inode state

Robert Watson rwatson at
Tue Dec 9 11:57:19 PST 2003

On Tue, 9 Dec 2003, Fabian Thylmann wrote:

> thanks for the reply, and yea, totally forgot the version. its 4.9. 
> Now, the problem is:
> 1) I can not use linuxthreads since my server is also multiplexing via
> kqueue's and I can not find any version of linuxthreads which implements a
> thread-safe version of kqueue.

Hmm.  Kqueue should be thread-safe in that it's a system call, but I can't
speak to the safety of various arguments/parameters.  I don't know if
linuxthreads tries to provide locking around file descriptors and might
have reference problems if kqueue were held over a call to close(), but it
could be kqueue will "just work" with linuxthreads.  Do calls like
select()/poll() require thread-safe versions in linuxthreads? 

> 2) I can not use freebsd 5.2 because it fails to boot on a dell
> poweredge 1750 with two harddisks. The LSILogic SCSI Controller the
> server uses (mpt driver) seems to not find any hdds and gives up with an
> error.  If I remove one of the two disks 5.2 boots but the kernel traps
> as soon as it tries to write to the hdd. 

Do you have an outstanding PR on the LSI problem, and/or a stack trace for
the trap?  In the past, our LSI drivers have been fairly well maintained
on the LSI side.  I can certainly try shaking some branches and see if
anything falls down, if there's a detailed bug report I can point at.

> Is there some way to keep the number of kernl-level locks as low as
> possible? This all seems to be associated to flushing dirty buffers and
> I wonder if there is no way to make it flush in way smaller bursts or
> why exactly it has to lock the process while doing so. 

I know some work has been done relating to this problem at Yahoo,
especially relating to disk fragmentation resulting from allocation using
mmap on sparse files.  You might want to try posting about this problem on
freebsd-fs or freebsd-current and see if you manage to hook someone who's
been looking at this.

Robert N M Watson             FreeBSD Core Team, TrustedBSD Projects
robert at      Senior Research Scientist, McAfee Research

> Fabian
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Robert Watson" <rwatson at>
> To: "Fabian Thylmann" <fthylmann at>
> Cc: <freebsd-questions at>
> Sent: Tuesday, December 09, 2003 7:38 PM
> Subject: Re: inode state
> > On Tue, 9 Dec 2003, Fabian Thylmann wrote:
> >
> > > I have a heavily used threaded server program running on one of my Dell
> > > Poweredge 1750 servers. Its a statistical analysis package for websites.
> > > Currently it analyses over 60 million requests a day, which (because of
> > > many different reasons) causes it to handle around 120 million http
> > > requests a day. At peaks around 1500 requests a second.
> > >
> > > The system stores most many statistics in memory which is flushed to
> > > disk in circles by a worker thread.
> > >
> > > Another big part is stored in an on-disk database which is mmap()'d into
> > > memory. Because we do not have enough memory to keep everything in
> > > memory at one time the mmap() system of course pages data in and out.
> > >
> > > When I look in systat -v I see that dirtybuf climbs to about 1700 and
> > > then they get flushed to disk, causing high disk usage of around 300-400
> > > tps whcih renders the disks useless for anything else.
> > >
> > > When those flushes occure, my apps state as displayed by top(1) gets
> > > into inode state, PRI is set to -14 and cpu usage rapidly drops. The
> > > program and ALL of its threads are stalled at that time. Those inode
> > > states take around 2 oe 3 seconds and happen every 30 seconds or so.
> > >
> > > In those 3 seconds we lose around 1500 hits at peak times for processing
> > > because the app can not handle them fast enough. This results in around
> > > 2 million or so hits lost over the day for processing.
> > >
> > > I am now wondering if anyone can explain to me why ALL threads and not
> > > just the threads that actually do I/O work get blocked when dirty
> > > buffers are flushed and what to do to fix this problem.
> > >
> > > I would be very happy if someone could reply and point me into the right
> > > direction!
> >
> > You don't mention which version of FreeBSD you're running -- if 4.x, you
> > probably want to relink your application against the "linuxthreads" port.
> > This is because libc_r implements threads inside a single process without
> > the support of the kernel, which means that if the process is blocked in
> > kernel, all threads will be blocked in kernel.  The linuxthreads package
> > uses a model similar to Linux's threading implementation (hence the name)
> > to allow the threads to be scheduled using lightweight versions of
> > processes (shared file descriptors, etc).  This isn't quite
> > POSIX-compliant, but it works quite well for disk-bound applications such
> > as databases.
> >
> > If you're running on 5.x, especially recent 5.1 or 5.2 prereleases, you
> > probably want to give libkse a try.  It's the new m:n threading
> > implementation that will become the default in 5.3, and also permits
> > parallelism (only in a more POSIX-compliant way, and in theory offering
> > much greater scalability for large numbers of threads).  I stick the
> > following lines in my /etc/libmap.conf on 5.x boxes to force all
> > applications linked against libc_r to use libkse instead:
> >
> >   
> >     
> >
> > One particularly nice thing about the m:n thread support is that you can
> > run-time plug the thread library between several options (libc_r, libthr,
> > libkse) to pick the one that performs best for your application.  Another
> > benefit of running with a non-libc_r threads package is that if you have
> > an SMP box, you'll see real parallelism.
> >
> > Robert N M Watson             FreeBSD Core Team, TrustedBSD Projects
> > robert at      Senior Research Scientist, McAfee Research
> >
> >
> >

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