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[Xen-devel] [PATCH v9] Some automatic NUMA placement documentation

About rationale, usage and (some small bits of) API.

Signed-off-by: Dario Faggioli <dario.faggioli@xxxxxxxxxx>
Acked-by: Ian Campbell <ian.campbell@xxxxxxxxxx>

Changes from v8:
 * reworded the last sentence.

Changes from v7:
 * avoid referring to 4.2 release as "upcoming".
 * libxl placement disabling key explicitly mentioned.
 * Limit of max 16 NUMA nodes explicitly mentioned.

Changes from v6:
 * text updated to reflect the modified behaviour.
 * Lines wrapped to a smaller column number.

Changes from v5:
 * text updated to reflect the modified behaviour.

Changes from v3:
 * typos and rewording of some sentences, as suggested during review.

Changes from v1:
 * API documentation moved close to the actual functions.

diff --git a/docs/misc/xl-numa-placement.markdown 
new file mode 100644
--- /dev/null
+++ b/docs/misc/xl-numa-placement.markdown
@@ -0,0 +1,111 @@
+# Guest Automatic NUMA Placement in libxl and xl #
+## Rationale ##
+NUMA (which stands for Non-Uniform Memory Access) means that the memory
+accessing times of a program running on a CPU depends on the relative
+distance between that CPU and that memory. In fact, most of the NUMA
+systems are built in such a way that each processor has its local memory,
+on which it can operate very fast. On the other hand, getting and storing
+data from and on remote memory (that is, memory local to some other processor)
+is quite more complex and slow. On these machines, a NUMA node is usually
+defined as a set of processor cores (typically a physical CPU package) and
+the memory directly attached to the set of cores.
+The Xen hypervisor deals with NUMA machines by assigning to each domain
+a "node affinity", i.e., a set of NUMA nodes of the host from which they
+get their memory allocated.
+NUMA awareness becomes very important as soon as many domains start
+running memory-intensive workloads on a shared host. In fact, the cost
+of accessing non node-local memory locations is very high, and the
+performance degradation is likely to be noticeable.
+## Guest Placement in xl ##
+If using xl for creating and managing guests, it is very easy to ask for
+both manual or automatic placement of them across the host's NUMA nodes.
+Note that xm/xend does the very same thing, the only differences residing
+in the details of the heuristics adopted for the placement (see below).
+### Manual Guest Placement with xl ###
+Thanks to the "cpus=" option, it is possible to specify where a domain
+should be created and scheduled on, directly in its config file. This
+affects NUMA placement and memory accesses as the hypervisor constructs
+the node affinity of a VM basing right on its CPU affinity when it is
+This is very simple and effective, but requires the user/system
+administrator to explicitly specify affinities for each and every domain,
+or Xen won't be able to guarantee the locality for their memory accesses.
+It is also possible to deal with NUMA by partitioning the system using
+cpupools. Again, this could be "The Right Answer" for many needs and
+occasions, but has to be carefully considered and setup by hand.
+### Automatic Guest Placement with xl ###
+If no "cpus=" option is specified in the config file, libxl tries
+to figure out on its own on which node(s) the domain could fit best.
+It is worthwhile noting that optimally fitting a set of VMs on the NUMA
+nodes of an host is an incarnation of the Bin Packing Problem. In fact,
+the various VMs with different memory sizes are the items to be packed,
+and the host nodes are the bins. As such problem is known to be NP-hard,
+we will be using some heuristics.
+The first thing to do is find the nodes or the sets of nodes (from now
+on referred to as 'candidates') that have enough free memory and enough
+physical CPUs for accommodating the new domain. The idea is to find a
+spot for the domain with at least as much free memory as it has configured
+to have, and as much pCPUs as it has vCPUs.  After that, the actual
+decision on which candidate to pick happens accordingly to the following
+  *  candidates involving fewer nodes are considered better. In case
+     two (or more) candidates span the same number of nodes,
+  *  candidates with a smaller number of vCPUs runnable on them (due
+     to previous placement and/or plain vCPU pinning) are considered
+     better. In case the same number of vCPUs can run on two (or more)
+     candidates,
+  *  the candidate with with the greatest amount of free memory is
+     considered to be the best one.
+Giving preference to candidates with fewer nodes ensures better
+performance for the guest, as it avoid spreading its memory among
+different nodes. Favoring candidates with fewer vCPUs already runnable
+there ensures a good balance of the overall host load. Finally, if more
+candidates fulfil these criteria, prioritizing the nodes that have the
+largest amounts of free memory helps keeping the memory fragmentation
+small, and maximizes the probability of being able to put more domains
+## Guest Placement within libxl ##
+xl achieves automatic NUMA placement because that is what libxl does
+by default. No API is provided (yet) for modifying the behaviour of
+the placement algorithm. However, if your program is calling libxl,
+it is possible to set the `numa_placement` build info key to `false`
+(it is `true` by default) with something like the below, to prevent
+any placement from happening:
+    libxl_defbool_set(&domain_build_info->numa_placement, false);
+Also, if `numa_placement` is set to `true`, the domain must not
+have any cpu affinity (i.e., `domain_build_info->cpumap` must
+have all its bits set, as it is by default), or domain creation
+will fail returning `ERROR_INVAL`.
+Besides than that, looking and/or tweaking the placement algorithm
+search "Automatic NUMA placement" in libxl\_internal.h.
+Note this may change in future versions of Xen/libxl.
+## Limitations ##
+Analyzing various possible placement solutions is what makes the
+algorithm flexible and quite effective. However, that also means
+it won't scale well to systems with arbitrary number of nodes.
+For this reason, automatic placement is disabled (with a warning)
+if it is requested on a host with more than 16 NUMA nodes.

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