The What, The Why and the Where To of Anti-Fragmentation

Linux uses a variant of the binary buddy allocator that is fast but suffers badly from external fragmentation and is unreliable for large contiguous allocations. We begin by introducing two cases where large contiguous regions are needed: the allocation of HugeTLB pages during the lifetime of the system and using memory hotplug to on-line and off-line memory on demand in support of changing loads. We also mention subsystems that may benefit from using contiguous groups of pages. We then describe two anti-fragmentation strategies, discuss their strengths and weaknesses and examine their implementations within the kernel. We cover the standardised tests, the metrics used, the system architectures tested in the evaluation of these strategies and conclude with an examination of their effectiveness at satisfying large allocations. We also look at a page reclamation strategy that is suited to freeing contiguous regions of pages and finish with a look at the future direction of anti-fragmentation and related work.

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