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Copyright (C) 2004 BULL SA.
Written by
Portions Copyright (c) 2004 Silicon Graphics, Inc.
Modified by Paul Jackson <>
1. Cpusets
1.1 What are cpusets ?
1.2 Why are cpusets needed ?
1.3 How are cpusets implemented ?
1.4 How do I use cpusets ?
2. Usage Examples and Syntax
2.1 Basic Usage
2.2 Adding/removing cpus
2.3 Setting flags
2.4 Attaching processes
3. Questions
4. Contact
1. Cpusets
1.1 What are cpusets ?
Cpusets provide a mechanism for assigning a set of CPUs and Memory
Nodes to a set of tasks.
Cpusets constrain the CPU and Memory placement of tasks to only
the resources within a tasks current cpuset. They form a nested
hierarchy visible in a virtual file system. These are the essential
hooks, beyond what is already present, required to manage dynamic
job placement on large systems.
Each task has a pointer to a cpuset. Multiple tasks may reference
the same cpuset. Requests by a task, using the sched_setaffinity(2)
system call to include CPUs in its CPU affinity mask, and using the
mbind(2) and set_mempolicy(2) system calls to include Memory Nodes
in its memory policy, are both filtered through that tasks cpuset,
filtering out any CPUs or Memory Nodes not in that cpuset. The
scheduler will not schedule a task on a CPU that is not allowed in
its cpus_allowed vector, and the kernel page allocator will not
allocate a page on a node that is not allowed in the requesting tasks
mems_allowed vector.
If a cpuset is cpu or mem exclusive, no other cpuset, other than a direct
ancestor or descendent, may share any of the same CPUs or Memory Nodes.
User level code may create and destroy cpusets by name in the cpuset
virtual file system, manage the attributes and permissions of these
cpusets and which CPUs and Memory Nodes are assigned to each cpuset,
specify and query to which cpuset a task is assigned, and list the
task pids assigned to a cpuset.
1.2 Why are cpusets needed ?
The management of large computer systems, with many processors (CPUs),
complex memory cache hierarchies and multiple Memory Nodes having
non-uniform access times (NUMA) presents additional challenges for
the efficient scheduling and memory placement of processes.
Frequently more modest sized systems can be operated with adequate
efficiency just by letting the operating system automatically share
the available CPU and Memory resources amongst the requesting tasks.
But larger systems, which benefit more from careful processor and
memory placement to reduce memory access times and contention,
and which typically represent a larger investment for the customer,
can benefit from explictly placing jobs on properly sized subsets of
the system.
This can be especially valuable on:
* Web Servers running multiple instances of the same web application,
* Servers running different applications (for instance, a web server
and a database), or
* NUMA systems running large HPC applications with demanding
performance characteristics.
These subsets, or "soft partitions" must be able to be dynamically
adjusted, as the job mix changes, without impacting other concurrently
executing jobs.
The kernel cpuset patch provides the minimum essential kernel
mechanisms required to efficiently implement such subsets. It
leverages existing CPU and Memory Placement facilities in the Linux
kernel to avoid any additional impact on the critical scheduler or
memory allocator code.
1.3 How are cpusets implemented ?
Cpusets provide a Linux kernel (2.6.7 and above) mechanism to constrain
which CPUs and Memory Nodes are used by a process or set of processes.
The Linux kernel already has a pair of mechanisms to specify on which
CPUs a task may be scheduled (sched_setaffinity) and on which Memory
Nodes it may obtain memory (mbind, set_mempolicy).
Cpusets extends these two mechanisms as follows:
- Cpusets are sets of allowed CPUs and Memory Nodes, known to the
- Each task in the system is attached to a cpuset, via a pointer
in the task structure to a reference counted cpuset structure.
- Calls to sched_setaffinity are filtered to just those CPUs
allowed in that tasks cpuset.
- Calls to mbind and set_mempolicy are filtered to just
those Memory Nodes allowed in that tasks cpuset.
- The root cpuset contains all the systems CPUs and Memory
- For any cpuset, one can define child cpusets containing a subset
of the parents CPU and Memory Node resources.
- The hierarchy of cpusets can be mounted at /dev/cpuset, for
browsing and manipulation from user space.
- A cpuset may be marked exclusive, which ensures that no other
cpuset (except direct ancestors and descendents) may contain
any overlapping CPUs or Memory Nodes.
- You can list all the tasks (by pid) attached to any cpuset.
The implementation of cpusets requires a few, simple hooks
into the rest of the kernel, none in performance critical paths:
- in main/init.c, to initialize the root cpuset at system boot.
- in fork and exit, to attach and detach a task from its cpuset.
- in sched_setaffinity, to mask the requested CPUs by what's
allowed in that tasks cpuset.
- in sched.c migrate_all_tasks(), to keep migrating tasks within
the CPUs allowed by their cpuset, if possible.
- in the mbind and set_mempolicy system calls, to mask the requested
Memory Nodes by what's allowed in that tasks cpuset.
- in page_alloc, to restrict memory to allowed nodes.
- in vmscan.c, to restrict page recovery to the current cpuset.
In addition a new file system, of type "cpuset" may be mounted,
typically at /dev/cpuset, to enable browsing and modifying the cpusets
presently known to the kernel. No new system calls are added for
cpusets - all support for querying and modifying cpusets is via
this cpuset file system.
Each task under /proc has an added file named 'cpuset', displaying
the cpuset name, as the path relative to the root of the cpuset file
The /proc/<pid>/status file for each task has two added lines,
displaying the tasks cpus_allowed (on which CPUs it may be scheduled)
and mems_allowed (on which Memory Nodes it may obtain memory),
in the format seen in the following example:
Cpus_allowed: ffffffff,ffffffff,ffffffff,ffffffff
Mems_allowed: ffffffff,ffffffff
Each cpuset is represented by a directory in the cpuset file system
containing the following files describing that cpuset:
- cpus: list of CPUs in that cpuset
- mems: list of Memory Nodes in that cpuset
- cpu_exclusive flag: is cpu placement exclusive?
- mem_exclusive flag: is memory placement exclusive?
- tasks: list of tasks (by pid) attached to that cpuset
New cpusets are created using the mkdir system call or shell
command. The properties of a cpuset, such as its flags, allowed
CPUs and Memory Nodes, and attached tasks, are modified by writing
to the appropriate file in that cpusets directory, as listed above.
The named hierarchical structure of nested cpusets allows partitioning
a large system into nested, dynamically changeable, "soft-partitions".
The attachment of each task, automatically inherited at fork by any
children of that task, to a cpuset allows organizing the work load
on a system into related sets of tasks such that each set is constrained
to using the CPUs and Memory Nodes of a particular cpuset. A task
may be re-attached to any other cpuset, if allowed by the permissions
on the necessary cpuset file system directories.
Such management of a system "in the large" integrates smoothly with
the detailed placement done on individual tasks and memory regions
using the sched_setaffinity, mbind and set_mempolicy system calls.
The following rules apply to each cpuset:
- Its CPUs and Memory Nodes must be a subset of its parents.
- It can only be marked exclusive if its parent is.
- If its cpu or memory is exclusive, they may not overlap any sibling.
These rules, and the natural hierarchy of cpusets, enable efficient
enforcement of the exclusive guarantee, without having to scan all
cpusets every time any of them change to ensure nothing overlaps a
exclusive cpuset. Also, the use of a Linux virtual file system (vfs)
to represent the cpuset hierarchy provides for a familiar permission
and name space for cpusets, with a minimum of additional kernel code.
1.4 How do I use cpusets ?
In order to minimize the impact of cpusets on critical kernel
code, such as the scheduler, and due to the fact that the kernel
does not support one task updating the memory placement of another
task directly, the impact on a task of changing its cpuset CPU
or Memory Node placement, or of changing to which cpuset a task
is attached, is subtle.
If a cpuset has its Memory Nodes modified, then for each task attached
to that cpuset, the next time that the kernel attempts to allocate
a page of memory for that task, the kernel will notice the change
in the tasks cpuset, and update its per-task memory placement to
remain within the new cpusets memory placement. If the task was using
mempolicy MPOL_BIND, and the nodes to which it was bound overlap with
its new cpuset, then the task will continue to use whatever subset
of MPOL_BIND nodes are still allowed in the new cpuset. If the task
was using MPOL_BIND and now none of its MPOL_BIND nodes are allowed
in the new cpuset, then the task will be essentially treated as if it
was MPOL_BIND bound to the new cpuset (even though its numa placement,
as queried by get_mempolicy(), doesn't change). If a task is moved
from one cpuset to another, then the kernel will adjust the tasks
memory placement, as above, the next time that the kernel attempts
to allocate a page of memory for that task.
If a cpuset has its CPUs modified, then each task using that
cpuset does _not_ change its behavior automatically. In order to
minimize the impact on the critical scheduling code in the kernel,
tasks will continue to use their prior CPU placement until they
are rebound to their cpuset, by rewriting their pid to the 'tasks'
file of their cpuset. If a task had been bound to some subset of its
cpuset using the sched_setaffinity() call, and if any of that subset
is still allowed in its new cpuset settings, then the task will be
restricted to the intersection of the CPUs it was allowed on before,
and its new cpuset CPU placement. If, on the other hand, there is
no overlap between a tasks prior placement and its new cpuset CPU
placement, then the task will be allowed to run on any CPU allowed
in its new cpuset. If a task is moved from one cpuset to another,
its CPU placement is updated in the same way as if the tasks pid is
rewritten to the 'tasks' file of its current cpuset.
In summary, the memory placement of a task whose cpuset is changed is
updated by the kernel, on the next allocation of a page for that task,
but the processor placement is not updated, until that tasks pid is
rewritten to the 'tasks' file of its cpuset. This is done to avoid
impacting the scheduler code in the kernel with a check for changes
in a tasks processor placement.
There is an exception to the above. If hotplug funtionality is used
to remove all the CPUs that are currently assigned to a cpuset,
then the kernel will automatically update the cpus_allowed of all
tasks attached to CPUs in that cpuset to allow all CPUs. When memory
hotplug functionality for removing Memory Nodes is available, a
similar exception is expected to apply there as well. In general,
the kernel prefers to violate cpuset placement, over starving a task
that has had all its allowed CPUs or Memory Nodes taken offline. User
code should reconfigure cpusets to only refer to online CPUs and Memory
Nodes when using hotplug to add or remove such resources.
There is a second exception to the above. GFP_ATOMIC requests are
kernel internal allocations that must be satisfied, immediately.
The kernel may drop some request, in rare cases even panic, if a
GFP_ATOMIC alloc fails. If the request cannot be satisfied within
the current tasks cpuset, then we relax the cpuset, and look for
memory anywhere we can find it. It's better to violate the cpuset
than stress the kernel.
To start a new job that is to be contained within a cpuset, the steps are:
1) mkdir /dev/cpuset
2) mount -t cpuset none /dev/cpuset
3) Create the new cpuset by doing mkdir's and write's (or echo's) in
the /dev/cpuset virtual file system.
4) Start a task that will be the "founding father" of the new job.
5) Attach that task to the new cpuset by writing its pid to the
/dev/cpuset tasks file for that cpuset.
6) fork, exec or clone the job tasks from this founding father task.
For example, the following sequence of commands will setup a cpuset
named "Charlie", containing just CPUs 2 and 3, and Memory Node 1,
and then start a subshell 'sh' in that cpuset:
mount -t cpuset none /dev/cpuset
cd /dev/cpuset
mkdir Charlie
cd Charlie
/bin/echo 2-3 > cpus
/bin/echo 1 > mems
/bin/echo $$ > tasks
# The subshell 'sh' is now running in cpuset Charlie
# The next line should display '/Charlie'
cat /proc/self/cpuset
In the case that a change of cpuset includes wanting to move already
allocated memory pages, consider further the work of IWAMOTO
Toshihiro <> for page remapping and memory
hotremoval, which can be found at:
The integration of cpusets with such memory migration is not yet
In the future, a C library interface to cpusets will likely be
available. For now, the only way to query or modify cpusets is
via the cpuset file system, using the various cd, mkdir, echo, cat,
rmdir commands from the shell, or their equivalent from C.
The sched_setaffinity calls can also be done at the shell prompt using
SGI's runon or Robert Love's taskset. The mbind and set_mempolicy
calls can be done at the shell prompt using the numactl command
(part of Andi Kleen's numa package).
2. Usage Examples and Syntax
2.1 Basic Usage
Creating, modifying, using the cpusets can be done through the cpuset
virtual filesystem.
To mount it, type:
# mount -t cpuset none /dev/cpuset
Then under /dev/cpuset you can find a tree that corresponds to the
tree of the cpusets in the system. For instance, /dev/cpuset
is the cpuset that holds the whole system.
If you want to create a new cpuset under /dev/cpuset:
# cd /dev/cpuset
# mkdir my_cpuset
Now you want to do something with this cpuset.
# cd my_cpuset
In this directory you can find several files:
# ls
cpus cpu_exclusive mems mem_exclusive tasks
Reading them will give you information about the state of this cpuset:
the CPUs and Memory Nodes it can use, the processes that are using
it, its properties. By writing to these files you can manipulate
the cpuset.
Set some flags:
# /bin/echo 1 > cpu_exclusive
Add some cpus:
# /bin/echo 0-7 > cpus
Now attach your shell to this cpuset:
# /bin/echo $$ > tasks
You can also create cpusets inside your cpuset by using mkdir in this
# mkdir my_sub_cs
To remove a cpuset, just use rmdir:
# rmdir my_sub_cs
This will fail if the cpuset is in use (has cpusets inside, or has
processes attached).
2.2 Adding/removing cpus
This is the syntax to use when writing in the cpus or mems files
in cpuset directories:
# /bin/echo 1-4 > cpus -> set cpus list to cpus 1,2,3,4
# /bin/echo 1,2,3,4 > cpus -> set cpus list to cpus 1,2,3,4
2.3 Setting flags
The syntax is very simple:
# /bin/echo 1 > cpu_exclusive -> set flag 'cpu_exclusive'
# /bin/echo 0 > cpu_exclusive -> unset flag 'cpu_exclusive'
2.4 Attaching processes
# /bin/echo PID > tasks
Note that it is PID, not PIDs. You can only attach ONE task at a time.
If you have several tasks to attach, you have to do it one after another:
# /bin/echo PID1 > tasks
# /bin/echo PID2 > tasks
# /bin/echo PIDn > tasks
3. Questions
Q: what's up with this '/bin/echo' ?
A: bash's builtin 'echo' command does not check calls to write() against
errors. If you use it in the cpuset file system, you won't be
able to tell whether a command succeeded or failed.
Q: When I attach processes, only the first of the line gets really attached !
A: We can only return one error code per call to write(). So you should also
put only ONE pid.
4. Contact