readahead - from a tar file

Shawn Rutledge shawn.t.rutledge at
Mon Oct 22 21:40:09 BST 2007

Another idea I had over the weekend to speed up boot times is also
related to reducing disk seek time.  I see that ubuntu already starts
a "readahead" process before much else, to preload the necessary files
into RAM.  This is an excellent idea, but those files are still
potentially located all over the disk, right?  So seek time may be the
dominant factor in that process.  What if it instead read the same
files from a cache, in the form of an uncompressed tar file?  Then it
would be a completely sequential, contiguous read.  And each time a
file is completely loaded, an event could be fired.  Upstart could use
those events to start some processes (e.g. when some daemon and all
its library dependencies have been read, it's OK to start that
daemon).  That way daemons can be started and files can continue being
pulled into memory, in parallel (especially on multi-core systems).

The tar could be rewritten after each boot (as a "nice" process of
course, and perhaps delayed).  readahead would simply have to notice
somehow that different files are being read directly from disk rather
than from the tarball (but it already does this during a "profile"
operation, to re-write the list of files right?)  Each time the file
list is different from the order of files in the tarball, it could
re-write the tar.

To implement it, some code from "tar" itself needs to be pulled in to
readahead I think (again, what is the point if tar and some other
dependencies also need to be read into RAM before readahead can
proceed?  It's more disk seeks again.)

Finally readahead could be incorporated into busybox, so that the same
code is used for regular tar and for readahead, and other startup
tasks can be accomplished without loading so many files.

Unless there are any objections or better ideas, I might get around to
trying the first parts of this.

Is there another mailing list for readahead?

Another way to accomplish the seekless loading would be to re-arrange
the files on disk so that they are contiguous.  Anybody know if that's
possible?  In a filesystem-independent way?  Usually not much
attention is paid to "defragging" - the assumption is that the
filesystem manages this on its own.  But no filesystems yet are trying
to arrange files to minimize seeks based on the usual read order, are
they?  And even if the fs did that, startup read order might be
different than the "usual" read order that would be seen over months
of uptime.

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