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.. _admin_guide_memory_hotplug:
Memory Hot(Un)Plug
This document describes generic Linux support for memory hot(un)plug with
a focus on System RAM, including ZONE_MOVABLE support.
.. contents:: :local:
Memory hot(un)plug allows for increasing and decreasing the size of physical
memory available to a machine at runtime. In the simplest case, it consists of
physically plugging or unplugging a DIMM at runtime, coordinated with the
operating system.
Memory hot(un)plug is used for various purposes:
- The physical memory available to a machine can be adjusted at runtime, up- or
downgrading the memory capacity. This dynamic memory resizing, sometimes
referred to as "capacity on demand", is frequently used with virtual machines
and logical partitions.
- Replacing hardware, such as DIMMs or whole NUMA nodes, without downtime. One
example is replacing failing memory modules.
- Reducing energy consumption either by physically unplugging memory modules or
by logically unplugging (parts of) memory modules from Linux.
Further, the basic memory hot(un)plug infrastructure in Linux is nowadays also
used to expose persistent memory, other performance-differentiated memory and
reserved memory regions as ordinary system RAM to Linux.
Linux only supports memory hot(un)plug on selected 64 bit architectures, such as
x86_64, arm64, ppc64, s390x and ia64.
Memory Hot(Un)Plug Granularity
Memory hot(un)plug in Linux uses the SPARSEMEM memory model, which divides the
physical memory address space into chunks of the same size: memory sections. The
size of a memory section is architecture dependent. For example, x86_64 uses
128 MiB and ppc64 uses 16 MiB.
Memory sections are combined into chunks referred to as "memory blocks". The
size of a memory block is architecture dependent and corresponds to the smallest
granularity that can be hot(un)plugged. The default size of a memory block is
the same as memory section size, unless an architecture specifies otherwise.
All memory blocks have the same size.
Phases of Memory Hotplug
Memory hotplug consists of two phases:
(1) Adding the memory to Linux
(2) Onlining memory blocks
In the first phase, metadata, such as the memory map ("memmap") and page tables
for the direct mapping, is allocated and initialized, and memory blocks are
created; the latter also creates sysfs files for managing newly created memory
In the second phase, added memory is exposed to the page allocator. After this
phase, the memory is visible in memory statistics, such as free and total
memory, of the system.
Phases of Memory Hotunplug
Memory hotunplug consists of two phases:
(1) Offlining memory blocks
(2) Removing the memory from Linux
In the fist phase, memory is "hidden" from the page allocator again, for
example, by migrating busy memory to other memory locations and removing all
relevant free pages from the page allocator After this phase, the memory is no
longer visible in memory statistics of the system.
In the second phase, the memory blocks are removed and metadata is freed.
Memory Hotplug Notifications
There are various ways how Linux is notified about memory hotplug events such
that it can start adding hotplugged memory. This description is limited to
systems that support ACPI; mechanisms specific to other firmware interfaces or
virtual machines are not described.
ACPI Notifications
Platforms that support ACPI, such as x86_64, can support memory hotplug
notifications via ACPI.
In general, a firmware supporting memory hotplug defines a memory class object
HID "PNP0C80". When notified about hotplug of a new memory device, the ACPI
driver will hotplug the memory to Linux.
If the firmware supports hotplug of NUMA nodes, it defines an object _HID
"ACPI0004", "PNP0A05", or "PNP0A06". When notified about an hotplug event, all
assigned memory devices are added to Linux by the ACPI driver.
Similarly, Linux can be notified about requests to hotunplug a memory device or
a NUMA node via ACPI. The ACPI driver will try offlining all relevant memory
blocks, and, if successful, hotunplug the memory from Linux.
Manual Probing
On some architectures, the firmware may not be able to notify the operating
system about a memory hotplug event. Instead, the memory has to be manually
probed from user space.
The probe interface is located at::
Only complete memory blocks can be probed. Individual memory blocks are probed
by providing the physical start address of the memory block::
% echo addr > /sys/devices/system/memory/probe
Which results in a memory block for the range [addr, addr + memory_block_size)
being created.
.. note::
Using the probe interface is discouraged as it is easy to crash the kernel,
because Linux cannot validate user input; this interface might be removed in
the future.
Onlining and Offlining Memory Blocks
After a memory block has been created, Linux has to be instructed to actually
make use of that memory: the memory block has to be "online".
Before a memory block can be removed, Linux has to stop using any memory part of
the memory block: the memory block has to be "offlined".
The Linux kernel can be configured to automatically online added memory blocks
and drivers automatically trigger offlining of memory blocks when trying
hotunplug of memory. Memory blocks can only be removed once offlining succeeded
and drivers may trigger offlining of memory blocks when attempting hotunplug of
Onlining Memory Blocks Manually
If auto-onlining of memory blocks isn't enabled, user-space has to manually
trigger onlining of memory blocks. Often, udev rules are used to automate this
task in user space.
Onlining of a memory block can be triggered via::
% echo online > /sys/devices/system/memory/memoryXXX/state
Or alternatively::
% echo 1 > /sys/devices/system/memory/memoryXXX/online
The kernel will select the target zone automatically, depending on the
configured ``online_policy``.
One can explicitly request to associate an offline memory block with
% echo online_movable > /sys/devices/system/memory/memoryXXX/state
Or one can explicitly request a kernel zone (usually ZONE_NORMAL) by::
% echo online_kernel > /sys/devices/system/memory/memoryXXX/state
In any case, if onlining succeeds, the state of the memory block is changed to
be "online". If it fails, the state of the memory block will remain unchanged
and the above commands will fail.
Onlining Memory Blocks Automatically
The kernel can be configured to try auto-onlining of newly added memory blocks.
If this feature is disabled, the memory blocks will stay offline until
explicitly onlined from user space.
The configured auto-online behavior can be observed via::
% cat /sys/devices/system/memory/auto_online_blocks
Auto-onlining can be enabled by writing ``online``, ``online_kernel`` or
``online_movable`` to that file, like::
% echo online > /sys/devices/system/memory/auto_online_blocks
Similarly to manual onlining, with ``online`` the kernel will select the
target zone automatically, depending on the configured ``online_policy``.
Modifying the auto-online behavior will only affect all subsequently added
memory blocks only.
.. note::
In corner cases, auto-onlining can fail. The kernel won't retry. Note that
auto-onlining is not expected to fail in default configurations.
.. note::
DLPAR on ppc64 ignores the ``offline`` setting and will still online added
memory blocks; if onlining fails, memory blocks are removed again.
Offlining Memory Blocks
In the current implementation, Linux's memory offlining will try migrating all
movable pages off the affected memory block. As most kernel allocations, such as
page tables, are unmovable, page migration can fail and, therefore, inhibit
memory offlining from succeeding.
Having the memory provided by memory block managed by ZONE_MOVABLE significantly
increases memory offlining reliability; still, memory offlining can fail in
some corner cases.
Further, memory offlining might retry for a long time (or even forever), until
aborted by the user.
Offlining of a memory block can be triggered via::
% echo offline > /sys/devices/system/memory/memoryXXX/state
Or alternatively::
% echo 0 > /sys/devices/system/memory/memoryXXX/online
If offlining succeeds, the state of the memory block is changed to be "offline".
If it fails, the state of the memory block will remain unchanged and the above
commands will fail, for example, via::
bash: echo: write error: Device or resource busy
or via::
bash: echo: write error: Invalid argument
Observing the State of Memory Blocks
The state (online/offline/going-offline) of a memory block can be observed
either via::
% cat /sys/device/system/memory/memoryXXX/state
Or alternatively (1/0) via::
% cat /sys/device/system/memory/memoryXXX/online
For an online memory block, the managing zone can be observed via::
% cat /sys/device/system/memory/memoryXXX/valid_zones
Configuring Memory Hot(Un)Plug
There are various ways how system administrators can configure memory
hot(un)plug and interact with memory blocks, especially, to online them.
Memory Hot(Un)Plug Configuration via Sysfs
Some memory hot(un)plug properties can be configured or inspected via sysfs in::
The following files are currently defined:
====================== =========================================================
``auto_online_blocks`` read-write: set or get the default state of new memory
blocks; configure auto-onlining.
The default value depends on the
See the ``state`` property of memory blocks for details.
``block_size_bytes`` read-only: the size in bytes of a memory block.
``probe`` write-only: add (probe) selected memory blocks manually
from user space by supplying the physical start address.
Availability depends on the CONFIG_ARCH_MEMORY_PROBE
kernel configuration option.
``uevent`` read-write: generic udev file for device subsystems.
====================== =========================================================
.. note::
When the CONFIG_MEMORY_FAILURE kernel configuration option is enabled, two
additional files ``hard_offline_page`` and ``soft_offline_page`` are available
to trigger hwpoisoning of pages, for example, for testing purposes. Note that
this functionality is not really related to memory hot(un)plug or actual
offlining of memory blocks.
Memory Block Configuration via Sysfs
Each memory block is represented as a memory block device that can be
onlined or offlined. All memory blocks have their device information located in
sysfs. Each present memory block is listed under
``/sys/devices/system/memory`` as::
where XXX is the memory block id; the number of digits is variable.
A present memory block indicates that some memory in the range is present;
however, a memory block might span memory holes. A memory block spanning memory
holes cannot be offlined.
For example, assume 1 GiB memory block size. A device for a memory starting at
0x100000000 is ``/sys/device/system/memory/memory4``::
(0x100000000 / 1Gib = 4)
This device covers address range [0x100000000 ... 0x140000000)
The following files are currently defined:
=================== ============================================================
``online`` read-write: simplified interface to trigger onlining /
offlining and to observe the state of a memory block.
When onlining, the zone is selected automatically.
``phys_device`` read-only: legacy interface only ever used on s390x to
expose the covered storage increment.
``phys_index`` read-only: the memory block id (XXX).
``removable`` read-only: legacy interface that indicated whether a memory
block was likely to be offlineable or not. Nowadays, the
kernel return ``1`` if and only if it supports memory
``state`` read-write: advanced interface to trigger onlining /
offlining and to observe the state of a memory block.
When writing, ``online``, ``offline``, ``online_kernel`` and
``online_movable`` are supported.
``online_movable`` specifies onlining to ZONE_MOVABLE.
``online_kernel`` specifies onlining to the default kernel
zone for the memory block, such as ZONE_NORMAL.
``online`` let's the kernel select the zone automatically.
When reading, ``online``, ``offline`` and ``going-offline``
may be returned.
``uevent`` read-write: generic uevent file for devices.
``valid_zones`` read-only: when a block is online, shows the zone it
belongs to; when a block is offline, shows what zone will
manage it when the block will be onlined.
For online memory blocks, ``DMA``, ``DMA32``, ``Normal``,
``Movable`` and ``none`` may be returned. ``none`` indicates
that memory provided by a memory block is managed by
multiple zones or spans multiple nodes; such memory blocks
cannot be offlined. ``Movable`` indicates ZONE_MOVABLE.
Other values indicate a kernel zone.
For offline memory blocks, the first column shows the
zone the kernel would select when onlining the memory block
right now without further specifying a zone.
Availability depends on the CONFIG_MEMORY_HOTREMOVE
kernel configuration option.
=================== ============================================================
.. note::
If the CONFIG_NUMA kernel configuration option is enabled, the memoryXXX/
directories can also be accessed via symbolic links located in the
``/sys/devices/system/node/node*`` directories.
For example::
/sys/devices/system/node/node0/memory9 -> ../../memory/memory9
A backlink will also be created::
/sys/devices/system/memory/memory9/node0 -> ../../node/node0
Command Line Parameters
Some command line parameters affect memory hot(un)plug handling. The following
command line parameters are relevant:
======================== =======================================================
``memhp_default_state`` configure auto-onlining by essentially setting
``movable_node`` configure automatic zone selection in the kernel when
using the ``contig-zones`` online policy. When
set, the kernel will default to ZONE_MOVABLE when
onlining a memory block, unless other zones can be kept
======================== =======================================================
See Documentation/admin-guide/kernel-parameters.txt for a more generic
description of these command line parameters.
Module Parameters
Instead of additional command line parameters or sysfs files, the
``memory_hotplug`` subsystem now provides a dedicated namespace for module
parameters. Module parameters can be set via the command line by predicating
them with ``memory_hotplug.`` such as::
and they can be observed (and some even modified at runtime) via::
The following module parameters are currently defined:
================================ ===============================================
``memmap_on_memory`` read-write: Allocate memory for the memmap from
the added memory block itself. Even if enabled,
actual support depends on various other system
properties and should only be regarded as a
hint whether the behavior would be desired.
While allocating the memmap from the memory
block itself makes memory hotplug less likely
to fail and keeps the memmap on the same NUMA
node in any case, it can fragment physical
memory in a way that huge pages in bigger
granularity cannot be formed on hotplugged
``online_policy`` read-write: Set the basic policy used for
automatic zone selection when onlining memory
blocks without specifying a target zone.
``contig-zones`` has been the kernel default
before this parameter was added. After an
online policy was configured and memory was
online, the policy should not be changed
When set to ``contig-zones``, the kernel will
try keeping zones contiguous. If a memory block
intersects multiple zones or no zone, the
behavior depends on the ``movable_node`` kernel
command line parameter: default to ZONE_MOVABLE
if set, default to the applicable kernel zone
(usually ZONE_NORMAL) if not set.
When set to ``auto-movable``, the kernel will
try onlining memory blocks to ZONE_MOVABLE if
possible according to the configuration and
memory device details. With this policy, one
can avoid zone imbalances when eventually
hotplugging a lot of memory later and still
wanting to be able to hotunplug as much as
possible reliably, very desirable in
virtualized environments. This policy ignores
the ``movable_node`` kernel command line
parameter and isn't really applicable in
environments that require it (e.g., bare metal
with hotunpluggable nodes) where hotplugged
memory might be exposed via the
firmware-provided memory map early during boot
to the system instead of getting detected,
added and onlined later during boot (such as
done by virtio-mem or by some hypervisors
implementing emulated DIMMs). As one example, a
hotplugged DIMM will be onlined either
completely to ZONE_MOVABLE or completely to
ZONE_NORMAL, not a mixture.
As another example, as many memory blocks
belonging to a virtio-mem device will be
onlined to ZONE_MOVABLE as possible,
special-casing units of memory blocks that can
only get hotunplugged together. *This policy
does not protect from setups that are
problematic with ZONE_MOVABLE and does not
change the zone of memory blocks dynamically
after they were onlined.*
``auto_movable_ratio`` read-write: Set the maximum MOVABLE:KERNEL
memory ratio in % for the ``auto-movable``
online policy. Whether the ratio applies only
for the system across all NUMA nodes or also
per NUMA nodes depends on the
``auto_movable_numa_aware`` configuration.
All accounting is based on present memory pages
in the zones combined with accounting per
memory device. Memory dedicated to the CMA
allocator is accounted as MOVABLE, although
residing on one of the kernel zones. The
possible ratio depends on the actual workload.
The kernel default is "301" %, for example,
allowing for hotplugging 24 GiB to a 8 GiB VM
and automatically onlining all hotplugged
memory to ZONE_MOVABLE in many setups. The
additional 1% deals with some pages being not
present, for example, because of some firmware
Note that ZONE_NORMAL memory provided by one
memory device does not allow for more
ZONE_MOVABLE memory for a different memory
device. As one example, onlining memory of a
hotplugged DIMM to ZONE_NORMAL will not allow
for another hotplugged DIMM to get onlined to
ZONE_MOVABLE automatically. In contrast, memory
hotplugged by a virtio-mem device that got
onlined to ZONE_NORMAL will allow for more
ZONE_MOVABLE memory within *the same*
virtio-mem device.
``auto_movable_numa_aware`` read-write: Configure whether the
``auto_movable_ratio`` in the ``auto-movable``
online policy also applies per NUMA
node in addition to the whole system across all
NUMA nodes. The kernel default is "Y".
Disabling NUMA awareness can be helpful when
dealing with NUMA nodes that should be
completely hotunpluggable, onlining the memory
completely to ZONE_MOVABLE automatically if
Parameter availability depends on CONFIG_NUMA.
================================ ===============================================
ZONE_MOVABLE is an important mechanism for more reliable memory offlining.
Further, having system RAM managed by ZONE_MOVABLE instead of one of the
kernel zones can increase the number of possible transparent huge pages and
dynamically allocated huge pages.
Most kernel allocations are unmovable. Important examples include the memory
map (usually 1/64ths of memory), page tables, and kmalloc(). Such allocations
can only be served from the kernel zones.
Most user space pages, such as anonymous memory, and page cache pages are
movable. Such allocations can be served from ZONE_MOVABLE and the kernel zones.
Only movable allocations are served from ZONE_MOVABLE, resulting in unmovable
allocations being limited to the kernel zones. Without ZONE_MOVABLE, there is
absolutely no guarantee whether a memory block can be offlined successfully.
Zone Imbalances
Having too much system RAM managed by ZONE_MOVABLE is called a zone imbalance,
which can harm the system or degrade performance. As one example, the kernel
might crash because it runs out of free memory for unmovable allocations,
although there is still plenty of free memory left in ZONE_MOVABLE.
Usually, MOVABLE:KERNEL ratios of up to 3:1 or even 4:1 are fine. Ratios of 63:1
are definitely impossible due to the overhead for the memory map.
Actual safe zone ratios depend on the workload. Extreme cases, like excessive
long-term pinning of pages, might not be able to deal with ZONE_MOVABLE at all.
.. note::
CMA memory part of a kernel zone essentially behaves like memory in
ZONE_MOVABLE and similar considerations apply, especially when combining
ZONE_MOVABLE Sizing Considerations
We usually expect that a large portion of available system RAM will actually
be consumed by user space, either directly or indirectly via the page cache. In
the normal case, ZONE_MOVABLE can be used when allocating such pages just fine.
With that in mind, it makes sense that we can have a big portion of system RAM
managed by ZONE_MOVABLE. However, there are some things to consider when using
ZONE_MOVABLE, especially when fine-tuning zone ratios:
- Having a lot of offline memory blocks. Even offline memory blocks consume
memory for metadata and page tables in the direct map; having a lot of offline
memory blocks is not a typical case, though.
- Memory ballooning without balloon compaction is incompatible with
ZONE_MOVABLE. Only some implementations, such as virtio-balloon and
pseries CMM, fully support balloon compaction.
Further, the CONFIG_BALLOON_COMPACTION kernel configuration option might be
disabled. In that case, balloon inflation will only perform unmovable
allocations and silently create a zone imbalance, usually triggered by
inflation requests from the hypervisor.
- Gigantic pages are unmovable, resulting in user space consuming a
lot of unmovable memory.
- Huge pages are unmovable when an architectures does not support huge
page migration, resulting in a similar issue as with gigantic pages.
- Page tables are unmovable. Excessive swapping, mapping extremely large
files or ZONE_DEVICE memory can be problematic, although only really relevant
in corner cases. When we manage a lot of user space memory that has been
swapped out or is served from a file/persistent memory/... we still need a lot
of page tables to manage that memory once user space accessed that memory.
- In certain DAX configurations the memory map for the device memory will be
allocated from the kernel zones.
- KASAN can have a significant memory overhead, for example, consuming 1/8th of
the total system memory size as (unmovable) tracking metadata.
- Long-term pinning of pages. Techniques that rely on long-term pinnings
(especially, RDMA and vfio/mdev) are fundamentally problematic with
ZONE_MOVABLE, and therefore, memory offlining. Pinned pages cannot reside
on ZONE_MOVABLE as that would turn these pages unmovable. Therefore, they
have to be migrated off that zone while pinning. Pinning a page can fail
even if there is plenty of free memory in ZONE_MOVABLE.
In addition, using ZONE_MOVABLE might make page pinning more expensive,
because of the page migration overhead.
By default, all the memory configured at boot time is managed by the kernel
zones and ZONE_MOVABLE is not used.
To enable ZONE_MOVABLE to include the memory present at boot and to control the
ratio between movable and kernel zones there are two command line options:
``kernelcore=`` and ``movablecore=``. See
Documentation/admin-guide/kernel-parameters.rst for their description.
Memory Offlining and ZONE_MOVABLE
Even with ZONE_MOVABLE, there are some corner cases where offlining a memory
block might fail:
- Memory blocks with memory holes; this applies to memory blocks present during
boot and can apply to memory blocks hotplugged via the XEN balloon and the
Hyper-V balloon.
- Mixed NUMA nodes and mixed zones within a single memory block prevent memory
offlining; this applies to memory blocks present during boot only.
- Special memory blocks prevented by the system from getting offlined. Examples
include any memory available during boot on arm64 or memory blocks spanning
the crashkernel area on s390x; this usually applies to memory blocks present
during boot only.
- Memory blocks overlapping with CMA areas cannot be offlined, this applies to
memory blocks present during boot only.
- Concurrent activity that operates on the same physical memory area, such as
allocating gigantic pages, can result in temporary offlining failures.
- Out of memory when dissolving huge pages, especially when freeing unused
vmemmap pages associated with each hugetlb page is enabled.
Offlining code may be able to migrate huge page contents, but may not be able
to dissolve the source huge page because it fails allocating (unmovable) pages
for the vmemmap, because the system might not have free memory in the kernel
zones left.
Users that depend on memory offlining to succeed for movable zones should
carefully consider whether the memory savings gained from this feature are
worth the risk of possibly not being able to offline memory in certain
Further, when running into out of memory situations while migrating pages, or
when still encountering permanently unmovable pages within ZONE_MOVABLE
(-> BUG), memory offlining will keep retrying until it eventually succeeds.
When offlining is triggered from user space, the offlining context can be
terminated by sending a fatal signal. A timeout based offlining can easily be
implemented via::
% timeout $TIMEOUT offline_block | failure_handling