Re: [RFC PATCH 0/4] KVM: x86/mmu: Rework marking folios dirty/accessed

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On 03.04.24 02:17, Sean Christopherson wrote:
On Tue, Apr 02, 2024, David Hildenbrand wrote:
On 02.04.24 19:38, David Matlack wrote:
On Wed, Mar 20, 2024 at 5:56 AM David Hildenbrand <david@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
Secondary page tables are different to ordinary GUP, and KVM ends up
using GUP to some degree to simulate HW access; regarding NUMA-hinting,
KVM already revealed to be very different to all other GUP users. [1]

And I recall that at some point I raised that we might want to have a
dedicate interface for these "mmu-notifier" based page table
synchonization mechanism.

But KVM ends up setting folio dirty/access flags itself, like other GUP
users. I do wonder if secondary page tables should be messing with folio
flags *at all*, and if there would be ways to to it differently using PTEs.

We make sure to synchronize the secondary page tables to the process
page tables using MMU notifiers: when we write-protect/unmap a PTE, we
write-protect/unmap the SPTE. Yet, we handle accessed/dirty completely

Accessed bits have the test/clear young MMU-notifiers. But I agree
there aren't any notifiers for dirty tracking.

Yes, and I am questioning if the "test" part should exist -- or if having a
spte in the secondary MMU should require the access bit to be set (derived
from the primary MMU). (again, my explanation about fake HW page table

There might be a good reason to do it like that nowadays, so I'm only
raising it as something I was wondering. Likely, frequent clearing of the
access bit would result in many PTEs in the secondary MMU getting
invalidated, requiring a new GUP-fast lookup where we would set the access
bit in the primary MMU PTE. But I'm not an expert on the implications with
MMU notifiers and access bit clearing.

Ya.  KVM already does something similar this for dirty logging, where SPTEs are
write-protected, i.e. generate faults to track dirty status.  But KVM x86 has a
lot of code to mitigates the resulting pain, e.g. has a lockless fast-path to
make the SPTE writable and propagate the dirty status to bitmaps, and userspace
is heavily/carefully optimized to balance harvesting/clearing dirty status against
guest activity.

In general, assumptions that core MM makes about the cost of PTE modifications
tend to fall apart for KVM.  Much of that comes down to mmu_notifiers invalidations
being an imperfect boundary between the primary MMU and secondary MMUs.  E.g.
any prot changes (NUMA balancing in particular) can have disastrous impact on KVM
guests because those changes invalidate secondary MMUs at PMD granularity, and
effective force KVM to do a remote TLB for every PMD that is affected, whereas
the primary is able to batch TLB flushes until the entire VMA is processed.

So yeah, forcing KVM to zap and re-fault SPTEs in order to do page aging would be
comically slow for KVM guests without a crazy amount of optimization.

Right, so access bits are certainly special. Fortunately, they are not as important to get right as dirty bits.

Are there any cases where the primary MMU transfers the PTE dirty bit
to the folio _other_ than zapping (which already has an MMU-notifier
to KVM). If not then there might not be any reason to add a new
notifier. Instead the contract should just be that secondary MMUs must
also transfer their dirty bits to folios in sync (or before) the
primary MMU zaps its PTE.

Grepping for pte_mkclean(), there might be some cases. Many cases use MMU
notifier, because they either clear the PTE or also remove write

But these is madvise_free_pte_range() and
clean_record_shared_mapping_range()...->clean_record_pte(), that might only
clear the dirty bit without clearing/changing permissions and consequently
not calling MMU notifiers.

Heh, I was staring at these earlier today.  They all are wrapped with
mmu_notifier_invalidate_range_{start,end}(), and KVM's hyper aggressive response
to mmu_notifier invalidations ensure all KVM SPTEs get dropped.

Getting a writable PTE without the dirty bit set should be possible.

So I am questioning whether having a writable PTE in the secondary MMU with
a clean PTE in the primary MMU should be valid to exist. It can exist today,
and I am not sure if that's the right approach.

I came to the same conclusion (that it can exist today).  Without (sane) FOLL_TOUCH,
KVM could retrieve the new PTE (W=1,D=0) after an mmu_notifier invaliation, and
thus end up with a writable SPTE that isn't dirty in core MM.

For MADV_FREE, I don't see how KVM's current behavior of marking the folio dirty
at zap time changes anything.  Ah, try_to_unmap_one() checks folio_test_dirty()
*after* invoking mmu_notifier_invalidate_range_start(), which ensures that KVM's
dirty status is propagated to the folio, and thus try_to_unmap_one() keeps the

Right, we have to check if it has been re-dirtied. And any unexpected reference (i.e., GUP) could dirty it.

Aha!  But try_to_unmap_one() also checks that refcount==mapcount+1, i.e. will
also keep the folio if it has been GUP'd.  And __remove_mapping() explicitly states
that it needs to play nice with a GUP'd page being marked dirty before the
reference is dropped.

	 * Must be careful with the order of the tests. When someone has
	 * a ref to the folio, it may be possible that they dirty it then
	 * drop the reference. So if the dirty flag is tested before the
	 * refcount here, then the following race may occur:

So while it's totally possible for KVM to get a W=1,D=0 PTE, if I'm reading the
code correctly it's safe/legal so long as KVM either (a) marks the folio dirty
while holding a reference or (b) marks the folio dirty before returning from its
mmu_notifier_invalidate_range_start() hook, *AND* obviously if KVM drops its
mappings in response to mmu_notifier_invalidate_range_start().

Yes, I agree that it should work in the context of vmscan. But (b) is certainly a bit harder to swallow than "ordinary" (a) :)

As raised, if having a writable SPTE would imply having a writable+dirty PTE, then KVM MMU code wouldn't have to worry about syncing any dirty bits ever back to core-mm, so patch #2 would not be required. ... well, it would be replaces by an MMU notifier that notifies about clearing the PTE dirty bit :)

... because, then, there is also a subtle difference between folio_set_dirty() and folio_mark_dirty(), and I am still confused about the difference and not competent enough to explain the difference ... and KVM always does the former, while zapping code of pagecache folios does the latter ... hm

Related note: IIRC, we usually expect most anon folios to be dirty.

kvm_set_pfn_dirty()->kvm_set_page_dirty() does an unconditional SetPageDirty()->folio_set_dirty(). Doing a test-before-set might frequently avoid atomic ops.

I once had the following idea, but I am not sure about all implications,
just wanted to raise it because it matches the topic here:

Secondary page tables kind-of behave like "HW" access. If there is a
write access, we would expect the original PTE to become dirty, not the
mapped folio.

Propagating SPTE dirty bits to folios indirectly via the primary MMU
PTEs won't work for guest_memfd where there is no primary MMU PTE. In
order to avoid having two different ways to propagate SPTE dirty bits,
KVM should probably be responsible for updating the folio directly.

But who really cares about access/dirty bits for guest_memfd?

guest_memfd already wants to disable/bypass all of core-MM, so different
rules are to be expected. This discussion is all about integration with
core-MM that relies on correct dirty bits, which does not really apply to

+1, this is one of many reasons I don't want to support swap/relcaim for guest_memfd.
The instant guest_memfd gets involved with anything LRU related, the interactions
and complexity skyrockets.

Agreed ... but it's unfortunate :/


David / dhildenb

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