FreeBSD 9.1 excessive memory allocations [SOLVED]

Unga unga888 at
Wed Mar 27 18:33:53 UTC 2013

----- Original Message -----

> From: Ian Lepore <ian at>
> To: Unga <unga888 at>
> Cc: "freebsd-stable at" <freebsd-stable at>
> Sent: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 2:06 PM
> Subject: Re: FreeBSD 9.1 excessive memory allocations
> On Tue, 2013-03-26 at 11:35 -0700, Unga wrote:
>>  Hi all
>>  I have a heavily threaded C application, developed on an Intel Core i5 
> laptop (2 cores) running FreeBSD 8.1-RELEASE.
>>  When this application compile and run on another Intel Core i7 laptop (4 
> cores) running FreeBSD 9.1-RELEASE, this application immediately starts grabbing 
> memory by over 100MB per second and soon exit with not enough RAM.
>>  Both laptops having 4GB RAM.
>>  All malloc and free are mutex locked.
>>  Very rarely this problem happens on the i5 (2 cores) laptop too, but on the 
> i7 laptop, it happens every time.
>>  Appreciate any feedback to identify and fix this issue.
>>  Best regards
>>  Unga
> Too many moving parts, you need to partition the problem.  Is it the
> change in OS (and especially libraries) that causes the problem, or the
> change in the number of cores (more concurrent threads) is exposing some
> sort of application-side race condition?  Given the fact that it does
> occur on 2 cores + freebsd 8.1, even if more rarely, it's almost surely
> an application problem.  
> Perhaps you could use a tool such as valgrind to help track down the
> runaway allocations?
> Another way to expose thread race problems is to force more thread
> context switches.  A blunt tool for doing so is to set hz=5000 or even
> higher in /boot/loader.conf.  I've never done that on a desktop or
> laptop system, only on embedded systems, but it should still work okay.
> If changing the application code is easier, you can get a similar effect
> by creating a thread whose only job is to preempt other threads, by
> using rtprio_thread() to set it to real time priority, then just have it
> sleep for short random intervals (microseconds), all it does is wakes up
> and goes right back to sleep.
> Also, FYI, there's no need to use a mutex in your application to protect
> allocations.  The memory allocator in libc is thread-safe, and in fact
> is particularly designed for efficient multi-threaded allocation.
> -- Ian

Dear Tony, Alexander, Jan, Ian and Jeremy

Thank you very much for your very valuable comments.

Problem seems to be solved. But require more testing.

1. Fixed an application-level crucial bug. This is nearly a 7000 lines C app. It was really hard to see as the application is designed with 8 dedicated threads.

2. At run-time, this application shoots up to about 400 dynamic threads on the i7 machine, whereas on the i5 machine, it only shoots up 57 dynamic threads. It was bit scaring, therefore, made a hard limit on total number of threads to 64.

Regarding mutex locks on allocations, as per the malloc(3), it says small and medium size allocations are done from per thread caches, therefore, thread-safe. My allocations are large in nature, about 5-7MB.

Best regards

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