Influence of application priority on IPC

Сергей Грехов grekhss at ...129...
Mon Nov 12 12:33:03 CET 2012

Hello, Mr. Norman Feske and Mr. Alexander Boettcher!

Thank you very much for the complete answer.
My use case is quite simple: I tried to start several L4Linux instances and want them to have network available.
The environment of the use case: Pandaboard, Fiasco.OC (revision 38).

In order to provide network I use nic_bridge multiplexer which share “Nic” service provided by usb_drv driver. When I set priority of usb_drv to "-1" and priority of nic_bridge to default value, everything works fine. But if I set both priorities to default values, most of L4Linux instances do not obtain IP addresses through DHCP. 
Also, it was noticed that:
even in case of obtaining the IP address, after some time of intensive usage of network, the connection becomes unavailable, as well as “Nic” service provided by nic_bridge
if in the previous case the network is not used intensively, the “ping” detects (from time to time) unreachable network of the L4Linux instance (with obtained IP address)

According to provided info there is a hypothesis about issue with nic_bridge. As long as this multiplexer plays both client and server roles, the problem occurs when usb_drv tries to get something from nic_bridge. 
The problem with priority="-1" for usb_drv is that there is a strange delay when closing network connection. Setting both priorities to default value solves this problem, but also creates a bigger one: network is unavailable on most L4Linux instances.

Kind regards,

12.11.2012, 13:28, "Norman Feske" <norman.feske at ...1...>:
> Hi Sergey,
>>  I have a question about influence of application priority on IPC
>>  messaging mechanism.
> your concern of the interaction of priorities and IPC are spot-on. This
> is a topic where the different microkernels differ significantly.
> Generally, static priorities should be used with caution. You need to be
> aware that a higher-priority thread can starve any lower-priority
> activity in the system by a busy loop. The potential problems become
> apparent when having more than two parties in the system. In such
> scenarios, priority inversion can occur.
>>  Let's say I have two applications (client and server) which use IPC for
>>  communication with each other. In run script I set the priority of
>>  client to default value (no priority specified) and the priority of
>>  server to -1 (value of prio_levels is equal to 2).
> Assigning a lower priority to the server than to the client is a
> classical priority inversion problem. The client has a high priority and
> wants the server to do some work for him. But because the server has a
> low priority, any other thread that has a higher priority than the
> server (but possibly a lower priority than the client) can infinitely
> delay the execution of the server.
> There are two ways to deals with such problems, namely priority
> inheritance and priority ceiling.
> Priority inheritance means that the server will inherit the (higher)
> priority of the client while doing work for the client. So the priority
> is not attached to a thread but rather to a specific work topic. Anyone
> that contributes to the work gets the high priority regardless of which
> processes the execution flows through. As far as I know, NOVA is the
> only kernel of the Genode base platforms that properly implements
> priority inheritance.
> Priority ceiling means that there exists a strict order of priorities
> that is consistent with the client-server relationships of processes. A
> server always needs to have a priority at least as high as its clients.
> Because of the invariant that the server operates at a higher priority
> than the client, the service request will make progress in at least any
> situation where the client would make progress (because it is scheduled
> at least as likely as the client who is currently blocked). The
> disadvantage of priority ceiling is that a client can artificially boost
> its priority (and cause system load) by using servers.
> Priority ceiling can be implemented on L4/Fiasco, OKL4, Fiasco.OC, and
> L4ka::Pistachio.
>>  The question is quite simple: is there any determined dependency between
>>  changing the priority of applications and possible collisions of IPC
>>  calls? For example, what if both priorities are set to default values or
>>  to -1? And if there is a suspect of lost IPC messages, then how this
>>  hypothesis can be checked?
> Normally, one would expect that priority inversion problems are easy to
> detect because some part of the system just freezes. However, on most
> kernels that lack priority inheritance (actually all kernels but NOVA),
> the bad interaction between IPC and priorities are hard to detect
> because of an optimization called time-slice donation. On those kernels,
> the client that calls the server lends its remaining time slice to the
> server to boost the processing of its IPC request. This way, the flow of
> control will typically go from the client through the server and then
> back to the client while the client's time slice is active.
> Unfortunately, this flow of control ends as soon as the time slice is
> over. When a timer interrupt occurs while the request is at the server,
> and the kernel schedules an unrelated thread that has a priority higher
> then the server, the server will starve. As a consequence, this will
> possibly end up in a deadlock situation that is extremely hard to reproduce.
> To avoid these situations, the rule of thumb is to always assign an
> equal or higher priority to the server than to the client.
> Could you elaborate a bit more on the problem where you are using
> applying priorities to? Is it possible to turn the scenario into a
> composition where the server is always prioritized higher than its clients?
> Best regards
> Norman
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> Dr.-Ing. Norman Feske
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Best regards,
Sergey S. Grekhov

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