Red Hat Bugzilla – Bug 59002
Major memory issues on system with >2GB RAM with 2.4.9-* kernel updates
Last modified: 2014-01-21 17:48:02 EST
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Description of problem:
With the latest kernel updates (both 2.4.9-12 and 2.4.9-21 have been tested
here) there seem to be major issues with memory allocation/freeing on systems
with >2GB RAM. We have three servers here with 3GB RAM, as well as four others
with 2GB RAM. Besides the RAM differences, the systems are identical. The
problem that happens on the 3GB systems is whenever user programs try to
allocate more than 3GB memory total, things go haywire. In "vmstat", the swap
space used suddenly jumps from 0 to 2GB. Then, as the user
programs allocate more and more, this number actually starts going *down*.
Then, when the user programs exit, most of the memory they used seems to be gone
For example, I have written a simple program which allocates memory in a loop
and prints how much it has allocated (I will include it with this report). If I
freshly reboot the 2.4.9 system, and run this program, it will allocate just
under 3GB before it errors out (expected behavior, since the kernel doesn't
support allocating more than 3GB). It uses up all the system memory then frees
up when it exits--that's fine. Now, if I run two instances of this program
simultaneously, everything is fine up until they both hit 1.5GB. Suddenly, as
seen in "vmstat", "top", and other places, swap space usage jumps immediately
from 0 to 2GB, and starts *decreasing* as they continue allocating memory (with
heavy swapping since the physical RAM is now exhausted). Besides the weird swap
number behavior, that's fine. Now the real problem: when I kill both of those
programs, swap space usage (as seen in vmstat, top, etc) remains high, and the
free RAM goes to only about 1GB. 2GB of memory seems permanently gone from the
system. And this is confirmed when I run a single instance of the original
program again. It allocates memory on up to 1GB fine, but when it hits 1GB,
heavy swapping starts, as if the system had suddenly become a 1GB machine
instead of a 3GB machine.
My testing has been with the SMP and Enterprise versions of the 2.4.9 kernels.
The 2.4.2 kernel (SMP) that originally came with RedHat 7.1 does not have this
problem, and so I have reverted to it.
Steps to Reproduce:
1. Install a RedHat 7.1 system with the 2.4.9-12 or 2.4.9-21 kernel updates, SMP
or Enterprise versions.
2. Run two instances at the same time of my memory allocator program on a system
with 3GB RAM.
3. After they've each allocated 2GB (should be 3GB of system memory and 1GB of
swap), kill them both.
4. Observe the missing 2GB of system memory using vmstat, top, etc. Run another
single instance of the allocator program to prove that only 1GB of physical RAM
appears to exist now.
Created attachment 43836 [details]
test-addressing.c: my test program for exposing this problem
Upon further probing of the 2GB systems I mentioned, with the 2.4.9 kernel
updates, a similar problem appears to happen on them, when total user-allocated
memory exceeds 2GB. Again, memory (in this case around 500-1000MB of it) just
seems to "disappear", and swap space used goes very high and stays there (and
even decreases at times when allocating memory).
The problem is easier to spot on 3GB systems though, as there is clearly
swapping happening when it shouldn't be, and a really huge amount of memory that
seems to just vanish.
In case it matters, the systems I've tested (both the aforementioned 2GB and
3GB) are all dual processor.
I see sort of similar behavior; swap grows and even when the applications exit
it remains in use (while holding ram too). It shrinks with time, but not nearly
as fast as desired. Looking into the cause
I think we have found a solution for this (well partial. The swap still is
reported used but as soon as the kernel requires real memory it's actually freed).
Would you be willing to test this ?
I am experiencing a similar problem on Red Hat 7.2 with the 2.4.9-* kernels.
If I run jobs past core memory into swap, significant memory and swap are still
allocated when the jobs finish. Have tested many configuration (most 2
processor) 1GB, 2GB, 3GB, 4GB RAM. All have the same problem. Example: 2P,
4GB RAM, 8GB swap. Run 2 jobs both asking for 2.5GB ( total 5GB ). Memory and
swap both push 4GB each. When the jobs finish, both memory and swap are still
holding 2.5GB of space each. Eventually our compute farm managed by LSF will
not allocate jobs to each machine because free memory is almost non-existent.
Downloaded kernel-enterprise-2.4.9-21.4 but it requires modutils-2.4.13 or
higher. Were can I get the updated modutils?
You can either --nodeps it or grab it from the url (I just put it there)
Created attachment 45560 [details]
Stats from free command during testing 2.4.9-21.4
So the problem is still there. What is the "Swap Cached:" entry
in /proc/meminfo for? It seems to alway be about the same size as the memory
and swap not released after the test programs finish.
The test version is maybe a little bit better but still exhibits really the same
basic problem. If you follow the "Steps to Reproduce" in my original report, on
step #4, the program (and system) still gets really sluggish and starts swapping
a lot once the program has allocated a little over 1GB.
Anything new to test?
The kernel should give its memory up when you put some load on. (it does in my
tests). It's not immediate but once there's some memory pressure the "stale"
swap data is the first to go. It's not just fast enough to my taste, but it
should be there. We're still looking on making the removal of stale entries
I see where swap space gets reused under pressure but the core memory is still
a problem. When a jobs completes all of its memory (especially core) should be
freed but that is not the case. When you push into swap space and allow the
jobs to complete CORE and swap space are still allocated. Any subsequent jobs
start allocating core on top of what was leftover from the previous job. Again
I do see where the swap gets turned but not core. We run a lot of Electronic
Design applications that run between 2 and 3GB of memory so this is a real
problem. It also causes problems for our admins and our job schedule that make
decisions based on information report back from the kernel. This was not a
problem on Red Hat 6.1 and 6.2.
Yes, I don't understand why a program running on a 3GB system (when there's
basically nothing else running except the minimal set of system daemons) would
need to start heavy swapping and disk I/O when it tries to allocate more than
1-1.5GB, regardless of what was running on the system earlier... I just noticed
today that the old 2.4.2 kernel that came stock with 7.1 can exhibit this
problem too under extreme circumstances (like when you dip really heavily into
swap, perhaps). As firstname.lastname@example.org mentioned, this was never a problem
with the 2.2 kernels (RH7.0 and back). We noticed it when we upgraded our
compute servers from 6.2 to 7.1 a few weeks back.
Would like to check in and see if we have an understanding why core memory is
not getting released by the kernel. I am anxious to get a resolution to this
problem as I have 40 brand new systems sitting idle. The drivers necessary for
these new systems really force the use of Red Hat 7.1 or 7.2. Thank you.
So it looks like the 2.4.17 kernel fixes this problem.
Interesting, is there a RedHat 2.4.17 kernel package somewhere or did you
compile up a custom version?
FYI, I get the same results that I'm assuming email@example.com got. I
downloaded the standard Linux 2.4.18 kernel release, compiled it up with the
same configuration as my RedHat kernels, and no trace of any of these
We've backported the relevant bits of 2.4.18 and the swap behavior seems to be
more as you expect:
In some basic testing here, that last test version seems to perform fine (the
same as 2.4.18 as far as I could tell), but there is one "glitch" that isn't in
2.4.18. As soon as swapping starts, the "swap memory used" (as listed in
"vmstat" and other places) jumps up to 2GB immediately. Regular 2.4.18 builds
up from 0 as you'd expect...