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Subject[PATCH v1] drivers/base/memory.c: indicate all memory blocks as removable
We see multiple issues with the implementation/interface to compute
whether a memory block can be offlined (exposed via
/sys/devices/system/memory/memoryX/removable) and would like to simplify
it (remove the implementation).

1. It runs basically lockless. While this might be good for performance,
we see possible races with memory offlining that will require at least
some sort of locking to fix.

2. Nowadays, more false positives are possible. No arch-specific checks
are performed that validate if memory offlining will not be denied
right away (and such check will require locking). For example, arm64
won't allow to offline any memory block that was added during boot -
which will imply a very high error rate. Other archs have other

3. The interface is inherently racy. E.g., if a memory block is
detected to be removable (and was not a false positive at that time),
there is still no guarantee that offlining will actually succeed. So
any caller already has to deal with false positives.

4. It is unclear which performance benefit this interface actually
provides. The introducing commit 5c755e9fd813 ("memory-hotplug: add
sysfs removable attribute for hotplug memory remove") mentioned
"A user-level agent must be able to identify which sections of
memory are likely to be removable before attempting the
potentially expensive operation."
However, no actual performance comparison was included.

Known users:
- lsmem: Will group memory blocks based on the "removable" property. [1]
- chmem: Indirect user. It has a RANGE mode where one can specify
removable ranges identified via lsmem to be offlined. However, it
also has a "SIZE" mode, which allows a sysadmin to skip the manual
"identify removable blocks" step. [2]
- powerpc-utils: Uses the "removable" attribute to skip some memory
blocks right away when trying to find some to
offline+remove. However, with ballooning enabled, it
already skips this information completely (because it
once resulted in many false negatives). Therefore, the
implementation can deal with false positives properly
already. [3]

According to Nathan Fontenot, DLPAR on powerpc is nowadays no longer
driven from userspace via the drmgr command (powerpc-utils). Nowadays
it's managed in the kernel - including onlining/offlining of memory
blocks - triggered by drmgr writing to /sys/kernel/dlpar. So the
affected legacy userspace handling is only active on old kernels. Only very
old versions of drmgr on a new kernel (unlikely) might execute slower -
totally acceptable.

With CONFIG_MEMORY_HOTREMOVE, always indicating "removable" should not
break any user space tool. We implement a very bad heuristic now. Without
CONFIG_MEMORY_HOTREMOVE we cannot offline anything, so report
"not removable" as before.

Original discussion can be found in [4] ("[PATCH RFC v1] mm:
is_mem_section_removable() overhaul").

Other users of is_mem_section_removable() will be removed next, so that
we can remove is_mem_section_removable() completely.


Suggested-by: Michal Hocko <>
Acked-by: Michal Hocko <>
Cc: Dan Williams <>
Cc: Greg Kroah-Hartman <>
Cc: "Rafael J. Wysocki" <>
Cc: Andrew Morton <>
Cc: Badari Pulavarty <>
Cc: Nathan Fontenot <>
Cc: Robert Jennings <>
Cc: Heiko Carstens <>
Cc: Karel Zak <>
Signed-off-by: David Hildenbrand <>

RFC -> v1:
- Use IS_ENABLED() instead of ifdefs
- Add information from Nathan (thanks!)

drivers/base/memory.c | 23 +++--------------------
1 file changed, 3 insertions(+), 20 deletions(-)

diff --git a/drivers/base/memory.c b/drivers/base/memory.c
index 6503f5d0b749..9664be00a4de 100644
--- a/drivers/base/memory.c
+++ b/drivers/base/memory.c
@@ -105,30 +105,13 @@ static ssize_t phys_index_show(struct device *dev,

- * Show whether the memory block is likely to be offlineable (or is already
- * offline). Once offline, the memory block could be removed. The return
- * value does, however, not indicate that there is a way to remove the
- * memory block.
+ * Legacy interface that we cannot remove. Always indicate "removable"
+ * with CONFIG_MEMORY_HOTREMOVE - bad heuristic.
static ssize_t removable_show(struct device *dev, struct device_attribute *attr,
char *buf)
- struct memory_block *mem = to_memory_block(dev);
- unsigned long pfn;
- int ret = 1, i;
- if (mem->state != MEM_ONLINE)
- goto out;
- for (i = 0; i < sections_per_block; i++) {
- if (!present_section_nr(mem->start_section_nr + i))
- continue;
- pfn = section_nr_to_pfn(mem->start_section_nr + i);
- ret &= is_mem_section_removable(pfn, PAGES_PER_SECTION);
- }
- return sprintf(buf, "%d\n", ret);
+ return sprintf(buf, "%d\n", (int)IS_ENABLED(CONFIG_MEMORY_HOTREMOVE));

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