Out of Memory - Helping applications survive the axe or report the aftermath.

Scheduled: Wednesday, September 23, 2009 from 10:00 – 10:45am in Mt. Hood


The Out of Memory (OOM) killer has consistently been a hotly debated topic in Linux. Why does it kill? What is being done to improve it? What do users really need it to do?


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The Out of Memory (OOM) killer has consistently been a hotly debated topic in Linux. Having the wrong application killed as a result of an OOM condition can be very frustrating, and the root cause often remains elusive. Several knobs and controls have been exported but even these can be unsuitable for some. Many users dislike the default behavior and will either customize the code or replace it entirely. The OOM killer’s
behavior has also changed over time to the point where its appearance no longer indicates a true “out of memory” situation.

There have been several patches to address these issues: the mem notify interface, per cgroup OOM controller, and various patches to change the OOM killer’s log output. The goal of this session is to gather together
the kernel developers interested in these features, other core VM
developers, and the many users affected by OOM situations.

Kernel developers know that, despite the hard work, some aspects of the OOM killer are still in need of improvement. This session will solicit user feedback to help the kernel developers properly gauge the past work and direct any efforts in the future.

Kernel developers will come out of this session with an improved idea of how OOM situations affect users, how to best tailor the kernel’s output for user consumption, and what features to work on next. Users will
benefit from the session by learning how to better interpret the OOM situations to distinguish kernel from application bugs. They should
also be much better prepared to use the kernel’s new OOM-related
features in their own environments.


linux, kernel, vm, oom, memory, out of memory


  • Biography

    Dave has worked in IBM’s Linux Technology Center on the Linux Kernel since 2001. His work has included scalability improvements, memory hotplug, VFS enhancements and checkpoint/restart and containers.

  • Biography

    Balbir has been working in the IT industry for the last 11 years now and has worked on several aspects of Operating systems from device drivers, embedded, real time operating systems to large NUMA variants. He has a keen interest in software emulation of hardware and in algorithms. He is a university rank holder.

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