The Linux Scheduler: A Decade of Wasted Cores

Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Speaker(s) : Jean-Pierre Lozi, MCF Nice

As a central part of resource management, the OS thread scheduler must maintain the following, simple, invariant: make sure that ready threads are scheduled on available cores. As simple as it may seem, we found that this invariant is often broken in Linux. Cores may stay idle for seconds while ready threads are waiting in runqueues. In our experiments, these performance bugs caused many-fold performance degradation for synchronization-heavy scientific applications, 13% higher latency for kernel make, and a 14-23% decrease in TPC-H throughput for a widely used commercial database. The main contribution of this work is the discovery and analysis of these bugs and providing the fixes. Conventional testing techniques and debugging tools are ineffective at confirming or understanding this kind of bugs, because their symptoms are often evasive. To drive our investigation, we built new tools that check for violation of the invariant online and visualize scheduling activity. They are simple, easily portable across kernel versions and run with a negligible overhead. We believe that making these tools part of the kernel developers' tool belt can help keep this type of bugs at bay.

Gilles.Muller (at) nulllip6.fr