The operating system uses two modes for paging space allocation. The setting of the PSALLOC environment variable determines the paging space allocation mode. The default mechanism is the late paging space allocation algorithm. The user can switch to an early paging space allocation mode by setting the value of the PSALLOC environment variable to early.
The amount of paging space required depends on the type of activities performed on the system. If paging space runs low, processes can be lost, and if paging space runs out, the system can panic. When a paging-space low condition is detected, define additional paging space.
The system monitors the number of free paging space blocks and detects when a paging-space shortage exists. When the number of free paging-space blocks falls below a threshold known as the paging-space warning level, the system informs all processes (except kprocs) of this condition by sending the SIGDANGER signal. If the shortage continues and falls below a second threshold known as the paging-space kill level, the system sends the SIGKILL signal to processes that are the major users of paging space and that do not have a signal handler for the SIGDANGER signal (the default action for the SIGDANGER signal is to ignore the signal). The system continues sending SIGKILL signals until the number of free paging-space blocks is above the paging-space kill level.
Processes that dynamically allocate memory can ensure that sufficient paging space exists by monitoring the paging-space levels with the psdanger subroutine or by using special allocation routines. You can use the disclaim subroutine to prevent processes from ending when the paging-space kill level is reached. To do this, define a signal handler for the SIGDANGER signal and release memory and paging-space resources allocated in their data and stack areas and in shared memory segments.
The operating system uses the PSALLOC environment variable to determine the mechanism used for memory and paging space allocation. If the PSALLOC environment variable is not set, is set to null, or is set to any value other than early, the system uses the default late allocation algorithm.
The default late allocation algorithm for memory and paging space allocation assists in the efficient use of disk resources and supports applications of customers who wish to take advantage of a sparse allocation algorithm for resource management. The late allocation algorithm does not reserve paging space when a memory request is made; it approves the request and assigns paging space when pages are touched. Some programs allocate large amounts of virtual memory and then use only a fraction of the memory. Examples of such programs are technical applications that use sparse vectors or matrices as data structures. The late allocation algorithm is also more efficient for a real-time, demand-paged kernel such as the one in the operating system.
For AIX 4.3.2 and later, the late allocation algorithm is modified to further delay the allocation of paging space. As mentioned above, before AIX 4.3.2, paging space was allocated when a page was touched. However, this paging space might never be used, especially on systems with large real memory where paging is rare. Therefore, the allocation of paging space is delayed until it is necessary to page out the page, which results in no wasted paging space allocation. This does result, however, in additional overcommitment of paging space. On a system where enough virtual memory is accessed that paging is necessary, the amount of paging space required can be as much as was required on previous releases.
It is possible to overcommit resources when using the late allocation algorithm for paging space allocation. In this case, when one process gets the resource before another, a failure results. The operating system attempts to avoid complete system failure by killing processes affected by the resource overcommitment. The SIGDANGER signal is sent to notify processes that the amount of free paging space is low. If the paging space situation reaches an even more critical state, selected processes that did not receive the SIGDANGER signal are sent a SIGKILL signal.
The user can use the PSALLOC environment variable to switch to an early allocation algorithm for memory and paging space allocation. The early allocation mechanism allocates paging space for the executing process at the time the memory is requested. If there is insufficient paging space available at the time of the request, the early allocation mechanism fails the memory request.
If the PSALLOC environment variable is set to early, then every program started in that environment from that point on, but not including currently running processes, runs in the early allocation environment. In the early allocation environment, interfaces such as the malloc subroutine and the brk subroutine will fail if sufficient paging space cannot be reserved when the request is made.
Processes run in the early allocation environment mode are not sent the SIGKILL signal if a low paging space condition occur.
The following memory allocation interface subroutines are affected by a switch to an early allocation environment:
The following examples show the different ways a user can set the PSALLOC environment variable to early so that applications run in early allocation mode. The examples also explain the results of each method.
causes all subsequent commands run from that shell session to run in early allocation mode.
causes all processes in the user's login session, with the exception of the login shell, to run under early allocation mode. This command also protects the processes from the SIGKILL signal mechanism.
causes all processes in the system, except the init process (process ID 1) to run in the early allocation mode and be protected from the SIGKILL signal mechanism.
The early allocation algorithm guarantees as much paging space as requested by a memory allocation request. Thus, correct paging space allocation on the system disk is important for efficient operations. When available paging space drops below a certain threshold, new processes cannot be started and currently running processes might not be able to get more memory. Any processes running under the default late allocation mode become highly vulnerable to the SIGKILL signal mechanism. In addition, because the operating system kernel sometimes requires memory allocation, it is possible to crash the system by using up all available paging space.
Before you use the early allocation mode throughout the system, it is very important to define an adequate amount of paging space for the system. The paging space required for early allocation mode is almost always greater than the paging space required for the default late allocation mode. How much paging space to define depends on how your system is used and what programs you run. A good starting point for determining the right mix for your system is to define a paging space four times greater than the amount of physical memory.
Certain applications can use extreme amounts of paging space if they are run in early allocation mode. The AIXwindows server currently requires more than 250 MB of paging space when the application runs in early allocation mode. The paging space required for any application depends on how the application is written and how it is run.
All commands and subroutines that show paging space and process memory use include paging space allocated under early allocation mode. The lsps command uses the -s flag to display total paging space allocation, including paging space allocated under early allocation mode.
The programming interface that controls the paging space allocation mode uses the PSALLOC environment variable. To ensure that an application always runs under the desired mode (with or without early paging space allocation), do the following: