CFS stands for "Completely Fair Scheduler," and is the new "desktop" process
scheduler implemented by Ingo Molnar and merged in Linux 2.6.23. It is the
replacement for the previous vanilla scheduler's SCHED_OTHER interactivity
80% of CFS's design can be summed up in a single sentence: CFS basically models
an "ideal, precise multi-tasking CPU" on real hardware.
"Ideal multi-tasking CPU" is a (non-existent :-)) CPU that has 100% physical
power and which can run each task at precise equal speed, in parallel, each at
1/nr_running speed. For example: if there are 2 tasks running, then it runs
each at 50% physical power --- i.e., actually in parallel.
On real hardware, we can run only a single task at once, so we have to
introduce the concept of "virtual runtime." The virtual runtime of a task
specifies when its next timeslice would start execution on the ideal
multi-tasking CPU described above. In practice, the virtual runtime of a task
is its actual runtime normalized to the total number of running tasks.
2. FEW IMPLEMENTATION DETAILS
In CFS the virtual runtime is expressed and tracked via the per-task
p->se.vruntime (nanosec-unit) value. This way, it's possible to accurately
timestamp and measure the "expected CPU time" a task should have gotten.
[ small detail: on "ideal" hardware, at any time all tasks would have the same
p->se.vruntime value --- i.e., tasks would execute simultaneously and no task
would ever get "out of balance" from the "ideal" share of CPU time. ]
CFS's task picking logic is based on this p->se.vruntime value and it is thus
very simple: it always tries to run the task with the smallest p->se.vruntime
value (i.e., the task which executed least so far). CFS always tries to split
up CPU time between runnable tasks as close to "ideal multitasking hardware" as
Most of the rest of CFS's design just falls out of this really simple concept,
with a few add-on embellishments like nice levels, multiprocessing and various
algorithm variants to recognize sleepers.
3. THE RBTREE
CFS's design is quite radical: it does not use the old data structures for the
runqueues, but it uses a time-ordered rbtree to build a "timeline" of future
task execution, and thus has no "array switch" artifacts (by which both the
previous vanilla scheduler and RSDL/SD are affected).
CFS also maintains the rq->cfs.min_vruntime value, which is a monotonic
increasing value tracking the smallest vruntime among all tasks in the
runqueue. The total amount of work done by the system is tracked using
min_vruntime; that value is used to place newly activated entities on the left
side of the tree as much as possible.
The total number of running tasks in the runqueue is accounted through the
rq->cfs.load value, which is the sum of the weights of the tasks queued on the
CFS maintains a time-ordered rbtree, where all runnable tasks are sorted by the
p->se.vruntime key. CFS picks the "leftmost" task from this tree and sticks to it.
As the system progresses forwards, the executed tasks are put into the tree
more and more to the right --- slowly but surely giving a chance for every task
to become the "leftmost task" and thus get on the CPU within a deterministic
amount of time.
Summing up, CFS works like this: it runs a task a bit, and when the task
schedules (or a scheduler tick happens) the task's CPU usage is "accounted
for": the (small) time it just spent using the physical CPU is added to
p->se.vruntime. Once p->se.vruntime gets high enough so that another task
becomes the "leftmost task" of the time-ordered rbtree it maintains (plus a
small amount of "granularity" distance relative to the leftmost task so that we
do not over-schedule tasks and trash the cache), then the new leftmost task is
picked and the current task is preempted.
4. SOME FEATURES OF CFS
CFS uses nanosecond granularity accounting and does not rely on any jiffies or
other HZ detail. Thus the CFS scheduler has no notion of "timeslices" in the
way the previous scheduler had, and has no heuristics whatsoever. There is
only one central tunable (you have to switch on CONFIG_SCHED_DEBUG):
which can be used to tune the scheduler from "desktop" (i.e., low latencies) to
"server" (i.e., good batching) workloads. It defaults to a setting suitable
for desktop workloads. SCHED_BATCH is handled by the CFS scheduler module too.
Due to its design, the CFS scheduler is not prone to any of the "attacks" that
exist today against the heuristics of the stock scheduler: fiftyp.c, thud.c,
chew.c, ring-test.c, massive_intr.c all work fine and do not impact
interactivity and produce the expected behavior.
The CFS scheduler has a much stronger handling of nice levels and SCHED_BATCH
than the previous vanilla scheduler: both types of workloads are isolated much
SMP load-balancing has been reworked/sanitized: the runqueue-walking
assumptions are gone from the load-balancing code now, and iterators of the
scheduling modules are used. The balancing code got quite a bit simpler as a
5. Scheduling policies
CFS implements three scheduling policies:
- SCHED_NORMAL (traditionally called SCHED_OTHER): The scheduling
policy that is used for regular tasks.
- SCHED_BATCH: Does not preempt nearly as often as regular tasks
would, thereby allowing tasks to run longer and make better use of
caches but at the cost of interactivity. This is well suited for
- SCHED_IDLE: This is even weaker than nice 19, but its not a true
idle timer scheduler in order to avoid to get into priority
inversion problems which would deadlock the machine.
SCHED_FIFO/_RR are implemented in sched/rt.c and are as specified by
The command chrt from util-linux-ng 126.96.36.199 can set all of these except
6. SCHEDULING CLASSES
The new CFS scheduler has been designed in such a way to introduce "Scheduling
Classes," an extensible hierarchy of scheduler modules. These modules
encapsulate scheduling policy details and are handled by the scheduler core
without the core code assuming too much about them.
sched/fair.c implements the CFS scheduler described above.
sched/rt.c implements SCHED_FIFO and SCHED_RR semantics, in a simpler way than
the previous vanilla scheduler did. It uses 100 runqueues (for all 100 RT
priority levels, instead of 140 in the previous scheduler) and it needs no
Scheduling classes are implemented through the sched_class structure, which
contains hooks to functions that must be called whenever an interesting event
This is the (partial) list of the hooks:
Called when a task enters a runnable state.
It puts the scheduling entity (task) into the red-black tree and
increments the nr_running variable.
When a task is no longer runnable, this function is called to keep the
corresponding scheduling entity out of the red-black tree. It decrements
the nr_running variable.
This function is basically just a dequeue followed by an enqueue, unless the
compat_yield sysctl is turned on; in that case, it places the scheduling
entity at the right-most end of the red-black tree.
This function checks if a task that entered the runnable state should
preempt the currently running task.
This function chooses the most appropriate task eligible to run next.
This function is called when a task changes its scheduling class or changes
its task group.
This function is mostly called from time tick functions; it might lead to
process switch. This drives the running preemption.
7. GROUP SCHEDULER EXTENSIONS TO CFS
Normally, the scheduler operates on individual tasks and strives to provide
fair CPU time to each task. Sometimes, it may be desirable to group tasks and
provide fair CPU time to each such task group. For example, it may be
desirable to first provide fair CPU time to each user on the system and then to
each task belonging to a user.
CONFIG_CGROUP_SCHED strives to achieve exactly that. It lets tasks to be
grouped and divides CPU time fairly among such groups.
CONFIG_RT_GROUP_SCHED permits to group real-time (i.e., SCHED_FIFO and
CONFIG_FAIR_GROUP_SCHED permits to group CFS (i.e., SCHED_NORMAL and
These options need CONFIG_CGROUPS to be defined, and let the administrator
create arbitrary groups of tasks, using the "cgroup" pseudo filesystem. See
Documentation/cgroup-v1/cgroups.txt for more information about this filesystem.
When CONFIG_FAIR_GROUP_SCHED is defined, a "cpu.shares" file is created for each
group created using the pseudo filesystem. See example steps below to create
task groups and modify their CPU share using the "cgroups" pseudo filesystem.
# mount -t tmpfs cgroup_root /sys/fs/cgroup
# mkdir /sys/fs/cgroup/cpu
# mount -t cgroup -ocpu none /sys/fs/cgroup/cpu
# cd /sys/fs/cgroup/cpu
# mkdir multimedia # create "multimedia" group of tasks
# mkdir browser # create "browser" group of tasks
# #Configure the multimedia group to receive twice the CPU bandwidth
# #that of browser group
# echo 2048 > multimedia/cpu.shares
# echo 1024 > browser/cpu.shares
# firefox & # Launch firefox and move it to "browser" group
# echo <firefox_pid> > browser/tasks
# #Launch gmplayer (or your favourite movie player)
# echo <movie_player_pid> > multimedia/tasks