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The intent of this file is to give a brief summary of hugetlbpage support in
the Linux kernel. This support is built on top of multiple page size support
that is provided by most modern architectures. For example, i386
architecture supports 4K and 4M (2M in PAE mode) page sizes, ia64
architecture supports multiple page sizes 4K, 8K, 64K, 256K, 1M, 4M, 16M,
256M and ppc64 supports 4K and 16M. A TLB is a cache of virtual-to-physical
translations. Typically this is a very scarce resource on processor.
Operating systems try to make best use of limited number of TLB resources.
This optimization is more critical now as bigger and bigger physical memories
(several GBs) are more readily available.
Users can use the huge page support in Linux kernel by either using the mmap
system call or standard SYSv shared memory system calls (shmget, shmat).
First the Linux kernel needs to be built with the CONFIG_HUGETLBFS
(present under "File systems") and CONFIG_HUGETLB_PAGE (selected
automatically when CONFIG_HUGETLBFS is selected) configuration
The kernel built with hugepage support should show the number of configured
hugepages in the system by running the "cat /proc/meminfo" command.
/proc/meminfo also provides information about the total number of hugetlb
pages configured in the kernel. It also displays information about the
number of free hugetlb pages at any time. It also displays information about
the configured hugepage size - this is needed for generating the proper
alignment and size of the arguments to the above system calls.
The output of "cat /proc/meminfo" will have lines like:
HugePages_Total: xxx
HugePages_Free: yyy
HugePages_Rsvd: www
Hugepagesize: zzz kB
HugePages_Total is the size of the pool of hugepages.
HugePages_Free is the number of hugepages in the pool that are not yet
HugePages_Rsvd is short for "reserved," and is the number of hugepages
for which a commitment to allocate from the pool has been made, but no
allocation has yet been made. It's vaguely analogous to overcommit.
/proc/filesystems should also show a filesystem of type "hugetlbfs" configured
in the kernel.
/proc/sys/vm/nr_hugepages indicates the current number of configured hugetlb
pages in the kernel. Super user can dynamically request more (or free some
pre-configured) hugepages.
The allocation (or deallocation) of hugetlb pages is possible only if there are
enough physically contiguous free pages in system (freeing of hugepages is
possible only if there are enough hugetlb pages free that can be transferred
back to regular memory pool).
Pages that are used as hugetlb pages are reserved inside the kernel and cannot
be used for other purposes.
Once the kernel with Hugetlb page support is built and running, a user can
use either the mmap system call or shared memory system calls to start using
the huge pages. It is required that the system administrator preallocate
enough memory for huge page purposes.
Use the following command to dynamically allocate/deallocate hugepages:
echo 20 > /proc/sys/vm/nr_hugepages
This command will try to configure 20 hugepages in the system. The success
or failure of allocation depends on the amount of physically contiguous
memory that is preset in system at this time. System administrators may want
to put this command in one of the local rc init files. This will enable the
kernel to request huge pages early in the boot process (when the possibility
of getting physical contiguous pages is still very high).
If the user applications are going to request hugepages using mmap system
call, then it is required that system administrator mount a file system of
type hugetlbfs:
mount none /mnt/huge -t hugetlbfs <uid=value> <gid=value> <mode=value>
<size=value> <nr_inodes=value>
This command mounts a (pseudo) filesystem of type hugetlbfs on the directory
/mnt/huge. Any files created on /mnt/huge uses hugepages. The uid and gid
options sets the owner and group of the root of the file system. By default
the uid and gid of the current process are taken. The mode option sets the
mode of root of file system to value & 0777. This value is given in octal.
By default the value 0755 is picked. The size option sets the maximum value of
memory (huge pages) allowed for that filesystem (/mnt/huge). The size is
rounded down to HPAGE_SIZE. The option nr_inodes sets the maximum number of
inodes that /mnt/huge can use. If the size or nr_inodes options are not
provided on command line then no limits are set. For size and nr_inodes
options, you can use [G|g]/[M|m]/[K|k] to represent giga/mega/kilo. For
example, size=2K has the same meaning as size=2048. An example is given at
the end of this document.
read and write system calls are not supported on files that reside on hugetlb
file systems.
Regular chown, chgrp, and chmod commands (with right permissions) could be
used to change the file attributes on hugetlbfs.
Also, it is important to note that no such mount command is required if the
applications are going to use only shmat/shmget system calls. Users who
wish to use hugetlb page via shared memory segment should be a member of
a supplementary group and system admin needs to configure that gid into
/proc/sys/vm/hugetlb_shm_group. It is possible for same or different
applications to use any combination of mmaps and shm* calls, though the
mount of filesystem will be required for using mmap calls.
* Example of using hugepage memory in a user application using Sys V shared
* memory system calls. In this example the app is requesting 256MB of
* memory that is backed by huge pages. The application uses the flag
* SHM_HUGETLB in the shmget system call to inform the kernel that it is
* requesting hugepages.
* For the ia64 architecture, the Linux kernel reserves Region number 4 for
* hugepages. That means the addresses starting with 0x800000... will need
* to be specified. Specifying a fixed address is not required on ppc64,
* i386 or x86_64.
* Note: The default shared memory limit is quite low on many kernels,
* you may need to increase it via:
* echo 268435456 > /proc/sys/kernel/shmmax
* This will increase the maximum size per shared memory segment to 256MB.
* The other limit that you will hit eventually is shmall which is the
* total amount of shared memory in pages. To set it to 16GB on a system
* with a 4kB pagesize do:
* echo 4194304 > /proc/sys/kernel/shmall
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <sys/types.h>
#include <sys/ipc.h>
#include <sys/shm.h>
#include <sys/mman.h>
#define SHM_HUGETLB 04000
#define LENGTH (256UL*1024*1024)
#define dprintf(x) printf(x)
/* Only ia64 requires this */
#ifdef __ia64__
#define ADDR (void *)(0x8000000000000000UL)
#define ADDR (void *)(0x0UL)
#define SHMAT_FLAGS (0)
int main(void)
int shmid;
unsigned long i;
char *shmaddr;
if ((shmid = shmget(2, LENGTH,
printf("shmid: 0x%x\n", shmid);
shmaddr = shmat(shmid, ADDR, SHMAT_FLAGS);
if (shmaddr == (char *)-1) {
perror("Shared memory attach failure");
shmctl(shmid, IPC_RMID, NULL);
printf("shmaddr: %p\n", shmaddr);
dprintf("Starting the writes:\n");
for (i = 0; i < LENGTH; i++) {
shmaddr[i] = (char)(i);
if (!(i % (1024 * 1024)))
dprintf("Starting the Check...");
for (i = 0; i < LENGTH; i++)
if (shmaddr[i] != (char)i)
printf("\nIndex %lu mismatched\n", i);
if (shmdt((const void *)shmaddr) != 0) {
perror("Detach failure");
shmctl(shmid, IPC_RMID, NULL);
shmctl(shmid, IPC_RMID, NULL);
return 0;
* Example of using hugepage memory in a user application using the mmap
* system call. Before running this application, make sure that the
* administrator has mounted the hugetlbfs filesystem (on some directory
* like /mnt) using the command mount -t hugetlbfs nodev /mnt. In this
* example, the app is requesting memory of size 256MB that is backed by
* huge pages.
* For ia64 architecture, Linux kernel reserves Region number 4 for hugepages.
* That means the addresses starting with 0x800000... will need to be
* specified. Specifying a fixed address is not required on ppc64, i386
* or x86_64.
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <unistd.h>
#include <sys/mman.h>
#include <fcntl.h>
#define FILE_NAME "/mnt/hugepagefile"
#define LENGTH (256UL*1024*1024)
/* Only ia64 requires this */
#ifdef __ia64__
#define ADDR (void *)(0x8000000000000000UL)
#define ADDR (void *)(0x0UL)
void check_bytes(char *addr)
printf("First hex is %x\n", *((unsigned int *)addr));
void write_bytes(char *addr)
unsigned long i;
for (i = 0; i < LENGTH; i++)
*(addr + i) = (char)i;
void read_bytes(char *addr)
unsigned long i;
for (i = 0; i < LENGTH; i++)
if (*(addr + i) != (char)i) {
printf("Mismatch at %lu\n", i);
int main(void)
void *addr;
int fd;
fd = open(FILE_NAME, O_CREAT | O_RDWR, 0755);
if (fd < 0) {
perror("Open failed");
addr = mmap(ADDR, LENGTH, PROTECTION, FLAGS, fd, 0);
if (addr == MAP_FAILED) {
printf("Returned address is %p\n", addr);
munmap(addr, LENGTH);
return 0;