mm, memcg: proportional memory.{low,min} reclaim

cgroup v2 introduces two memory protection thresholds: memory.low
(best-effort) and memory.min (hard protection).  While they generally do
what they say on the tin, there is a limitation in their implementation
that makes them difficult to use effectively: that cliff behaviour often
manifests when they become eligible for reclaim.  This patch implements
more intuitive and usable behaviour, where we gradually mount more
reclaim pressure as cgroups further and further exceed their protection

This cliff edge behaviour happens because we only choose whether or not
to reclaim based on whether the memcg is within its protection limits
(see the use of mem_cgroup_protected in shrink_node), but we don't vary
our reclaim behaviour based on this information.  Imagine the following
timeline, with the numbers the lruvec size in this zone:

1. memory.low=1000000, memory.current=999999. 0 pages may be scanned.
2. memory.low=1000000, memory.current=1000000. 0 pages may be scanned.
3. memory.low=1000000, memory.current=1000001. 1000001* pages may be
   scanned. (?!)

* Of course, we won't usually scan all available pages in the zone even
  without this patch because of scan control priority, over-reclaim
  protection, etc.  However, as shown by the tests at the end, these
  techniques don't sufficiently throttle such an extreme change in input,
  so cliff-like behaviour isn't really averted by their existence alone.

Here's an example of how this plays out in practice.  At Facebook, we are
trying to protect various workloads from "system" software, like
configuration management tools, metric collectors, etc (see this[0] case
study).  In order to find a suitable memory.low value, we start by
determining the expected memory range within which the workload will be
comfortable operating.  This isn't an exact science -- memory usage deemed
"comfortable" will vary over time due to user behaviour, differences in
composition of work, etc, etc.  As such we need to ballpark memory.low,
but doing this is currently problematic:

1. If we end up setting it too low for the workload, it won't have
   *any* effect (see discussion above).  The group will receive the full
   weight of reclaim and won't have any priority while competing with the
   less important system software, as if we had no memory.low configured
   at all.

2. Because of this behaviour, we end up erring on the side of setting
   it too high, such that the comfort range is reliably covered.  However,
   protected memory is completely unavailable to the rest of the system,
   so we might cause undue memory and IO pressure there when we *know* we
   have some elasticity in the workload.

3. Even if we get the value totally right, smack in the middle of the
   comfort zone, we get extreme jumps between no pressure and full
   pressure that cause unpredictable pressure spikes in the workload due
   to the current binary reclaim behaviour.

With this patch, we can set it to our ballpark estimation without too much
worry.  Any undesirable behaviour, such as too much or too little reclaim
pressure on the workload or system will be proportional to how far our
estimation is off.  This means we can set memory.low much more
conservatively and thus waste less resources *without* the risk of the
workload falling off a cliff if we overshoot.

As a more abstract technical description, this unintuitive behaviour
results in having to give high-priority workloads a large protection
buffer on top of their expected usage to function reliably, as otherwise
we have abrupt periods of dramatically increased memory pressure which
hamper performance.  Having to set these thresholds so high wastes
resources and generally works against the principle of work conservation.
In addition, having proportional memory reclaim behaviour has other
benefits.  Most notably, before this patch it's basically mandatory to set
memory.low to a higher than desirable value because otherwise as soon as
you exceed memory.low, all protection is lost, and all pages are eligible
to scan again.  By contrast, having a gradual ramp in reclaim pressure
means that you now still get some protection when thresholds are exceeded,
which means that one can now be more comfortable setting memory.low to
lower values without worrying that all protection will be lost.  This is
important because workingset size is really hard to know exactly,
especially with variable workloads, so at least getting *some* protection
if your workingset size grows larger than you expect increases user
confidence in setting memory.low without a huge buffer on top being

Thanks a lot to Johannes Weiner and Tejun Heo for their advice and
assistance in thinking about how to make this work better.

In testing these changes, I intended to verify that:

1. Changes in page scanning become gradual and proportional instead of

   To test this, I experimented stepping further and further down
   memory.low protection on a workload that floats around 19G workingset
   when under memory.low protection, watching page scan rates for the
   workload cgroup:

   | memory.low | test (pgscan/s) | control (pgscan/s) | % of control |
   |        21G |               0 |                  0 | N/A          |
   |        17G |             867 |               3799 | 23%          |
   |        12G |            1203 |               3543 | 34%          |
   |         8G |            2534 |               3979 | 64%          |
   |         4G |            3980 |               4147 | 96%          |
   |          0 |            3799 |               3980 | 95%          |

   As you can see, the test kernel (with a kernel containing this
   patch) ramps up page scanning significantly more gradually than the
   control kernel (without this patch).

2. More gradual ramp up in reclaim aggression doesn't result in
   premature OOMs.

   To test this, I wrote a script that slowly increments the number of
   pages held by stress(1)'s --vm-keep mode until a production system
   entered severe overall memory contention.  This script runs in a highly
   protected slice taking up the majority of available system memory.
   Watching vmstat revealed that page scanning continued essentially
   nominally between test and control, without causing forward reclaim
   progress to become arrested.


[ reflow block comments to fit in 80 cols]
[ handle cgroup_disable=memory when getting memcg protection]
Signed-off-by: Chris Down <>
Acked-by: Johannes Weiner <>
Reviewed-by: Roman Gushchin <>
Cc: Michal Hocko <>
Cc: Tejun Heo <>
Cc: Dennis Zhou <>
Cc: Tetsuo Handa <>
Signed-off-by: Andrew Morton <>
Signed-off-by: Linus Torvalds <>
4 files changed