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BUF(9)			 BSD Kernel Developer's	Manual			BUF(9)

     buf -- kernel buffer I/O scheme used in FreeBSD VM	system

     The kernel	implements a KVM abstraction of	the buffer cache which allows
     it	to map potentially disparate vm_page's into contiguous KVM for use by
     (mainly file system) devices and device I/O.  This	abstraction supports
     block sizes from DEV_BSIZE	(usually 512) to upwards of several pages or
     more.  It also supports a relatively primitive byte-granular valid	range
     and dirty range currently hardcoded for use by NFS.  The code implement-
     ing the VM	Buffer abstraction is mostly concentrated in

     One of the	most important things to remember when dealing with buffer
     pointers (struct buf) is that the underlying pages	are mapped directly
     from the buffer cache.  No	data copying occurs in the scheme proper,
     though some file systems such as UFS do have to copy a little when	deal-
     ing with file fragments.  The second most important thing to remember is
     that due to the underlying	page mapping, the b_data base pointer in a buf
     is	always *page* aligned, not *block* aligned.  When you have a VM	buffer
     representing some b_offset	and b_size, the	actual start of	the buffer is
     (b_data + (b_offset & PAGE_MASK)) and not just b_data.  Finally, the VM
     system's core buffer cache	supports valid and dirty bits (m->valid,
     m->dirty) for pages in DEV_BSIZE chunks.  Thus a platform with a hardware
     page size of 4096 bytes has 8 valid and 8 dirty bits.  These bits are
     generally set and cleared in groups based on the device block size	of the
     device backing the	page.  Complete	page's worth are often referred	to us-
     ing the VM_PAGE_BITS_ALL bitmask (i.e., 0xFF if the hardware page size is

     VM	buffers	also keep track	of a byte-granular dirty range and valid
     range.  This feature is normally only used	by the NFS subsystem.  I am
     not sure why it is	used at	all, actually, since we	have DEV_BSIZE
     valid/dirty granularity within the	VM buffer.  If a buffer	dirty opera-
     tion creates a 'hole', the	dirty range will extend	to cover the hole.  If
     a buffer validation operation creates a 'hole' the	byte-granular valid
     range is left alone and will not take into	account	the new	extension.
     Thus the whole byte-granular abstraction is considered a bad hack and it
     would be nice if we could get rid of it completely.

     A VM buffer is capable of mapping the underlying VM cache pages into KVM
     in	order to allow the kernel to directly manipulate the data associated
     with the (vnode,b_offset,b_size).	The kernel typically unmaps VM buffers
     the moment	they are no longer needed but often keeps the 'struct buf'
     structure instantiated and	even bp->b_pages array instantiated despite
     having unmapped them from KVM.  If	a page making up a VM buffer is	about
     to	undergo	I/O, the system	typically unmaps it from KVM and replaces the
     page in the b_pages[] array with a	place-marker called bogus_page.	 The
     place-marker forces any kernel subsystems referencing the associated
     struct buf	to re-lookup the associated page.  I believe the place-marker
     hack is used to allow sophisticated devices such as file system devices
     to	remap underlying pages in order	to deal	with, for example, re-mapping
     a file fragment into a file block.

     VM	buffers	are used to track I/O operations within	the kernel.  Unfortu-
     nately, the I/O implementation is also somewhat of	a hack because the
     kernel wants to clear the dirty bit on the	underlying pages the moment it
     queues the	I/O to the VFS device, not when	the physical I/O is actually
     initiated.	 This can create confusion within file system devices that use
     delayed-writes because you	wind up	with pages marked clean	that are actu-
     ally still	dirty.	If not treated carefully, these	pages could be thrown
     away!  Indeed, a number of	serious	bugs related to	this hack were not
     fixed until the 2.2.8/3.0 release.	 The kernel uses an instantiated VM
     buffer (i.e., struct buf) to place-mark pages in this special state.  The
     buffer is typically flagged B_DELWRI.  When a device no longer needs a
     buffer it typically flags it as B_RELBUF.	Due to the underlying pages
     being marked clean, the B_DELWRI|B_RELBUF combination must	be interpreted
     to	mean that the buffer is	still actually dirty and must be written to
     its backing store before it can actually be released.  In the case	where
     B_DELWRI is not set, the underlying dirty pages are still properly	marked
     as	dirty and the buffer can be completely freed without losing that
     clean/dirty state information.  (XXX do we	have to	check other flags in
     regards to	this situation ???)

     The kernel	reserves a portion of its KVM space to hold VM Buffer's	data
     maps.  Even though	this is	virtual	space (since the buffers are mapped
     from the buffer cache), we	cannot make it arbitrarily large because in-
     stantiated	VM Buffers (struct buf's) prevent their	underlying pages in
     the buffer	cache from being freed.	 This can complicate the life of the
     paging system.

     The buf manual page was originally	written	by Matthew Dillon and first
     appeared in FreeBSD 3.1, December 1998.

BSD			       December	22, 1998			   BSD


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