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Re: [Qemu-devel] [PATCH 1/4] block: add enable_write_cache flag

From: Jamie Lokier
Subject: Re: [Qemu-devel] [PATCH 1/4] block: add enable_write_cache flag
Date: Mon, 31 Aug 2009 23:09:50 +0100
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.13 (2006-08-11)

Christoph Hellwig wrote:
> We would have to claim one for data=writeback to be safe, but for I will
> follow Avi's opinion that it is a useless mode and should be our
> dedicated unsafe mode.  If anyone disagrees please start the flame
> thrower now and I will change it.  Otherwise a documentation patch will
> follow to explicitly document data=writeback as unsafe.

*Opening flame thrower!*

Unsafe, useless?

It's the most useful mode when you're starting and stopping VMs
regularly, or if you can't use O_DIRECT.

It's safe if fdatasync is called - in other words not advertising a
write cache is silly.

I haven't measured but I'd expect it to be much faster than O_SYNC on
some host hardware, for the same reason that barriers + volatile write
cache are much faster on some host hardware than disabling the write cache.

Right now, on a Linux host O_SYNC is unsafe with hardware that has a
volatile write cache.  That might not be changed, but if it is than
performance with cache=writethrough will plummet (due to issuing a
CACHE FLUSH to the hardware after every write), while performance with
cache=writeback will be reasonable.

If an unsafe mode is desired (I think it is, for those throwaway
testing VMs, or during OS installs), I suggest adding cache=volatile:

        O_DIRECT, fdatasync, advertise volatile write cache

        O_SYNC, do not advertise

        fdatasync, advertise volatile write cache

        nothing (perhaps fdatasync on QEMU blockdev close)

When using guests OSes which issue CACHE FLUSH commands (that's a
guest config issue), why would you ever use cache=writethrough?
cache=writeback should be faster and equally safe - provided you do
actually advertise the write cache!  So please do!  Not doing so is

-- Jamie

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