Page Faults in Multi-Threaded Programs

From: Michal Ostrowski (
Date: Wed May 24 2000 - 13:08:29 EST

I was running a multi-threaded program recently (kernel threads) and
noticed that all page-faults were being handled sequentially (even
though they were occurring in different threads). Looking through the
source, it appears as though this is due to the fact that when a
page-fault occurs, the thread which generated the fault holds the
mm->mmap_sem semaphore until the fault is fully resolved.

I've tried releasing the semaphore on entry into filemap_nopage and
re-acquiring it afterwards and with this setup I've observed concurrent
page-faults being handled successfully. However, this is a very crude
hack and analysis and I was wondering if there are subtle gotcha's out
there that anyone may be aware of.

Is it sufficient to release and re-acquire the semaphore around blocking
operations? If so, is it necessary to grab some finer-grained locks
instead (perhaps locking vm_area_struct's, or page structs)? Or is
this hopeless until some major restructuring of the mm code occurs?

Michal Ostrowski

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