57. Fail-safe poll mode driver library

The Fail-safe poll mode driver library (librte_net_failsafe) implements a virtual device that allows using device supporting hotplug, without modifying other components relying on such device (application, other PMDs). In this context, hotplug support is meant as plugging or removing a device from its bus suddenly.

Additionally to the Seamless Hotplug feature, the Fail-safe PMD offers the ability to redirect operations to a secondary device when the primary has been removed from the system.

57.1. Features

The Fail-safe PMD only supports a limited set of features. If you plan to use a device underneath the Fail-safe PMD with a specific feature, this feature must also be supported by the Fail-safe PMD.

A notable exception is the device removal feature. The fail-safe PMD is not meant to be removed itself, unlike its sub-devices which should support it. If a sub-device supports hotplugging, the fail-safe PMD will enable its use automatically by detecting capable devices and registering the relevant handler.

Check the feature matrix for the complete set of supported features.

57.2. Using the Fail-safe PMD from the EAL command line

The Fail-safe PMD can be used like most other DPDK virtual devices, by passing a --vdev parameter to the EAL when starting the application. The device name must start with the net_failsafe prefix, followed by numbers or letters. This name must be unique for each device. Each fail-safe instance must have at least one sub-device, and at most two.

A sub-device can be any DPDK device, including possibly another fail-safe device.

57.2.1. Fail-safe command line parameters

  • dev(<iface>) parameter

    This parameter allows the user to define a sub-device. The <iface> part of this parameter must be a valid device definition. It follows the same format provided to any -a or --vdev options.

    Enclosing the device definition within parentheses here allows using additional sub-device parameters if need be. They will be passed on to the sub-device.


In case where the sub-device is also used as an allowed device, using -a on the EAL command line, the fail-safe PMD will use the device with the options provided to the EAL instead of its own parameters.

When trying to use a PCI device automatically probed by the command line, the name for the fail-safe sub-device must be the full PCI id: Domain:Bus:Device.Function, i.e. 00:00:00.0 instead of 00:00.0, as the second form is historically accepted by the DPDK.

  • exec(<shell command>) parameter

    This parameter allows the user to provide a command to the fail-safe PMD to execute and define a sub-device. It is done within a regular shell context. The first line of its output is read by the fail-safe PMD and otherwise interpreted as if passed to a dev parameter. Any other line is discarded. If the command fails or output an incorrect string, the sub-device is not initialized. All commas within the shell command are replaced by spaces before executing the command. This helps using scripts to specify devices.

  • fd(<file descriptor number>) parameter

    This parameter reads a device definition from an arbitrary file descriptor number in <iface> format as described above.

    The file descriptor is read in non-blocking mode and is never closed in order to take only the last line into account (unlike exec()) at every probe attempt.

  • mac parameter [MAC address]

    This parameter allows the user to set a default MAC address to the fail-safe and all of its sub-devices. If no default mac address is provided, the fail-safe PMD will read the MAC address of the first of its sub-device to be successfully probed and use it as its default MAC address, trying to set it to all of its other sub-devices. If no sub-device was successfully probed at initialization, then a random MAC address is generated, that will be subsequently applied to all sub-devices once they are probed.

  • hotplug_poll parameter [UINT64] (default 2000)

    This parameter allows the user to configure the amount of time in milliseconds between two sub-device upkeep round.

57.2.2. Usage example

This section shows some example of using testpmd with a fail-safe PMD.

  1. To build a PMD and configure DPDK, refer to the document compiling and testing a PMD for a NIC.

  2. Start testpmd. The sub-device 84:00.0 should be blocked from normal EAL operations to avoid probing it twice, as the PCI bus is in blocklist mode.

    ./<build_dir>/app/dpdk-testpmd -c 0xff -n 4 \
       --vdev 'net_failsafe0,mac=de:ad:be:ef:01:02,dev(84:00.0),dev(net_ring0)' \
       -b 84:00.0 -b 00:04.0 -- -i

    If the sub-device 84:00.0 is not blocked, it will be probed by the EAL first. When the fail-safe then tries to initialize it the probe operation fails.

    Note that PCI blocklist mode is the default PCI operating mode.

  3. Alternatively, it can be used alongside any other device in allow mode.

    ./<build_dir>/app/dpdk-testpmd -c 0xff -n 4 \
       --vdev 'net_failsafe0,mac=de:ad:be:ef:01:02,dev(84:00.0),dev(net_ring0)' \
       -a 81:00.0 -- -i
  4. Start testpmd using a flexible device definition

    ./<build_dir>/app/dpdk-testpmd -c 0xff -n 4 -a ff:ff.f \
       --vdev='net_failsafe0,exec(echo 84:00.0)' -- -i
  5. Start testpmd, automatically probing the device 84:00.0 and using it with the fail-safe.

    ./<build_dir>/app/dpdk-testpmd -c 0xff -n 4 \
       --vdev 'net_failsafe0,dev(0000:84:00.0),dev(net_ring0)' -- -i

57.3. Using the Fail-safe PMD from an application

This driver strives to be as seamless as possible to existing applications, in order to propose the hotplug functionality in the easiest way possible.

Care must be taken, however, to respect the ether API concerning device access, and in particular, using the RTE_ETH_FOREACH_DEV macro to iterate over ethernet devices, instead of directly accessing them or by writing one’s own device iterator.

unsigned int i;

/* VALID iteration over eth-dev. */

/* INVALID iteration over eth-dev. */
for (i = 0; i < RTE_MAX_ETHPORTS; i++) {

57.4. Plug-in feature

A sub-device can be defined without existing on the system when the fail-safe PMD is initialized. Upon probing this device, the fail-safe PMD will detect its absence and postpone its use. It will then register for a periodic check on any missing sub-device.

During this time, the fail-safe PMD can be used normally, configured and told to emit and receive packets. It will store any applied configuration but will fail to emit anything, returning 0 from its TX function. Any unsent packet must be freed.

Upon the probing of its missing sub-device, the current stored configuration will be applied. After this configuration pass, the new sub-device will be synchronized with other sub-devices, i.e. be started if the fail-safe PMD has been started by the user before.

57.5. Plug-out feature

A sub-device supporting the device removal event can be removed from its bus at any time. The fail-safe PMD will register a callback for such event and react accordingly. It will try to safely stop, close and uninit the sub-device having emitted this event, allowing it to free its eventual resources.

57.6. Fail-safe glossary

Fallback device

Also called Secondary device.

The fail-safe will fail-over onto this device when the preferred device is absent.

Preferred device

Also called Primary device.

The first declared sub-device in the fail-safe parameters. When this device is plugged, it is always used as emitting device. It is the main sub-device and is used as target for configuration operations if there is any ambiguity.

Upkeep round
Periodical event during which sub-devices are serviced. Each devices having a state different to that of the fail-safe device itself, is synchronized with it (brought down or up accordingly). Additionally, any sub-device marked for removal is cleaned-up.
In the context of the fail-safe PMD, synonymous to sub-device.
A device being utilized by the fail-safe PMD. This is another PMD running underneath the fail-safe PMD. Any sub-device can disappear at any time. The fail-safe will ensure that the device removal happens gracefully.