blob: 17bdcb746dcf530af859440aa04e78d4fb1226f4 [file] [log] [blame]
.. SPDX-License-Identifier: GPL-2.0
Network Devices, the Kernel, and You!
The following is a random collection of documentation regarding
network devices.
struct net_device lifetime rules
Network device structures need to persist even after module is unloaded and
must be allocated with alloc_netdev_mqs() and friends.
If device has registered successfully, it will be freed on last use
by free_netdev(). This is required to handle the pathological case cleanly
(example: ``rmmod mydriver </sys/class/net/myeth/mtu``)
alloc_netdev_mqs() / alloc_netdev() reserve extra space for driver
private data which gets freed when the network device is freed. If
separately allocated data is attached to the network device
(netdev_priv()) then it is up to the module exit handler to free that.
There are two groups of APIs for registering struct net_device.
First group can be used in normal contexts where ``rtnl_lock`` is not already
held: register_netdev(), unregister_netdev().
Second group can be used when ``rtnl_lock`` is already held:
register_netdevice(), unregister_netdevice(), free_netdevice().
Simple drivers
Most drivers (especially device drivers) handle lifetime of struct net_device
in context where ``rtnl_lock`` is not held (e.g. driver probe and remove paths).
In that case the struct net_device registration is done using
the register_netdev(), and unregister_netdev() functions:
.. code-block:: c
int probe()
struct my_device_priv *priv;
int err;
dev = alloc_netdev_mqs(...);
if (!dev)
return -ENOMEM;
priv = netdev_priv(dev);
/* ... do all device setup before calling register_netdev() ...
err = register_netdev(dev);
if (err)
goto err_undo;
/* net_device is visible to the user! */
/* ... undo the device setup ... */
return err;
void remove()
Note that after calling register_netdev() the device is visible in the system.
Users can open it and start sending / receiving traffic immediately,
or run any other callback, so all initialization must be done prior to
unregister_netdev() closes the device and waits for all users to be done
with it. The memory of struct net_device itself may still be referenced
by sysfs but all operations on that device will fail.
free_netdev() can be called after unregister_netdev() returns on when
register_netdev() failed.
Device management under RTNL
Registering struct net_device while in context which already holds
the ``rtnl_lock`` requires extra care. In those scenarios most drivers
will want to make use of struct net_device's ``needs_free_netdev``
and ``priv_destructor`` members for freeing of state.
Example flow of netdev handling under ``rtnl_lock``:
.. code-block:: c
static void my_setup(struct net_device *dev)
dev->needs_free_netdev = true;
static void my_destructor(struct net_device *dev)
int create_link()
struct my_device_priv *priv;
int err;
dev = alloc_netdev(sizeof(*priv), "net%d", NET_NAME_UNKNOWN, my_setup);
if (!dev)
return -ENOMEM;
priv = netdev_priv(dev);
/* Implicit constructor */
err = some_init(priv);
if (err)
goto err_free_dev;
priv->obj = some_obj_create();
if (!priv->obj) {
err = -ENOMEM;
goto err_some_uninit;
/* End of constructor, set the destructor: */
dev->priv_destructor = my_destructor;
err = register_netdevice(dev);
if (err)
/* register_netdevice() calls destructor on failure */
goto err_free_dev;
/* If anything fails now unregister_netdevice() (or unregister_netdev())
* will take care of calling my_destructor and free_netdev().
return 0;
return err;
If struct net_device.priv_destructor is set it will be called by the core
some time after unregister_netdevice(), it will also be called if
register_netdevice() fails. The callback may be invoked with or without
``rtnl_lock`` held.
There is no explicit constructor callback, driver "constructs" the private
netdev state after allocating it and before registration.
Setting struct net_device.needs_free_netdev makes core call free_netdevice()
automatically after unregister_netdevice() when all references to the device
are gone. It only takes effect after a successful call to register_netdevice()
so if register_netdevice() fails driver is responsible for calling
free_netdev() is safe to call on error paths right after unregister_netdevice()
or when register_netdevice() fails. Parts of netdev (de)registration process
happen after ``rtnl_lock`` is released, therefore in those cases free_netdev()
will defer some of the processing until ``rtnl_lock`` is released.
Devices spawned from struct rtnl_link_ops should never free the
struct net_device directly.
.ndo_init and .ndo_uninit
``.ndo_init`` and ``.ndo_uninit`` callbacks are called during net_device
registration and de-registration, under ``rtnl_lock``. Drivers can use
those e.g. when parts of their init process need to run under ``rtnl_lock``.
``.ndo_init`` runs before device is visible in the system, ``.ndo_uninit``
runs during de-registering after device is closed but other subsystems
may still have outstanding references to the netdevice.
Each network device has a Maximum Transfer Unit. The MTU does not
include any link layer protocol overhead. Upper layer protocols must
not pass a socket buffer (skb) to a device to transmit with more data
than the mtu. The MTU does not include link layer header overhead, so
for example on Ethernet if the standard MTU is 1500 bytes used, the
actual skb will contain up to 1514 bytes because of the Ethernet
header. Devices should allow for the 4 byte VLAN header as well.
Segmentation Offload (GSO, TSO) is an exception to this rule. The
upper layer protocol may pass a large socket buffer to the device
transmit routine, and the device will break that up into separate
packets based on the current MTU.
MTU is symmetrical and applies both to receive and transmit. A device
must be able to receive at least the maximum size packet allowed by
the MTU. A network device may use the MTU as mechanism to size receive
buffers, but the device should allow packets with VLAN header. With
standard Ethernet mtu of 1500 bytes, the device should allow up to
1518 byte packets (1500 + 14 header + 4 tag). The device may either:
drop, truncate, or pass up oversize packets, but dropping oversize
packets is preferred.
struct net_device synchronization rules
Synchronization: rtnl_lock() semaphore.
Context: process
Synchronization: rtnl_lock() semaphore.
Context: process
Note: netif_running() is guaranteed false
Synchronization: rtnl_lock() semaphore.
Context: process
Synchronization: rtnl_lock() semaphore, dev_base_lock rwlock, or RCU.
Context: atomic (can't sleep under rwlock or RCU)
Synchronization: __netif_tx_lock spinlock.
When the driver sets NETIF_F_LLTX in dev->features this will be
called without holding netif_tx_lock. In this case the driver
has to lock by itself when needed.
The locking there should also properly protect against
set_rx_mode. WARNING: use of NETIF_F_LLTX is deprecated.
Don't use it for new drivers.
Context: Process with BHs disabled or BH (timer),
will be called with interrupts disabled by netconsole.
Return codes:
* NETDEV_TX_OK everything ok.
* NETDEV_TX_BUSY Cannot transmit packet, try later
Usually a bug, means queue start/stop flow control is broken in
the driver. Note: the driver must NOT put the skb in its DMA ring.
Synchronization: netif_tx_lock spinlock; all TX queues frozen.
Context: BHs disabled
Notes: netif_queue_stopped() is guaranteed true
Synchronization: netif_addr_lock spinlock.
Context: BHs disabled
struct napi_struct synchronization rules
NAPI_STATE_SCHED bit in napi->state. Device
driver's ndo_stop method will invoke napi_disable() on
all NAPI instances which will do a sleeping poll on the
NAPI_STATE_SCHED napi->state bit, waiting for all pending
NAPI activity to cease.
will be called with interrupts disabled by netconsole.