šŸ’„Solving max_grant_frames under XEN

Posted by Cristian Livadaru on Tuesday, April 18, 2023

The issue

Looking at a XEN domU dmesg you might find log entries like this:

xen:grant_table: xen/grant-table: max_grant_frames reached cur=32 extra=1 limit=32 gnttab_free_count=1 req_entries=32

If you have these log entries it doesn’t mean that your VM will freeze but it sure isn’t a good sign and if your VM keeps on having load, then it will eventually freeze. The freeze itself looks weird, if you start top or htop there is nothing off, but the load still increases over 30 and keeps on going. Eventually, you won’t even manage to execute a touch test.txt, it will just freeze and all you can do is stop the VM and restart it.

How to check before it happens

You can run following command to see if any of your VM is reaching the max value

xen-diag gnttab_query_size 61

where 61 is the VM id

domid=61: nr_frames=24, max_nr_frames=32

here you can see that it uses 24 out of the maximum applied 32.

Fixing the issue.

As mentioned in this KB from SuSE Linux I/O to LUNs hang / stall under high load when using xen-blkfront | Support | SUSE it recommends

Increase the default “gnttab_max_frames” of “32” to a higher value by starting the Hypervisor (Dom0) with the kernel parameter “gnttab_max_frames=xxx”.

But for me this was already the case, so what’s going on? Well, as mentioned above you can check this value on a domU which means you can also set this setting for every domU! Further down in the KB article from SuSE, it’s also mentioned:

To change the value for guests add “max_grant_frames=xx” to their configuration file or add the entry to “/etc/xen/xl.conf” in order to set the default for guests without having “max_grant_frames” in their configuration.

So, let’s start fixing this issue with the dom0 and then continue with the domU in question. My described fix here is for Debian Linux!

dom0 settings

Edit /etc/default/grub and add a gnttab_max_frames setting, 256 was the recommended setting in the KB but it also contains some hints on how to calculate it. I will just stick with 256 for now.

GRUB_CMDLINE_XEN_DEFAULT="dom0_mem=2048Mlmax:2048M dom0_max_vcpus=6 dom0_vcpus_pin gnttab_max_frames=256"

Generate your grub configuration and reboot. This will fix the issue for the dom0 but as mentioned not for any VM running.

domU settings

This is as simple as editing the configuration for the VM and defining max_grant_frames='256' So for example having a VM configuration /etc/xen/database.cfg

vcpus       = '8'
memory      = '16384'
cpus="all,^0-3"
max_grant_frames='256'

stop and start the vm (reboot probably won’t do it) and check with xen-diag gnttab_query_size to confirm. Also after starting check dmesg to see if any further log entries are created.

Technical details

If you’re curious on what is happening under the hood, there is a details post from Damien, an XCP-NG developer explaining the Grant Table in Xen

Photo by Gareth Harrison on Unsplash