Xen 4.2 Automatic NUMA Placement
Automatic NUMA Placement
With NUMA placement, we refer to the decision on out of which NUMA nodes in an host the memory for a newly created VM should be allocated. Unfortunately, fitting VMs on a NUMA host is an incarnation of the Bin Packing Problem, which means it is NP-hard, so heuristics is the only reasonable way to go.
The first attempt of moving NUMA placement away of XEND's python code (to, in that case, libxc) dates back to 2010 (can't find the link anymore).
- greedy, which scans the host’s node and put the new VM on the first one that is found to have enough free memory;
- packed, which puts the new VM on the node that has the smallest amount of free memory (although still enough for the VM to fit there);
- spread, which puts the new VM on the node that has the biggest amount of free memory.
The names comes from the intrinsic characteristics of the three algorithms. In fact, greedy just grabs the first suitable node, packed tends to keep nodes as full as possible while spread tries to keep them as free/empty as possible. Notice that keeping the nodes full or empty should be intended memory-wise here, but that it also imply the following:
- greedy and packed policies are both incline to put as much VMs as possible on one node before moving on to try others (which one does that most, depends on the VMs' characteristics and creation order);
- spread is incline to distribute the VMs across the various nodes (although again, it will depend somehow on VMs' characteristics).
Some benchmarks, of all the three policies, were performed (as explained in details here). One of the obtained graphs is reported below. This shows the aggregate result of the SpecJBB2005 benchmark, concurrently run inside multiple VMs
That served as a quite effective confirmation that the spread (i.e., the one based on the worst fit algorithm) policy was the absolute best, and thus, in the continuation of the work on automatic placement, the othe twos could be neglected.
There was also a blog post about this, and it is still available here.
The Actual Solution
Basically, keeping on experimenting and benchmarking (full history available here), it was proved that proper VM placement can improve performances significantly. As in here, the curves, in the graph below, have the following meaning:
- default is what was happening by default prior to Xen 4.2, i.e., no vCPU pinning at all;
- pinned means VM#1 was pinned on NODE#0 after being created. This implies its memory was striped on both the nodes, but it can only run on the fist one;
- all memory local is the best possible case, i.e., VM#1 was created on NODE#0 and kept there. That implies all its memory accesses are local;
What is shown is the in performance, for increasing (1 o 8) number of VMs, with respect to the worst possible case case (all memory remote).
This makes evident that NUMA placement is accountable for a ~10% to 20% (depending on the load) impact. Also, it appears that just pinning the vCPUs to some pCPUs, although it can help in keeping the performance consistent, is not able to get that close to the best possible situation.
That led to the implementation of a proper solution for NUMA placement, which became the default XL behavior (as described Xen_on_NUMA_Machines#Automatic_NUMA_Placement here]]), starting from Xen 4.2.