Applies to openSUSE Leap 42.1

9 Kernel Control Groups


Kernel Control Groups (abbreviated known as cgroups) are a kernel feature that allows aggregating or partitioning tasks (processes) and all their children into hierarchical organized groups. These hierarchical groups can be configured to show a specialized behavior that helps with tuning the system to make best use of available hardware and network resources.

In the following sections, we often reference kernel documentation such as /usr/src/linux/Documentation/cgroups/. These files are part of the kernel-source package.

This chapter is just an overview. To use cgroups properly and to avoid performance implications, you must study the provided references.

9.1 Technical Overview and Definitions

The following terms are used in this chapter:

  • cgroup is another name for Control Groups.

  • In a cgroup there is a set of tasks (processes) associated with a set of subsystems that act as parameters constituting an environment for the tasks.

  • Subsystems provide the parameters that can be assigned and define CPU sets, freezer, or—more general—resource controllers for memory, disk I/O, network traffic, etc.

  • cgroups are organized in a tree-structured hierarchy. There can be more than one hierarchy in the system. You use a different or alternate hierarchy to cope with specific situations.

  • Every task running in the system is in exactly one of the cgroups in the hierarchy.

9.2 Scenario

See the following resource planning scenario for a better understanding (source: /usr/src/linux/Documentation/cgroups/cgroups.txt):

Resource Planning
Figure 9.1: Resource Planning

Web browsers such as Firefox will be part of the Web network class, while the NFS daemons such as (k)nfsd will be part of the NFS network class. On the other side, Firefox will share appropriate CPU and memory classes depending on whether a professor or student started it.

9.3 Control Group Subsystems

The following subsystems are available: cpuset, cpu,cpuacct, memory, devices, freezer, net_cls,net_prio, blkio, perf_event, and hugetlbt.

Either mount each subsystem separately, for example:

mkdir /cpuset /cpu
mount -t cgroup -o cpuset      none /cpuset
mount -t cgroup -o cpu,cpuacct none /cpu

or all subsystems in one go; you can use an arbitrary device name (e.g., none), which will appear in /proc/mounts, for example:

mount -t cgroup none /sys/fs/cgroup

Some additional information on available subsystems:

net_cls (Identification)

The Network classifier cgroup helps with providing identification for controlling processes such as Traffic Controller (tc) or Netfilter (iptables). These controller tools can act on tagged network packets.

For more information, see /usr/src/linux/Documentation/cgroups/net_cls.txt.

net_prio (Identification)

The Network priority cgroup helps with setting the priority of network packets.

For more information, see /usr/src/linux/Documentation/cgroups/net_prio.txt.

devices (Isolation)

A system administrator can provide a list of devices that can be accessed by processes under cgroups.

It limits access to a device or a file system on a device to only tasks that belong to the specified cgroup. For more information, see /usr/src/linux/Documentation/cgroups/devices.txt.

freezer (Control)

The freezer subsystem is useful for high-performance computing clusters (HPC clusters). Use it to freeze (stop) all tasks in a group or to stop tasks, if they reach a defined checkpoint. For more information, see /usr/src/linux/Documentation/cgroups/freezer-subsystem.txt.

Here are basic commands to use the freezer subsystem:

mount -t cgroup -o freezer freezer /freezer
# Create a child cgroup:
mkdir /freezer/0
# Put a task into this cgroup:
echo $task_pid > /freezer/0/tasks
# Freeze it:
echo FROZEN > /freezer/0/freezer.state
# Unfreeze (thaw) it:
echo THAWED > /freezer/0/freezer.state
perf_event (Control)

perf_event collects performance data.

cpuset (Isolation)

Use cpuset to tie processes to system subsets of CPUs and memory (memory nodes). For an example, see Section 9.4.2, “Example: Cpusets”.

cpuacct (Accounting)

The CPU accounting controller groups tasks using cgroups and accounts the CPU usage of these groups. For more information, see /usr/src/linux/Documentation/cgroups/cpuacct.txt.

memory (Resource Control)
  • Tracking or limiting memory usage of user space processes.

  • Control swap usage by setting swapaccount=1 as a kernel boot parameter.

  • Limit LRU (Least Recently Used) pages.

  • Anonymous and file cache.

  • No limits for kernel memory.

  • Maybe in another subsystem if needed.

Note: Protection from Memory Pressure

memory cgroup now offers a mechanism allowing easier workload opt-in isolation. Memory cgroup can define its so called low limit (memory.low_limit_in_bytes), which works as a protection from memory pressure. Workloads that need to be isolated from outside memory management activity should set the value to the expected Resident Set Size (RSS) plus some head room. If a memory pressure condition triggers on the system and the particular group is still under its low limit, its memory is protected from reclaim. As a result, workloads outside of the cgroup do not need the aforementioned capping.

For more information, see /usr/src/linux/Documentation/cgroups/memory.txt.

hugetlb (Resource Control)

The HugeTLB controller accounts the memory allocated in huge pages.

For more information, see /usr/src/linux/Documentation/cgroups/hugetlb.txt.

cpu (Control)

Share CPU bandwidth between groups with the group scheduling function of CFS (the scheduler). Mechanically complicated.

Blkio (Resource Control)

The Block IO controller is available as a disk I/O controller. With the blkio controller you can currently set policies for proportional bandwidth and for throttling.

These are the basic commands to configure proportional weight division of bandwidth by setting weight values in blkio.weight:

# Setup in /sys/fs/cgroup
mkdir /sys/fs/cgroup/blkio
mount -t cgroup -o blkio none /sys/fs/cgroup/blkio
# Start two cgroups
mkdir -p /sys/fs/cgroup/blkio/group1 /sys/fs/cgroup/blkio/group2
# Set weights
echo 1000 > /sys/fs/cgroup/blkio/group1/blkio.weight
echo  500 > /sys/fs/cgroup/blkio/group2/blkio.weight
# Write the PIDs of the processes to be controlled to the
# appropriate groups
command1 &
echo $! > /sys/fs/cgroup/blkio/group1/tasks

command2 &
echo $! > /sys/fs/cgroup/blkio/group2/tasks

These are the basic commands to configure throttling or upper limit policy by setting values in blkio.throttle.read_bps_device for reads and blkio.throttle.write_bps_device for writes:

# Setup in /sys/fs/cgroup
mkdir /sys/fs/cgroup/blkio
mount -t cgroup -o blkio none /sys/fs/cgroup/blkio
# Bandwidth rate of a device for the root group; format:
# <major>:<minor>  <byes_per_second>
echo "8:16  1048576" > /sys/fs/cgroup/blkio/blkio.throttle.read_bps_device

For more information about caveats, usage scenarios, and additional parameters, see /usr/src/linux/Documentation/cgroups/blkio-controller.txt.

9.4 Using Controller Groups

9.4.1 Prerequisites

To conveniently use cgroups, install the following additional packages:

  • libcgroup-tools — basic user space tools to simplify resource management

  • libcgroup1 — control groups management library

  • cpuset — contains the cset to manipulate cpusets

  • libcpuset1 — C API to cpusets

  • kernel-source — only needed for documentation purposes

9.4.2 Example: Cpusets

With the command line proceed as follows:

  1. To determine the number of CPUs and memory nodes see /proc/cpuinfo and /proc/zoneinfo.

  2. Create the cpuset hierarchy as a virtual file system (source: /usr/src/linux/Documentation/cgroups/cpusets.txt):

    mount -t cgroup -ocpuset cpuset /sys/fs/cgroup/cpuset
    cd /sys/fs/cgroup/cpuset
    mkdir Charlie
    cd Charlie
    # List of CPUs in this cpuset:
    echo 2-3 > cpuset.cpus
    # List of memory nodes in this cpuset:
    echo 1 > cpuset.mems
    echo $$ > tasks
    # The subshell 'sh' is now running in cpuset Charlie
    # The next line should display '/Charlie'
    cat /proc/self/cpuset
  3. Remove the cpuset using shell commands:

    rmdir /sys/fs/cgroup/cpuset/Charlie

    This fails as long as this cpuset is in use. First, you must remove the inside cpusets or tasks (processes) that belong to it. Check it with:

    cat /sys/fs/cgroup/cpuset/Charlie/tasks

For background information and additional configuration flags, see /usr/src/linux/Documentation/cgroups/cpusets.txt.

With the cset tool, proceed as follows:

# Determine the number of CPUs and memory nodes
cset set --list
# Creating the cpuset hierarchy
cset set --cpu=2-3 --mem=1 --set=Charlie
# Starting processes in a cpuset
cset proc --set Charlie --exec -- stress -c 1 &
# Moving existing processes to a cpuset
cset proc --move --pid PID --toset=Charlie
# List task in a cpuset
cset proc --list --set Charlie
# Removing a cpuset
cset set --destroy Charlie

9.4.3 Example: cgroups

Using shell commands, proceed as follows:

  1. Create the cgroups hierarchy:

    mount -t cgroup cgroup /sys/fs/cgroup
    cd /sys/fs/cgroup/cpuset/cgroup
    mkdir priority
    cd priority
    cat cpu.shares
  2. Understanding cpu.shares:

    • 1024 is the default (for more information, see /Documentation/scheduler/sched-design-CFS.txt) = 50% usage

    • 1524 = 60% usage

    • 2048 = 67% usage

    • 512 = 40% usage

  3. Changing cpu.shares

    echo 1024 > cpu.shares

9.4.4 Setting Directory and File Permissions

This is a simple example. Use the following in /etc/cgconfig.conf:

group foo {
        perm {
                task {
                        uid = root;
                        gid = users;
                        fperm = 660;
                admin {
                        uid = root;
                        gid = root;
                        fperm = 600;
                        dperm = 750;

mount {
        cpu = /mnt/cgroups/cpu;

Then start the cgconfig service and stat /mnt/cgroups/cpu/foo/tasks which should show the permissions mask 660 with root as an owner and users as a group. stat /mnt/cgroups/cpu/foo/ should be 750 and all files (but tasks) should have the mask 600. Note that fperm is applied on top of existing file permissions as a mask.

For more information, see the cgconfig.conf man page.

9.5 For More Information