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Re: [Qemu-devel] Faster, generic IO/DMA model with vectored AIO?

From: Jamie Lokier
Subject: Re: [Qemu-devel] Faster, generic IO/DMA model with vectored AIO?
Date: Sun, 28 Oct 2007 19:10:28 +0000
User-agent: Mutt/1.4.1i

Blue Swirl wrote:
> Currently scsi-disk provides a buffer. For true zero copy, this needs
> to be changed so that instead the buffer is provided by the caller at
> each stage until we reach the host memory. But I'll use the scsi-disk
> buffer for now.

This might actually work in Qemu.

But in general, a zero-copy I/O interface needs to allow for the
possibility that either the source of data, or the sink, might need to
be in charge of buffer allocations for a particular sequence.
Otherwise you get situations where the data has to be copied to meet a
technical constraint of a source of a sink, and the copy could have
been avoided if the addresses were allocated to meet that constraint
in the first place.  The most common technical constraint is probably
the need for large contiguous blocks.

I deal with this in my own program by having an I/O call from source
to sink for requesting memory (through a chain of sources/sinks like
your example if necessary), but only when the source is preparing to
do an I/O and hasn't yet prepared the data.  If the data is already
prepared before setting up the I/O for a write, then there's no point
asking the sink to allocate memory, and if it has to anyway (e.g. if
it needs a large contiguous block), that's an unavoidable copy anyway.

A couple of examples of sinks with constraints are:

   - Can't use writev().  E.g. you're using a slightly old Linux
     kernel, want to do AIO, and it doesn't have async writev(), only async

   - Writing to sound card through memory-mapped ring buffer.  The
     sink is the code which opens /dev/dsp, and then it can provide
     buffers for zero-copy only if it picks the address where data
     will be prepared.

   - Async I/O using "database writer" style separate processes which
     actually do the writes synchronously, and the data is passed to
     them using shared memory.  For this, the sink is the code which
     sends a request to one of the writer processes, and it must use a
     buffer which is in the mapped shared memory.

-- Jamie

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