What huge pages do

Memory is managed in blocks known as pages. On most systems, a page is 4Ki. 1Mi of memory is equal to 256 pages; 1Gi of memory is 256,000 pages, and so on. CPUs have a built-in memory management unit that manages a list of these pages in hardware. The Translation Lookaside Buffer (TLB) is a small hardware cache of virtual-to-physical page mappings. If the virtual address passed in a hardware instruction can be found in the TLB, the mapping can be determined quickly. If not, a TLB miss occurs, and the system falls back to slower, software-based address translation, resulting in performance issues. Since the size of the TLB is fixed, the only way to reduce the chance of a TLB miss is to increase the page size.

A huge page is a memory page that is larger than 4Ki. On x86_64 architectures, there are two common huge page sizes: 2Mi and 1Gi. Sizes vary on other architectures. In order to use huge pages, code must be written so that applications are aware of them. Transparent Huge Pages (THP) attempt to automate the management of huge pages without application knowledge, but they have limitations. In particular, they are limited to 2Mi page sizes. THP can lead to performance degradation on nodes with high memory utilization or fragmentation due to defragmenting efforts of THP, which can lock memory pages. For this reason, some applications may be designed to (or recommend) usage of pre-allocated huge pages instead of THP.

In OpenShift Container Platform, applications in a pod can allocate and consume pre-allocated huge pages.

How huge pages are consumed by apps

Nodes must pre-allocate huge pages in order for the node to report its huge page capacity. A node can only pre-allocate huge pages for a single size.

Huge pages can be consumed through container-level resource requirements using the resource name hugepages-<size>, where size is the most compact binary notation using integer values supported on a particular node. For example, if a node supports 2048KiB page sizes, it exposes a schedulable resource hugepages-2Mi. Unlike CPU or memory, huge pages do not support over-commitment.

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
  generateName: hugepages-volume-
  - securityContext:
      privileged: true
    image: rhel7:latest
    - sleep
    - inf
    name: example
    - mountPath: /dev/hugepages
      name: hugepage
        hugepages-2Mi: 100Mi (1)
        memory: "1Gi"
        cpu: "1"
  - name: hugepage
      medium: HugePages
1 Specify the amount of memory for hugepages as the exact amount to be allocated. Do not specify this value as the amount of memory for hugepages multiplied by the size of the page. For example, given a huge page size of 2MB, if you want to use 100MB of huge-page-backed RAM for your application, then you would allocate 50 huge pages. OpenShift Container Platform handles the math for you. As in the above example, you can specify 100MB directly.

Allocating huge pages of a specific size

Some platforms support multiple huge page sizes. To allocate huge pages of a specific size, precede the huge pages boot command parameters with a huge page size selection parameter hugepagesz=<size>. The <size> value must be specified in bytes with an optional scale suffix [kKmMgG]. The default huge page size can be defined with the default_hugepagesz=<size> boot parameter.

Huge page requirements

  • Huge page requests must equal the limits. This is the default if limits are specified, but requests are not.

  • Huge pages are isolated at a pod scope. Container isolation is planned in a future iteration.

  • EmptyDir volumes backed by huge pages must not consume more huge page memory than the pod request.

  • Applications that consume huge pages via shmget() with SHM_HUGETLB must run with a supplemental group that matches proc/sys/vm/hugetlb_shm_group.

Additional resources

Configuring huge pages

Nodes must pre-allocate huge pages used in an OpenShift Container Platform cluster. Use the Node Tuning Operator to allocate huge pages on a specific node.

  1. Label the node so that the Node Tuning Operator knows on which node to apply the tuned profile, which describes how many huge pages should be allocated:

    $ oc label node <node_using_hugepages> hugepages=true
  2. Create a file with the following content and name it hugepages_tuning.yaml:

    apiVersion: tuned.openshift.io/v1
    kind: Tuned
      name: hugepages (1)
      namespace: openshift-cluster-node-tuning-operator
      profile: (2)
      - data: |
          summary=Configuration for hugepages
        name: node-hugepages
      - match: (3)
        - label: hugepages
        priority: 30
        profile: node-hugepages
    1 Set the name parameter value to hugepages.
    2 Set the profile section to allocate huge pages.
    3 Set the match section to associate the profile to nodes with the hugepages label.
  3. Create the custom hugepages tuned profile by using the hugepages_tuning.yaml file:

    $ oc create -f hugepages_tuning.yaml
  4. After creating the profile, the Operator applies the new profile to the correct node and allocates huge pages. Check the logs of a tuned pod on a node using huge pages to verify:

    $ oc logs <tuned_pod_on_node_using_hugepages> \
        -n openshift-cluster-node-tuning-operator | grep 'applied$' | tail -n1
    2019-08-08 07:20:41,286 INFO     tuned.daemon.daemon: static tuning from profile 'node-hugepages' applied