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[MirageOS-devel] Problem with Lwt and TCP/IP

  • To: mirageos-devel@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • From: Magnus Skjegstad <magnus@xxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 23 Mar 2015 15:55:23 +0000
  • Delivery-date: Mon, 23 Mar 2015 15:55:36 +0000
  • List-id: Developer list for MirageOS <mirageos-devel.lists.xenproject.org>

Dear all

I am working on a virtual network interface/software bridge
implementation for Mirage [1]. The idea is to provide a Vnetif module
that can be used as a replacement for Netif. Network stacks using Vnetif
can then be connected to the same software backend and send frames to
each other. An example unikernel with two threads connecting over TCP is
available here [2]. 

Initially I wrote the backend [3] so that the write function would block
until all calls to the listeners had returned. This does unfortunately
not work with the Mirage TCP/IP stack as some of the calls to listen
will block while waiting for more data. To fix this I now run the
listener functions optionally in Lwt.async (as specified with the
use_async_readers-parameter to Basic_backend.create). This could starve
the listener threads as write never blocks, but TCP/IP should adjust its
rate automatically.

The workaround seems to run fine under Xen and the iperf-like throughput
between two threads with [4] is about 400 000 KBit/s in Xen/Virtualbox.
In Unix mode the throughput is about 1 200 000 KBit/s. Unfortunately,
the test also sometimes deadlocks in Unix mode.

I thought the deadlock could be caused by the faster write threads
starving the listeners, so I added an Lwt.pause in iperf_self.ml after
each call to write [5]. The test then runs fine under Unix, with a
reduced throughput of about 500 000 KBit/s. Unfortunately, the call to
Lwt.pause is much slower under Xen and the throughput is around 46
Kbit/s (!). 

I am not sure what would be the best way to fix this. If there is a
race, I guess it is likely that it is in either mirage-tcpip or in my
code. I have not been able to find one in the vnetif code, but maybe
there is something I have overlooked that is triggered under high load.
The code works fine when I run iperf without TCP/IP and with async
disabled [6] (tested with throughput around 17 000 000 KBit/s).

A solution could also be to try to speed up Lwt.pause in Xen, so that we
at least could run the same iperf test on both platforms. In the run
loop in [7] the domain is blocked when there are no new events on the
event channel, even when there are paused threads. By adding a check for
Lwt.paused_count () = 0 before blocking the domain (code here [8]), the
Xen w/Lwt.pause iperf throughput is 60 000 KBit/s (still slow, but

Any thoughts or ideas on how to proceed appreciated :-)
1. https://github.com/MagnusS/mirage-vnetif
7. https://github.com/mirage/mirage-platform/blob/master/xen/lib/main.ml


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