Fedora 3-4K?

As previously mentioned, Fedora is the standard distribution we run right now on our two Raptor systems at Orbiting Floodgap HQ and, being one of the first distros to work more or less out of the box on POWER9 systems, is probably one of the most frequently deployed distributions on OpenPOWER workstations (Debian and Void PowerPC, of course, being in the mix there too).

Besides the big-endian and little-endian splits, the 64K vs 4K page size variation is now another notable fault line. Much software assumes the dominant little-endian byte ordering just as much other software, often the same software, assumes the dominant 4K page size, despite significant performance reasons for 64K pages on some platforms and not just on ppc64/ppc64le. Void is prominently 4K, for example, but Fedora uses a 64K page kernel as shipped, meaning significant software like the Wine-QEMU fusion Hangover can't currently run on Fedora as presently configured.

What about making Fedora Workstation 4K? There are clear advantages to keeping Server on a 64K page size, especially since those systems are likely to have the large memory volumes where the performance benefits of big pages would be most visible, but there are increasing compatibility disadvantages of having workstations on 4K. In a proposal mailing list thread, Daniel Pocock points out that 4K is needed both for the open-source Nvidia Nouveau driver as well as for the AMD RX 5700 (and probably other similar cards based on the same GPU generation), and Peter Robinson notes that the aarch64 spin went 4K for other reasons particularly acute on RPis and similar devices (though it remains 64K on RHEL 7 and 8). And all of this is independent of the compatibility issues that are already well-known and some non-trivial to fix. Is it time for a 4K spin of Fedora 34?

Compiling a 4K kernel is as "simple" as setting CONFIG_PPC_64K_PAGES=n but there is also the confidence and regression testing to prove a longstanding 64K platform doesn't itself have unknown assumptions going the other way, to say nothing of the risk of marginalizing 64K page systems when (and arguably unlike big vs little) performance differences of substance may exist and of what amounts to essentially fragmenting an already comparatively niche architecture. (As observed by another developer in the thread, "We have avoided doing so for much larger target markets than the power [sic] workstation market.") It may also be possible to solve this unofficially in a relatively maintainable fashion with a Copr kernel package, though I didn't see an existing one and I don't have much personal experience with this (perhaps someone who knows of such a package or the process can chime in).

Still, part of the justification for ppc64le on a long-standing big-endian platform was to meet existing software where it was and 4K pages may force the same change. If a 4K Fedora Workstation existed, I'd certainly use it: I have no especial loyalty to Fedora, but it's what I'm used to, and I'd rather stick with it right now than deal with an inconvenient migration ... at least until something vital comes along that I need to run.


  1. From my understanding, the Fedora COPR is moving their datacenter to new location, thus ppc64le worker nodes are temporarily unavailable. When I say temporary, it has been nearly 1 year.


Post a Comment

Comments are subject to moderation. Be nice.