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Subjectmmap vs fs cache
I'm testing our memory-mapped database code on a small VM. The machine has 
32GB of RAM and the size of the DB on disk is ~44GB. The database library
mmaps the entire file as a single region and starts accessing it as a tree of
B+trees. Running on an Ubuntu 3.5.0-23 kernel, XFS on a local disk.

If I start running read-only queries against the DB with a freshly started
server, I see that my process (OpenLDAP slapd) quickly grows to an RSS of
about 16GB in tandem with the FS cache. (I.e., "top" shows 16GB cached, and
slapd is 16GB.)
If I confine my queries to the first 20% of the data then it all fits in RAM
and queries are nice and fast.

if I extend the query range to cover more of the data, approaching the size of
physical RAM, I see something strange - the FS cache keeps growing, but the
slapd process size grows at a slower rate. This is rather puzzling to me since
the only thing triggering reads is accesses through the mmap region.
Eventually the FS cache grows to basically all of the 32GB of RAM (+/- some
text/data space...) but the slapd process only reaches 25GB, at which point it
actually starts to shrink - apparently the FS cache is now stealing pages from
it. I find that a bit puzzling; if the pages are present in memory, and the
only reason they were paged in was to satisfy an mmap reference, why aren't
they simply assigned to the slapd process?

The current behavior gets even more aggravating: I can run a test that spans
exactly 30GB of the data. One would expect that the slapd process should
simply grow to 30GB in size, and then remain static for the remainder of the
test. Instead, the server grows to 25GB, the FS cache grows to 32GB, and
starts stealing pages from the server, shrinking it back down to 19GB or so.

If I do an "echo 1 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches" at the onset of this condition,
the FS cache shrinks back to 25GB, matching the slapd process size.
This then frees up enough RAM for slapd to grow further. If I don't do this,
the test is constantly paging in data from disk. Even so, the FS cache
continues to grow faster than the slapd process size, so the system may run
out of free RAM again, and I have to drop caches multiple times before slapd
finally grows to the full 30GB. Once it gets to that size the test runs
entirely from RAM with zero I/Os, but it doesn't get there without a lot of

2 questions:
why is there data in the FS cache that isn't owned by (the mmap of) the
process that caused it to be paged in in the first place?
is there a tunable knob to discourage the page cache from stealing from the

-- Howard Chu
CTO, Symas Corp.
Director, Highland Sun
Chief Architect, OpenLDAP

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