Re: [PATCH] SG_IO readcd and various bugs

From: Douglas Gilbert (
Date: Tue Jun 03 2003 - 00:23:19 EST

Jens Axboe wrote:
> On Sun, Jun 01 2003, Douglas Gilbert wrote:
>>The block layer SG_IO ioctl passes through the SCSI
>>command set to a device that understands it
>>(i.e. not necessarily a "SCSI" device in the traditional
>>sense). Other pass throughs exist (or may be needed) for
>>ATA's task file interface and SAS's management protocol.
>>Even though my tests, shown earlier in this thread, indicated
>>that the SG_IO ioctl might be a shade faster than O_DIRECT,
>>the main reason for having it is to pass through "non-block"
>>commands to a device. Some examples:
>> - special writes (e.g. formating a disk, writing a CD/DVD)
>> - uploading firmware
>> - reading the defect table from a disk
>> - reading and writing special areas on a disk
>> (e.g. application client log page)
>>The reason for choosing this list is that all these
>>operations potentially move large amounts of data in a
>>single operation. For such data transfers to be constrained
>>by max_sectors is questionable. Putting a block paradigm
>>bypass in the block layer is an interesting design :-)
> I think this is nonsense. The block layer will not accept commands
> that it cannot handle in one go, what would the point of that be?
> There's no way for us to break down a single command into pieces,
> we have no idea how to do that. max_sectors _is_ the natural
> constraint, it's the hardware limit not something I impose through
> policy. For SCSI it could be bigger in some cases, that's up to the
> lldd to set though.

Reviewing the linix-scsi archives, max_sectors was
introduced around lk 2.4.7 and you were quite active
in its promotion. There are also posts about problems
with qlogic HBAs and their need for a limit to maximum
transfer length. So there is some hardware justification.

On 11th April 2002 Justin Gibbs posted this in a mail
about aic7xxx version 6.2.6:
"2) Set max_sectors to a sane value. The aic7xxx driver was not
    updated when this value was added to the host template structure.
    In more recent kernels, the default setting for this field, 255,
    can limit our transaction size to 127K. This often causes the
    scsi_merge routines to generate 127k followed by 1k I/Os to complete
    a client transaction. The command overhead of such small
    can severely impact performance. The driver now sets max_sectors to
    8192 which equates to the 16MB S/G element limit for these cards as
    expressed in 2K sectors."

At the time max_sectors defaulted to 255, later it was
bumped to 256 and is now 1024 in lk 2.5. However Justin's
post is saying the hardware limit for a data transfer
associated with a single SCSI command in the aic7xxx
driver is:
   sg_tablesize * (2 ** 24) bytes == 2 GB
as the aic7xxx driver sets sg_tablesize to 128.
Taking into account the largest practical kmalloc of 128 KB
(which is not a hardware limitation) this number comes down
to 16 MB. The 8192 figure that Justin chose is still in place
in the aic7xxx driver in lk 2.5 and it limits maximum transfer
size to 4 MB since the unit of max_sectors is now 512 bytes.

Various projects have reported to me success in transferring
8 and 16 MB individual WRITE commands through the sg driver,
usually with LSI or Adaptec HBAs. The max_sectors==8192
set by the aic7xxx is the maximum of any driver in the
ide or the scsi subsystems (both in lk 2.4 and lk 2.5)
currently. Most drivers are picking up the default value.
The definition of "max_sectors" states in
   "if the host adapter has limitations beside segment count"
That could be taken to imply if a LLD does not define
max_sectors then there is no limit.

In summary, from a HBA drivers point of view, "max_sectors"
is misnamed (since they transfer bytes) and not precise
enough to describe any limitations on data transfers they
may have.

Apologies in advance for propagating further nonsense.

Doug Gilbert

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