On Wed, 15 Mar 2017, Andy Lutomirski wrote:
> > One advantage of VAS segments is that they can be globally queried by user 
> > programs
> > which means that VAS segments can be shared by applications that not 
> > necessarily have
> > to be related. If I am not mistaken, MAP_SHARED of pure in memory data will 
> > only work
> > if the tasks that share the memory region are related (aka. have a common 
> > parent that
> > initialized the shared mapping). Otherwise, the shared mapping have to be 
> > backed by a
> > file.
> What's wrong with memfd_create()?
> > VAS segments on the other side allow sharing of pure in memory data by
> > arbitrary related tasks without the need of a file. This becomes especially
> > interesting if one combines VAS segments with non-volatile memory since one 
> > can keep
> > data structures in the NVM and still be able to share them between multiple 
> > tasks.
> What's wrong with regular mmap?

I never wanted to say that there is something wrong with regular mmap. We just
figured that with VAS segments you could remove the need to mmap your shared 
data but
instead can keep everything purely in memory.

Unfortunately, I am not at full speed with memfds. Is my understanding correct 
if the last user of such a file descriptor closes it, the corresponding memory 
freed? Accordingly, memfd cannot be used to keep data in memory while no 
program is
currently using it, can it? To be able to do this you need again some 
of the data in a file? Yes, you can use a tmpfs to keep the file content in 
memory as
well, or some DAX filesystem to keep the file content in NVM, but this always
requires that such filesystems are mounted in the system that the application is
currently running on. VAS segments on the other side would provide a 
functionality to
achieve the same without the need of any mounted filesystem. However, I agree, 
this is just a small advantage compared to what can already be achieved with the
existing functionality provided by the Linux kernel. I probably need to revisit 
whole idea of first class virtual address space segments before continuing with 
pacthset. Thank you very much for the great feedback.

> >> >> Ick.  Please don't do this.  Can we please keep an mm as just an mm
> >> >> and not make it look magically different depending on which process
> >> >> maps it?  If you need a trampoline (which you do, of course), just
> >> >> write a trampoline in regular user code and map it manually.
> >> >
> >> > Did I understand you correctly that you are proposing that the switching 
> >> > thread
> >> > should make sure by itself that its code, stack, … memory regions are 
> >> > properly setup
> >> > in the new AS before/after switching into it? I think, this would make 
> >> > using first
> >> > class virtual address spaces much more difficult for user applications 
> >> > to the extend
> >> > that I am not even sure if they can be used at all. At the moment, 
> >> > switching into a
> >> > VAS is a very simple operation for an application because the kernel 
> >> > will just simply
> >> > do the right thing.
> >>
> >> Yes.  I think that having the same mm_struct look different from
> >> different tasks is problematic.  Getting it right in the arch code is
> >> going to be nasty.  The heuristics of what to share are also tough --
> >> why would text + data + stack or whatever you're doing be adequate?
> >> What if you're in a thread?  What if two tasks have their stacks in
> >> the same place?
> >
> > The different ASes that a task now can have when it uses first class 
> > virtual address
> > spaces are not realized in the kernel by using only one mm_struct per task 
> > that just
> > looks differently but by using multiple mm_structs - one for each AS that 
> > the task
> > can execute in. When a task attaches a first class virtual address space to 
> > itself to
> > be able to use another AS, the kernel adds a temporary mm_struct to this 
> > task that
> > contains the mappings of the first class virtual address space and the one 
> > shared
> > with the task's original AS. If a thread now wants to switch into this 
> > attached first
> > class virtual address space the kernel only changes the 'mm' and 
> > 'active_mm' pointers
> > in the task_struct of the thread to the temporary mm_struct and performs the
> > corresponding mm_switch operation. The original mm_struct of the thread 
> > will not be
> > changed.
> >
> > Accordingly, I do not magically make mm_structs look differently depending 
> > on the
> > task that uses it, but create temporary mm_structs that only contain 
> > mappings to the
> > same memory regions.
> This sounds complicated and fragile.  What happens if a heuristically
> shared region coincides with a region in the "first class address
> space" being selected?

If such a conflict happens, the task cannot use the first class address space 
and the
corresponding system call will return an error. However, with the current 
virtual address space size that programs can use, such conflicts are probably 
rare. I
could also image some additional functionality that allows a user to mark parts 
its AS to not to be shared/to be shared when switching into a VAS. With this
functionality in place, there would be no need for a heuristic in the kernel 
but the
user decides what to share. The kernel would by default only share code, data, 
stack and the application/libraries have to mark all the other memory regions as
shared if they need to be also available in the VAS.

> I think the right solution is "you're a user program playing virtual
> address games -- make sure you do it right".

Hm, in general I agree, that the easier and more robust solution from the kernel
perspective is to let the user do the AS setup and only provide the 
functionality to
create new empty ASes. Though, I think that such an interface would be much more
difficult to use than my current design. Letting the user program setup the AS 
also another implication that I currently don't have. Since I share the code and
stack regions between all ASes that are available to a process, I don't need to
save/restore stack pointers or instruction pointers when threads switch between 
However, when the user will setup the AS, the kernel cannot be sure that the 
code and
stack will be mapped at the same virtual address and hence has to save and 
these registers (and also potentially others since we can now basically jump 
different execution contexts).

When we first designed first class virtual address spaces, we had one special
use-case in mind, namely that one application wants to use different data sets 
it does not want/can keep in the same AS. Hence, sharing code and stack between 
different ASes that the application uses was a logic step for us because the 
memory region for example has to be available at all AS anyways since all of 
execute the same application. Sharing the stack memory region enabled the 
to keep volatile information that might be needed in the new AS on the stack 
allows easy information flow between the different ASes. 

For this patch, I extended the initial sharing of stack and code memory regions 
all memory regions that are available in the tasks original AS to also allow
dynamically linked applications and multi-threaded applications to flawlessly 
first class virtual address spaces.

To put it in a nutshell, we envisioned first class virtual address spaces to be
rather used as shareable/reusable data containers which made sharing various 
regions that are crucial for the execution of the application a feasible
implementation decision.

Thank you all very much for the feedback. I really appreciate it.


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