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The highest priority thread in kernel

This document is about migration/N kernel threads, stop_sched schdueling class, and the interesting source file kernel/stop_machine.c. Background on kernel scheduler design is recommended.

Scheduler uses the following code to pick the next runnable task:

static inline struct task_struct *
pick_next_task(struct rq *rq, struct task_struct *prev)
        struct task_struct *p;
        const struct sched_class *class;

        for_each_class(class) {
                p = class->pick_next_task(rq, prev);
                if (p) {
                        if (unlikely(p == RETRY_TASK))
                                goto again;
                        return p;

while the class is linked together as:

#define sched_class_highest     (&stop_sched_class)                                                       
#define for_each_class(class) \                                                                           
   for (class = sched_class_highest; class; class = class->next)

Clearly, the highest priority class is stop_sched_class. Whenever this scheduling has class runnable threads, scheduler will always run them first. So what kernel threads are using this scheduling class? Well, you must have seen something like migration/0 when you do ps aux in Linux. And yes, these kernel threads are the only users.

These threads are sleeping most of their lifetime, they will be invoked to do some very urgent stuff. For example, when a user thread that is currently running on CPU0 calls sched_setaffinity() to bind to CPU1, kernel is not able to do this because this user thread is currently running (runqueue can not move a running task out, it can only move queued task out). Then, scheduler has to ask migration/0 for help. Once there is a job enqueued, migration/0 will be invoked. Since it has the highest-priority, it will start execution immediately. Thus the migration from CPU0 to CPU1 is performed safely and fast.

migration code is defined in kernel/stop_machine.c. They are created during early boot. They use the smpboot_register_percpu_thread to create threads. They are written in this way because Linux supports cpu hotplug. To simplify we can also create them manually through kthread_create. Since Lego does not support cpu hotplug, and this cpu_stop_init is called after SMP is initialized, so Lego has slight different initialiaztion:

void __init cpu_stop_init(void)
        unsigned int cpu;

        for_each_possible_cpu(cpu) {
                struct cpu_stopper *stopper = &per_cpu(cpu_stopper, cpu);



         * smpboot_create_threads use kthread_create_on_cpu() to
         * create new threads. And they are parked, too.
         * Since we call this function after smp_init(), all CPUs
         * are already online, thus we need to unpark them manually.

Internally, it also use a list to keep enqueued jobs. Once the thread is waken up, it tries to lookup this list and dequeue jobs (similar to kthread creation, kworker etc.):

static void cpu_stopper_thread(unsigned int cpu)
        struct cpu_stopper *stopper = &per_cpu(cpu_stopper, cpu);
        struct cpu_stop_work *work;

        work = NULL;
        if (!list_empty(&stopper->works)) {
                work = list_first_entry(&stopper->works,
                                        struct cpu_stop_work, list);

        if (work) {
                ret = fn(arg);
                goto repeat;

It has several interesting public APIs that are quite similar to smp_call_functions, but the difference is: this set of APIs provide a guaranteed time-to-execute waiting time, because it will simply preempt anything running on CPU.

int stop_one_cpu(unsigned int cpu, cpu_stop_fn_t fn, void *arg);
int stop_cpus(const struct cpumask *cpumask, cpu_stop_fn_t fn, void *arg);
int try_stop_cpus(const struct cpumask *cpumask, cpu_stop_fn_t fn, void *arg);

They are used only when there are some very urgent things to do. So, please use with caution.

Yizhou Shan
Created: Feb 12, 2018
Last Updated: Feb 12, 2018

Last update: February 21, 2018


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