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Subject[PATCH v3 0/1] mm: introduce put_user_page*(), placeholder versions
From: John Hubbard <>

Hi Andrew and all,

Can we please apply this (destined for 5.2) once the time is right?
(I see that -mm just got merged into the main tree today.)

We seem to have pretty solid consensus on the concept and details of the
put_user_pages() approach. Or at least, if we don't, someone please speak
up now. Christopher Lameter, especially, since you had some concerns

Therefore, here is the first patch--only. This allows us to begin
converting the get_user_pages() call sites to use put_user_page(), instead
of put_page(). This is in order to implement tracking of get_user_page()

Normally I'd include a user of this code, but in this case, I think we have
examples of how it will work in the RFC and related discussions [1]. What
matters more at this point is unblocking the ability to start fixing up
various subsystems, through git trees other than linux-mm. For example, the
Infiniband example conversion now needs to pick up some prerequisite
patches via the RDMA tree. It seems likely that other call sites may need
similar attention, and so having put_user_pages() available would really
make this go more quickly.

Previous cover letter follows:

A discussion of the overall problem is below.

As mentioned in patch 0001, the steps are to fix the problem are:

1) Provide put_user_page*() routines, intended to be used
for releasing pages that were pinned via get_user_pages*().

2) Convert all of the call sites for get_user_pages*(), to
invoke put_user_page*(), instead of put_page(). This involves dozens of
call sites, and will take some time.

3) After (2) is complete, use get_user_pages*() and put_user_page*() to
implement tracking of these pages. This tracking will be separate from
the existing struct page refcounting.

4) Use the tracking and identification of these pages, to implement
special handling (especially in writeback paths) when the pages are
backed by a filesystem.


Some kernel components (file systems, device drivers) need to access
memory that is specified via process virtual address. For a long time, the
API to achieve that was get_user_pages ("GUP") and its variations. However,
GUP has critical limitations that have been overlooked; in particular, GUP
does not interact correctly with filesystems in all situations. That means
that file-backed memory + GUP is a recipe for potential problems, some of
which have already occurred in the field.

GUP was first introduced for Direct IO (O_DIRECT), allowing filesystem code
to get the struct page behind a virtual address and to let storage hardware
perform a direct copy to or from that page. This is a short-lived access
pattern, and as such, the window for a concurrent writeback of GUP'd page
was small enough that there were not (we think) any reported problems.
Also, userspace was expected to understand and accept that Direct IO was
not synchronized with memory-mapped access to that data, nor with any
process address space changes such as munmap(), mremap(), etc.

Over the years, more GUP uses have appeared (virtualization, device
drivers, RDMA) that can keep the pages they get via GUP for a long period
of time (seconds, minutes, hours, days, ...). This long-term pinning makes
an underlying design problem more obvious.

In fact, there are a number of key problems inherent to GUP:

Interactions with file systems

File systems expect to be able to write back data, both to reclaim pages,
and for data integrity. Allowing other hardware (NICs, GPUs, etc) to gain
write access to the file memory pages means that such hardware can dirty
the pages, without the filesystem being aware. This can, in some cases
(depending on filesystem, filesystem options, block device, block device
options, and other variables), lead to data corruption, and also to kernel
bugs of the form:

kernel BUG at /build/linux-fQ94TU/linux-4.4.0/fs/ext4/inode.c:1899!

...which is due to the file system asserting that there are still buffer
heads attached:

({ \
BUG_ON(!PagePrivate(page)); \
((struct buffer_head *)page_private(page)); \

Dave Chinner's description of this is very clear:

"The fundamental issue is that ->page_mkwrite must be called on every
write access to a clean file backed page, not just the first one.
How long the GUP reference lasts is irrelevant, if the page is clean
and you need to dirty it, you must call ->page_mkwrite before it is
marked writeable and dirtied. Every. Time."

This is just one symptom of the larger design problem: filesystems do not
actually support get_user_pages() being called on their pages, and letting
hardware write directly to those pages--even though that pattern has been
going on since about 2005 or so.

Long term GUP

Long term GUP is an issue when FOLL_WRITE is specified to GUP (so, a
writeable mapping is created), and the pages are file-backed. That can lead
to filesystem corruption. What happens is that when a file-backed page is
being written back, it is first mapped read-only in all of the CPU page
tables; the file system then assumes that nobody can write to the page, and
that the page content is therefore stable. Unfortunately, the GUP callers
generally do not monitor changes to the CPU pages tables; they instead
assume that the following pattern is safe (it's not):


Hardware can keep a reference to those pages for a very long time,
and write to it at any time. Because "hardware" here means "devices
that are not a CPU", this activity occurs without any interaction
with the kernel's file system code.

for each page

In fact, the GUP documentation even recommends that pattern.

Anyway, the file system assumes that the page is stable (nothing is writing
to the page), and that is a problem: stable page content is necessary for
many filesystem actions during writeback, such as checksum, encryption,
RAID striping, etc. Furthermore, filesystem features like COW (copy on
write) or snapshot also rely on being able to use a new page for as memory
for that memory range inside the file.

Corruption during write back is clearly possible here. To solve that, one
idea is to identify pages that have active GUP, so that we can use a bounce
page to write stable data to the filesystem. The filesystem would work
on the bounce page, while any of the active GUP might write to the
original page. This would avoid the stable page violation problem, but note
that it is only part of the overall solution, because other problems

Other filesystem features that need to replace the page with a new one can
be inhibited for pages that are GUP-pinned. This will, however, alter and
limit some of those filesystem features. The only fix for that would be to
require GUP users to monitor and respond to CPU page table updates.
Subsystems such as ODP and HMM do this, for example. This aspect of the
problem is still under discussion.

Direct IO

Direct IO can cause corruption, if userspace does Direct-IO that writes to
a range of virtual addresses that are mmap'd to a file. The pages written
to are file-backed pages that can be under write back, while the Direct IO
is taking place. Here, Direct IO races with a write back: it calls
GUP before page_mkclean() has replaced the CPU pte with a read-only entry.
The race window is pretty small, which is probably why years have gone by
before we noticed this problem: Direct IO is generally very quick, and
tends to finish up before the filesystem gets around to do anything with
the page contents. However, it's still a real problem. The solution is
to never let GUP return pages that are under write back, but instead,
force GUP to take a write fault on those pages. That way, GUP will
properly synchronize with the active write back. This does not change the
required GUP behavior, it just avoids that race.

Changes since v2:

* Reduced down to just one patch, in order to avoid dependencies between
subsystem git repos.

* Rebased to latest linux.git: commit afe6fe7036c6 ("Merge tag
'armsoc-late' of git://")

* Added Ira's review tag, based on

(RFC v2: mm: gup/dma tracking)

Cc: Christian Benvenuti <>
Cc: Christoph Hellwig <>
Cc: Christopher Lameter <>
Cc: Dan Williams <>
Cc: Dave Chinner <>
Cc: Dennis Dalessandro <>
Cc: Doug Ledford <>
Cc: Ira Weiny <>
Cc: Jan Kara <>
Cc: Jason Gunthorpe <>
Cc: Jérôme Glisse <>
Cc: Matthew Wilcox <>
Cc: Michal Hocko <>
Cc: Mike Rapoport <>
Cc: Mike Marciniszyn <>
Cc: Ralph Campbell <>
Cc: Tom Talpey <>

John Hubbard (1):
mm: introduce put_user_page*(), placeholder versions

include/linux/mm.h | 24 ++++++++++++++
mm/swap.c | 82 ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
2 files changed, 106 insertions(+)


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