[RFC] Kdump and memory error handling

K.Prasad prasad at linux.vnet.ibm.com
Tue May 17 13:24:50 EDT 2011

On Thu, May 12, 2011 at 03:22:44PM -0700, Eric W. Biederman wrote:
> "K.Prasad" <prasad at linux.vnet.ibm.com> writes:
> > Hi All,
> >         We've been trying to study and improve the kdump behaviour when
> > a panic is triggered due to an unrecoverable memory error causing a
> > machine check exception (MCE) followed by a kernel panic.
> >
> > In this context we foresee a few issues in capturing kdump and would
> > like to receive comments about the ways to handle them.
> >
> > Probable Issues when capturing coredump through kdump following a memory
> > error
> > ---------------------------
> > - First, a coredump of the memory from the crashing kernel isn't really
> >   helpful in debugging the crash that was caused due to a faulty memory.
> >   Collecting the same has some of the problems illustrated below. It should
> >   therefore suffice to let the user know the reason of the crash
> >   rather than provide a complete dump of the memory.
> >
> >   For this, a 'slim' yet crash-tool readable coredump containing:
> >   - message about the cause (such as crash due to unrecoverable memory error)
> >     in the coredump's elf-note section.
> >   - and no data from the memory of the 'crashing' kernel (their elf
> >     sections can be reduced to zero length).
> >   may be suitable.
> >
> > - Alternatively, if the kdump kernel decides to capture the coredump,
> >   its attempts to read the faulty memory location may lead to subsequent 
> >   faults in the context of kdump kernel with fatal consequences. This
> >   may either be avoided by:
> >
> >   a) Pass the address of the corrupt memory location to the kdump kernel
> >   and skip reading that location while creating the vmcore. This needs
> >   an instance of 'struct mce' (from the 'crashing' kernel), which
> >   already contains the faulty memory address (in the physical address
> >   form, which should be confirmed using the IA32_MCi_MISC[8:6] bits stored
> >   in 'misc' field of 'struct mce') to be populated inside the elf
> >   (-notes?) section.
> >
> >   b) Use modified copy applications (such as a modified 'cp' command)
> >   that can map the /dev/oldmem into user-space and then initiate the
> >   creation of vmcore. In this method, the user-space process performing
> >   the copy will receive a SIGBUS while consuming the faulty memory (through
> >   INT18 -> do_machine_check) but it must be modified to be resilient to the
> >   signal, while intelligently skipping to the subsequent memory location
> >   for further copying. Meanwhile the data for the faulty memory location
> >   can be represented using 'zero-ed' data and the vmcore enhanced to
> >   indicate the cause of the crash as one resulting from a fatal MCE.
> >
> > Any thoughts/suggestions?
> In practice this all works for me.
> I have received several crash dumps where there was an mce error.
> I admit I have my userspace configured to just grab the dmesg from the
> kernel log and not do a full crash dump.  So in that sense I am already
> a slim crash dump.
> But in practice with real hardware errors it is working today without
> kernel changes.

The problem with the existing kernel code is that it allows for the old
kernel's memory regions to be read (through read_vmcore function),
although intelligent userspace tools may avoid such a possibility (like
the one you mentioned).

Given that the system can experience recursive MCE faults while reading
the corrupt memory region, a 'slim' vmcore region presented by the kernel
to the user-space would be a safe option. We could also use such a dump to
include more relevant information such as address of corrupt memory,
type of memory error, etc.


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