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Subject: Re: [PATCH v25 QEMU 3/3] virtio-balloon: Replace free page hinting references to 'report' with 'hint'

>> Ugh, ...
>> @MST, you might have missed that in another discussion, what's your
>> general opinion about removing free page hinting in QEMU (and Linux)? We
>> keep finding issues in the QEMU implementation, including non-trivial
>> ones, and have to speculate about the actual semantics. I can see that
>> e.g., libvirt does not support it yet.
> Not maintaining two similar features sounds attractive.

I consider free page hinting (in QEMU) to be in an unmaintainable state
(and it looks like Alex and I are fixing a feature we don't actually
intend to use / not aware of users). In contrast to that, the free page
reporting functionality/implementation is a walk in the park.

> I'm still trying to get my head around the list of issues.  So far they
> all look kind of minor to me.  Would you like to summarize them
> somewhere?

Some things I still have in my mind

1. If migration fails during RAM precopy, the guest will never receive a
DONE notification. Probably easy to fix.

2. Unclear semantics. Alex tried to document what the actual semantics
of hinted pages are. Assume the following in the guest to a previously
hinted page

/* page was hinted and is reused now */
if (page[x] != Y)
	page[x] == Y;
/* migration ends, we now run on the destination */
BUG_ON(page[x] != Y);
/* BUG, because the content chan

A guest can observe that. And that could be a random driver that just
allocated a page.

(I *assume* in Linux we might catch that using kasan, but I am not 100%
sure, also, the actual semantics to document are unclear - e.g., for
other guests)

As Alex mentioned, it is not even guaranteed in QEMU that we receive a
zero page on the destination, it could also be something else (e.g.,
previously migrated values).

3. If I am not wrong, the iothread works in
virtio_ballloon_get_free_page_hints() on the virtqueue only with holding
the free_page_lock (no BQL).

Assume we're migrating, the iothread is active, and the guest triggers a
device reset.

virtio_balloon_device_reset() will trigger a
virtio_balloon_free_page_stop(s). That won't actually wait for the
iothread to stop, it will only temporarily lock free_page_lock and
update s->free_page_report_status.

I think there can be a race between the device reset and the iothread.
Once virtio_balloon_free_page_stop() returned,
virtio_ballloon_get_free_page_hints() can still call
- virtio_queue_set_notification(vq, 0);
- virtio_queue_set_notification(vq, 1);
- virtio_notify(vdev, vq);
- virtqueue_pop()

I doubt this is very nice.

There are other concerns I had regarding the iothread (e.g., while
reporting is active, virtio_ballloon_get_free_page_hints() is
essentially a busy loop, in contrast to documented -
continue_to_get_hints will always be true).

> The appeal of hinting is that it's 0 overhead outside migration,
> and pains were taken to avoid keeping pages locked while
> hypervisor is busy.
> If we are to drop hinting completely we need to show that reporting
> can be comparable, and we'll probably want to add a mode for
> reporting that behaves somewhat similarly.

Depends on the actual users. If we're dropping a feature that nobody is
actively using, I don't think we have to show anything.

This feature obviously saw no proper review.


David / dhildenb

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