[Samba] Setting Samba Write Cache Size Can Cause File Corruption

Volker Lendecke Volker.Lendecke at SerNet.DE
Tue Sep 28 15:41:50 MDT 2010

On Tue, Sep 28, 2010 at 05:34:37PM -0400, Andy Liebman wrote:
> Back in June we had a thread going on this list about a problem we were 
> seeing in which Disk I/Os on a Linux server periodically dropped out for 
> a fraction of a second under very high Samba load  (high load = 100s of 
> MB/sec for both Read and Write).
> If you are interested in the details of the old thread, search the Samba 
> list for "Possible Issue with Samba Blocking I/O and CPU"
> Anyway, we came to the conclusion that using the Samba variable "write 
> cache size = 262144" could significantly reduce the incidence of these 
> I/O drop outs.  If we understand correctly,  this setting influences the 
> minimum amount of data that Samba will send to the filesystem in a given 
> write event.  We suspect setting this value (versus not setting it) can 
> provide a mechanism to help keep Samba writes aligned to the stripe size 
> and stripe width of a hardware RAID array and help reduce or eliminate 
> so-called "partial stripe writes".
> After months of successful testing and real-world use,  we believe we 
> found a situation in which setting the "write cache size" causes a 
> serious glitch.  Searching Google with the terms  "Samba 'write cache 
> size' file corruption"  yields a few prior cases of reported corruption, 
> one with a patch to Samba in October of 2002.  A couple of subsequent 
> reports seem to have remained unresolved.
> In our situation, when "write cache size" is set to 262144 and when a 
> certain non-linear video editing application imports still images and 
> saves them as a single video frame to a Samba share, under some 
> circumstances the file can get corrupted. At least that's what the 
> editing application says about the file. Most of the time, importing 
> works out just fine.  For all codecs tested -- ranging from 25 Mbit/sec 
> "DV25" to 100 Mbit/sec "DVC Pro HD" to uncompressed SD and HD  
> (respectively, about 28 and 160 MB/sec) -- imported still frame images 
> are fine when the video standard is NTSC.  But for PAL video (where each 
> frame is slightly larger in size, but the total MB/sec is slightly lower 
> due to 25 versus 29.97 frames per second) we found a couple of medium 
> data rate codecs where the imported still frames always get corrupted.  
> It is 100 percent reproducible.
> The problem doesn't seem to be the actual SIZE of the files.  In other 
> words, it's not like you pass some size threshold and then see the 
> problem, or even that there are particular file sizes that cause 
> problems.  You can import a still image as a DV25 PAL frame and get a 
> 641KB file and you can import the same still image as a DV50 NTSC frame 
> and also get a  641KB file and the PAL file is always corrupted but the 
> NTSC file is always fine. (I know it is weird that the files are the 
> same size -- NTSC DV50 has double the data rate per sec and 20 percent 
> more frames per second than PAL DV25, so a single sample frame from DV50 
> NTSC should be approximately 2*(PAL DV25)*(25/30) or 1.66*(PAL DV25).  
> But they are the same. What can I say?).
> I can tell you that setting write cache size to 131072 (half the size) 
> makes the corruption go away, and so does turning off the "write cache 
> size" setting altogether.  However, we are now wondering why the "write 
> cache size" can have this effect on file corruption and whether setting 
> it to 131072 will cause a corruption problem under some other 
> circumstance we just haven't hit yet.
> Any ideas?  By the way, we have seen and documented this problem with 
> both Samba 3.4.2 and Samba 3.5.3. We also noticed that "write cache 
> size" was listed as "deprecated" in 3.4.2 and that in 3.5.3 it is no 
> longer listed as "deprecated".  Somebody besides us must have thought 
> keeping "write cache size" was still a good idea??

Well, it *is* a crap idea that happens to be wildly
successful in tuning weird workloads.

A couple of weeks (months?) ago I've done some considerable
tuning to the write cache, which changed a few code paths. I
would really like to see if master (or v3-6-test) still
corrupts files. If it does, I am very interested in fixing
that. What I would need is a debug level 10 log of smbd
doing that together with a network trace and an strace.
Probably a HUGE amount of data, but that is necessary


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