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(*) Overview.
(*) Requirements.
(*) Configuration.
(*) Starting the cache.
(*) Things to avoid.
(*) Cache culling.
(*) Cache structure.
(*) Security model and SELinux.
CacheFiles is a caching backend that's meant to use as a cache a directory on
an already mounted filesystem of a local type (such as Ext3).
CacheFiles uses a userspace daemon to do some of the cache management - such as
reaping stale nodes and culling. This is called cachefilesd and lives in
The filesystem and data integrity of the cache are only as good as those of the
filesystem providing the backing services. Note that CacheFiles does not
attempt to journal anything since the journalling interfaces of the various
filesystems are very specific in nature.
CacheFiles creates a proc-file - "/proc/fs/cachefiles" - that is used for
communication with the daemon. Only one thing may have this open at once, and
whilst it is open, a cache is at least partially in existence. The daemon
opens this and sends commands down it to control the cache.
CacheFiles is currently limited to a single cache.
CacheFiles attempts to maintain at least a certain percentage of free space on
the filesystem, shrinking the cache by culling the objects it contains to make
space if necessary - see the "Cache Culling" section. This means it can be
placed on the same medium as a live set of data, and will expand to make use of
spare space and automatically contract when the set of data requires more
The use of CacheFiles and its daemon requires the following features to be
available in the system and in the cache filesystem:
- dnotify.
- extended attributes (xattrs).
- openat() and friends.
- bmap() support on files in the filesystem (FIBMAP ioctl).
- The use of bmap() to detect a partial page at the end of the file.
It is strongly recommended that the "dir_index" option is enabled on Ext3
filesystems being used as a cache.
The cache is configured by a script in /etc/cachefilesd.conf. These commands
set up cache ready for use. The following script commands are available:
(*) brun <N>%
(*) bcull <N>%
(*) bstop <N>%
(*) frun <N>%
(*) fcull <N>%
(*) fstop <N>%
Configure the culling limits. Optional. See the section on culling
The defaults are 7% (run), 5% (cull) and 1% (stop) respectively.
The commands beginning with a 'b' are file space (block) limits, those
beginning with an 'f' are file count limits.
(*) dir <path>
Specify the directory containing the root of the cache. Mandatory.
(*) tag <name>
Specify a tag to FS-Cache to use in distinguishing multiple caches.
Optional. The default is "CacheFiles".
(*) culltable <log2size>
Specify the size of the tables holding the lists of cullable objects in
the cache. The bigger the number, the faster and more smoothly that
culling can proceed when there are many objects in the cache, but the
more memory will be consumed by cachefilesd.
The quantity is specified as log2 of the size actually required, for
example 12 indicates a table of 4096 entries and 13 indicates 8192
entries. The permissible values are between 12 and 20, the latter
indicating 1048576 entries. The default is 12.
(*) debug <mask>
Specify a numeric bitmask to control debugging in the kernel module.
Optional. The default is zero (all off).
The cache is started by running the daemon. The daemon opens the cache proc
file, configures the cache and tells it to begin caching. At that point the
cache binds to fscache and the cache becomes live.
The daemon is run as follows:
/sbin/cachefilesd [-d]* [-s] [-n] [-N] [-f <configfile>]
The flags are:
(*) -d
Increase the debugging level. This can be specified multiple times and
is cumulative with itself.
(*) -s
Send messages to stderr instead of syslog.
(*) -n
Don't daemonise and go into background.
(*) -N
Disable culling and scanning to fill the cull table.
(*) -f <configfile>
Use an alternative configuration file rather than the default one.
Do not mount other things within the cache as this will cause problems. The
kernel module contains its own very cut-down path walking facility that ignores
mountpoints, but the daemon can't avoid them.
Do not create, rename or unlink files and directories in the cache whilst the
cache is active, as this may cause the state to become uncertain.
Renaming files in the cache might make objects appear to be other objects (the
filename is part of the lookup key).
Do not change or remove the extended attributes attached to cache files by the
cache as this will cause the cache state management to get confused.
Do not create files or directories in the cache, lest the cache get confused or
serve incorrect data.
Do not chmod files in the cache. The module creates things with minimal
permissions to prevent random users being able to access them directly.
The cache may need culling occasionally to make space. This involves
discarding objects from the cache that have been used less recently than
anything else. Culling is based on the access time of data objects. Empty
directories are culled if not in use.
Cache culling is done on the basis of the percentage of blocks and the
percentage of files available in the underlying filesystem. There are six
(*) brun
(*) frun
If the amount of free space and the number of available files in the cache
rises above both these limits, then culling is turned off.
(*) bcull
(*) fcull
If the amount of available space or the number of available files in the
cache falls below either of these limits, then culling is started.
(*) bstop
(*) fstop
If the amount of available space or the number of available files in the
cache falls below either of these limits, then no further allocation of
disk space or files is permitted until culling has raised things above
these limits again.
These must be configured thusly:
0 <= bstop < bcull < brun < 100
0 <= fstop < fcull < frun < 100
Note that these are percentages of available space and available files, and do
_not_ appear as 100 minus the percentage displayed by the "df" program.
The userspace daemon scans the cache to build up a table of cullable objects.
These are then culled in least recently used order. A new scan of the cache is
started as soon as space is made in the table. Objects will be skipped if
their atimes have changed or if the kernel module says it is still using them.
The CacheFiles module will create two directories in the directory it was
(*) cache/
(*) graveyard/
The active cache objects all reside in the first directory. The CacheFiles
kernel module moves any retired or culled objects that it can't simply unlink
to the graveyard from which the daemon will actually delete them.
The daemon uses dnotify to monitor the graveyard directory, and will delete
anything that appears therein.
The module represents index objects as directories with the filename "I..." or
"J...". Note that the "cache/" directory is itself a special index.
Data objects are represented as files if they have no children, or directories
if they do. Their filenames all begin "D..." or "E...". If represented as a
directory, data objects will have a file in the directory called "data" that
actually holds the data.
Special objects are similar to data objects, except their filenames begin
"S..." or "T...".
If an object has children, then it will be represented as a directory.
Immediately in the representative directory are a collection of directories
named for hash values of the child object keys with an '@' prepended. Into
this directory, if possible, will be placed the representations of the child
========= ========== ================================= ================
If the key is so long that it exceeds NAME_MAX with the decorations added on to
it, then it will be cut into pieces, the first few of which will be used to
make a nest of directories, and the last one of which will be the objects
inside the last directory. The names of the intermediate directories will have
'+' prepended:
Note that keys are raw data, and not only may they exceed NAME_MAX in size,
they may also contain things like '/' and NUL characters, and so they may not
be suitable for turning directly into a filename.
To handle this, CacheFiles will use a suitably printable filename directly and
"base-64" encode ones that aren't directly suitable. The two versions of
object filenames indicate the encoding:
=============== =============== ===============
Index "I..." "J..."
Data "D..." "E..."
Special "S..." "T..."
Intermediate directories are always "@" or "+" as appropriate.
Each object in the cache has an extended attribute label that holds the object
type ID (required to distinguish special objects) and the auxiliary data from
the netfs. The latter is used to detect stale objects in the cache and update
or retire them.
Note that CacheFiles will erase from the cache any file it doesn't recognise or
any file of an incorrect type (such as a FIFO file or a device file).
CacheFiles is implemented to deal properly with the LSM security features of
the Linux kernel and the SELinux facility.
One of the problems that CacheFiles faces is that it is generally acting on
behalf of a process that is in a security context that is not appropriate for
accessing the cache - either because the files in the cache are inaccessible to
that process, or because if the process creates a file in the cache, it'll be
inaccessible to other processes.
The way CacheFiles works is to temporarily change the security context (fsuid,
fsgid and actor security label) that the process acts as - without changing the
security context of the process when it the target of an operation performed by
some other process (so signalling and suchlike still work correctly).
When the CacheFiles module is asked to bind to its cache, it:
(1) Finds the security label attached to the root cache directory and uses
that as the security label with which it will create files. By default,
this is:
(2) Finds the security label of the process which issued the bind request
(presumed to be the cachefilesd daemon), which by default will be:
and asks LSM to supply a security ID as which it should act given the
daemon's label. By default, this will be:
SELinux transitions the daemon's security ID to the module's security ID
based on a rule of this form in the policy.
type_transition <daemon's-ID> kernel_t : process <module's-ID>;
For instance:
type_transition cachefilesd_t kernel_t : process cachefiles_kernel_t;
The module's security ID gives it permission to create, move and remove files
and directories in the cache, to find and access directories and files in the
cache, to set and access extended attributes on cache objects, and to read and
write files in the cache.
The daemon's security ID gives it only a very restricted set of permissions: it
may scan directories, stat files and erase files and directories. It may
not read or write files in the cache, and so it is precluded from accessing the
data cached therein; nor is it permitted to create new files in the cache.
The policy source files are for reference installed as:
By default, the cache is located in /var/cache/fscache, but if it is desirable
that it should be elsewhere, than either the above policy files must be
altered, or an auxiliary policy must be installed to label the alternate
location of the cache.
For instructions on how to add an auxiliary policy to enable the cache to be
located elsewhere when SELinux is in enforcing mode, please see:
When the cachefilesd RPM is installed; alternatively, the document can be found
in the sources.