernel, and (2) a tunable maximum allocation being too high for the
> >>available address space.  Note that (2) isn't a leak, simply a poorly
> >>tuned value.  We've noticed a number of tuned memory limits were set when
> >>memory sizes on systems were much lower, and so we've had to readjust the
> >>tuning parameters for large memory systems.  Likewise, a number of
> >>problems were observed when PAE was introduced, as some of the tuning
> >>parameters scaled with the amount of physical memory, not with the
> >>addressable space for the kernel.  So we probably want to be on the look
> >>out for both of these possibilities.
> > 
> > 
> > Well, I have no details to this point, but 'vmstat -m' makes the
> > problem obvious. The amount of kernel memory allocated to ATA request
> > climbs forever and after enough data is transferred, it runs out of
> > KVM. This is a continual leak, and monitoring it on the running system
> > makes it pretty clear that something is leaking. I don't think (2) is
> > the issue. Because the field allocated in vmstat are not large enough,
> > this is a bit hard to read. The field all merge into some REALLY large
> > numbers. After reboot, it is <5K. When running mencode I see this
> > increasing at a rate of a bit under 1.9 MB per minute.
> > 
> > It does not look like a tuning issue. No matter how big KVM is allowed
> > to grow, it's only a matter of time until it is gone.
> > 
> > I am going to do some testing to see what operations seem to causse
> > this. I assume it does not happen all of the time or everyone would
> > have seen it. I suspect it only happens with ATAPI/CAM activity,
> > possibly only with simultaneous ATA and ATAPI/COM activity.
> Does vmstat -m show which malloc type is growing?  Knowing this will
> greatly speed up the debugging process.

I'm not sure I follow. The leak is in "ATA request". Is there
something more to be seen in "vmstat -m"?

I have confirmed that it seems to happen with any reads from the
DVD device, but my testing has been done with mplayer. Makes it
a bit tough to watch a full-length movie!

I have opened kern/59043 on the problem. Let me know if I can do
further testing.
R. Kevin Oberman, Network Engineer
Energy Sciences Network (ESnet)
Ernest O. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab)
E-mail: oberman at			Phone: +1 510 486-8634

More information about the freebsd-current mailing list