Linker performance related to swap space?

I am able to reproduce this on an Ubuntu 10.10 system (GNU ld (GNU Binutils for Ubuntu) 2.20.51-system.20100908), and I think I have your answer. First, some methodology.

After confirming this happens to me in a small VM (512MB ram, 2GB swap), from here I decided the easiest thing to do would be to strace gcc and see what exactly was going on when everything went to hell:

~# strace -f gcc swap.c

It illuminated the following:

vfork()                                 = 3589
[pid  3589] execve("/usr/lib/gcc/x86_64-linux-gnu/4.4.5/collect2", ["/usr/lib/gcc/x86_64-linux-gnu/4."..., "--build-id", "--eh-frame-hdr", "-m", "elf_x86_64", "--hash-style=gnu", "-dynamic-linker", "/lib64/", "-o", "swap", "-z", "relro", "/usr/lib/gcc/x86_64-linux-gnu/4."..., "/usr/lib/gcc/x86_64-linux-gnu/4."..., "/usr/lib/gcc/x86_64-linux-gnu/4."..., "-L/usr/lib/gcc/x86_64-linux-gnu/"..., ...], [/* 26 vars */]) = 0


[pid  3589] vfork()                     = 3590


[pid  3590] execve("/usr/bin/ld", ["/usr/bin/ld", "--build-id", "--eh-frame-hdr", "-m", "elf_x86_64", "--hash-style=gnu", "-dynamic-linker", "/lib64/", "-o", "swap", "-z", "relro", "/usr/lib/gcc/x86_64-linux-gnu/4."..., "/usr/lib/gcc/x86_64-linux-gnu/4."..., "/usr/lib/gcc/x86_64-linux-gnu/4."..., "-L/usr/lib/gcc/x86_64-linux-gnu/"..., ...], [/* 27 vars */]) = 0     


[pid  3590] lseek(13, 4096, SEEK_SET)   = 4096
[pid  3590] read(13, ".\4@\0\0\0\0\0>\4@\0\0\0\0\0N\4@\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0"..., 4096) = 4096
[pid  3590] mmap(NULL, 1600004096, PROT_READ|PROT_WRITE, MAP_PRIVATE|MAP_ANONYMOUS, -1, 0) = 0x7f1771931000
<system comes to screeching halt>

It would appear that, as we might have suspected, it looks like ld is actually trying to anonymously mmap the entire static memory space of this array (or possibly the entire program, it’s hard to tell since the rest of the program is so small, it might all fit in that extra 4096).

So that’s all well and good, but why does it work when we exceed the available swap on the system? Let’s turn swapoff and run strace -f again…

[pid  3618] lseek(13, 4096, SEEK_SET)   = 4096
[pid  3618] read(13, ".\4@\0\0\0\0\0>\4@\0\0\0\0\0N\4@\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0"..., 4096) = 4096
[pid  3618] mmap(NULL, 1600004096, PROT_READ|PROT_WRITE, MAP_PRIVATE|MAP_ANONYMOUS, -1, 0) = -1 ENOMEM (Cannot allocate memory)
[pid  3618] brk(0x60638000)             = 0x1046000
[pid  3618] mmap(NULL, 1600135168, PROT_READ|PROT_WRITE, MAP_PRIVATE|MAP_ANONYMOUS, -1, 0) = -1 ENOMEM (Cannot allocate memory)
[pid  3618] mmap(NULL, 134217728, PROT_NONE, MAP_PRIVATE|MAP_ANONYMOUS|MAP_NORESERVE, -1, 0) = 0x7fd011864000


Unsurprisingly, ld seems to do the same thing it tried last time, to mmap the entire space. but the system is no longer able to do that, it fails! ld tries again, and it fails again, then ld does something unexpected… it moves on with less memory.

Weird, I guess we’d better have a look at the ld code then. Drat, it doesn’t do an explicit mmap. This must be coming from inside of a plain old malloc. We’ll have to build ld with some debug symbols to track this down. Unfortunately, when I built bin-utils 2.21.1 the problem went away. Perhap it’s been fixed in newer versions of bin-utils?

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