11. Debug & Troubleshoot guide

DPDK applications can be designed to have simple or complex pipeline processing stages making use of single or multiple threads. Applications can use poll mode hardware devices which helps in offloading CPU cycles too. It is common to find solutions designed with

  • single or multiple primary processes
  • single primary and single secondary
  • single primary and multiple secondaries

In all the above cases, it is tedious to isolate, debug, and understand various behaviors which occur randomly or periodically. The goal of the guide is to consolidate a few commonly seen issues for reference. Then, isolate to identify the root cause through step by step debug at various stages.


It is difficult to cover all possible issues; in a single attempt. With feedback and suggestions from the community, more cases can be covered.

11.1. Application Overview

By making use of the application model as a reference, we can discuss multiple causes of issues in the guide. Let us assume the sample makes use of a single primary process, with various processing stages running on multiple cores. The application may also make uses of Poll Mode Driver, and libraries like service cores, mempool, mbuf, eventdev, cryptodev, QoS, and ethdev.

The overview of an application modeled using PMD is shown in Fig. 11.3.


Fig. 11.3 Overview of pipeline stage of an application

11.2. Bottleneck Analysis

A couple of factors that lead the design decision could be the platform, scale factor, and target. This distinct preference leads to multiple combinations, that are built using PMD and libraries of DPDK. While the compiler, library mode, and optimization flags are the components are to be constant, that affects the application too.

11.2.1. Is there mismatch in packet (received < desired) rate?

RX Port and associated core Fig. 11.4.


Fig. 11.4 RX packet rate compared against received rate.

  1. Is the configuration for the RX setup correctly?
    • Identify if port Speed and Duplex is matching to desired values with rte_eth_link_get.
    • Check promiscuous mode if the drops do not occur for unique MAC address with rte_eth_promiscuous_get.
  2. Is the drop isolated to certain NIC only?
    • Make use of rte_eth_dev_stats to identify the drops cause.
    • If there are mbuf drops, check nb_desc for RX descriptor as it might not be sufficient for the application.
    • If rte_eth_dev_stats shows drops are on specific RX queues, ensure RX lcore threads has enough cycles for rte_eth_rx_burst on the port queue pair.
    • If there are redirect to a specific port queue pair with, ensure RX lcore threads gets enough cycles.
    • Check the RSS configuration rte_eth_dev_rss_hash_conf_get if the spread is not even and causing drops.
    • If PMD stats are not updating, then there might be offload or configuration which is dropping the incoming traffic.
  3. Is there drops still seen?
    • If there are multiple port queue pair, it might be the RX thread, RX distributor, or event RX adapter not having enough cycles.
    • If there are drops seen for RX adapter or RX distributor, try using rte_prefetch_non_temporal which intimates the core that the mbuf in the cache is temporary.

11.2.2. Is there packet drops at receive or transmit?

RX-TX port and associated cores Fig. 11.5.


Fig. 11.5 RX-TX drops

  1. At RX
    • Identify if there are multiple RX queue configured for port by nb_rx_queues using rte_eth_dev_info_get.
    • Using rte_eth_dev_stats fetch drops in q_errors, check if RX thread is configured to fetch packets from the port queue pair.
    • Using rte_eth_dev_stats shows drops in rx_nombuf, check if RX thread has enough cycles to consume the packets from the queue.
  2. At TX
    • If the TX rate is falling behind the application fill rate, identify if there are enough descriptors with rte_eth_dev_info_get for TX.
    • Check the nb_pkt in rte_eth_tx_burst is done for multiple packets.
    • Check rte_eth_tx_burst invokes the vector function call for the PMD.
    • If oerrors are getting incremented, TX packet validations are failing. Check if there queue specific offload failures.
    • If the drops occur for large size packets, check MTU and multi-segment support configured for NIC.

11.2.3. Is there object drops in producer point for the ring library?

Producer point for ring Fig. 11.6.


Fig. 11.6 Producer point for Rings

  1. Performance issue isolation at producer
    • Use rte_ring_dump to validate for all single producer flag is set to RING_F_SP_ENQ.
    • There should be sufficient rte_ring_free_count at any point in time.
    • Extreme stalls in dequeue stage of the pipeline will cause rte_ring_full to be true.

11.2.4. Is there object drops in consumer point for the ring library?

Consumer point for ring Fig. 11.7.


Fig. 11.7 Consumer point for Rings

  1. Performance issue isolation at consumer
    • Use rte_ring_dump to validate for all single consumer flag is set to RING_F_SC_DEQ.
    • If the desired burst dequeue falls behind the actual dequeue, the enqueue stage is not filling up the ring as required.
    • Extreme stall in the enqueue will lead to rte_ring_empty to be true.

11.2.5. Is there a variance in packet or object processing rate in the pipeline?

Memory objects close to NUMA Fig. 11.8.


Fig. 11.8 Memory objects have to be close to the device per NUMA.

  1. Stall in processing pipeline can be attributes of MBUF release delays. These can be narrowed down to
    • Heavy processing cycles at single or multiple processing stages.
    • Cache is spread due to the increased stages in the pipeline.
    • CPU thread responsible for TX is not able to keep up with the burst of traffic.
    • Extra cycles to linearize multi-segment buffer and software offload like checksum, TSO, and VLAN strip.
    • Packet buffer copy in fast path also results in stalls in MBUF release if not done selectively.
    • Application logic sets rte_pktmbuf_refcnt_set to higher than the desired value and frequently uses rte_pktmbuf_prefree_seg and does not release MBUF back to mempool.
  2. Lower performance between the pipeline processing stages can be
    • The NUMA instance for packets or objects from NIC, mempool, and ring should be the same.
    • Drops on a specific socket are due to insufficient objects in the pool. Use rte_mempool_get_count or rte_mempool_avail_count to monitor when drops occurs.
    • Try prefetching the content in processing pipeline logic to minimize the stalls.
  3. Performance issue can be due to special cases
    • Check if MBUF continuous with rte_pktmbuf_is_contiguous as certain offload requires the same.
    • Use rte_mempool_cache_create for user threads require access to mempool objects.
    • If the variance is absent for larger huge pages, then try rte_mem_lock_page on the objects, packets, lookup tables to isolate the issue.

11.2.6. Is there a variance in cryptodev performance?

Crypto device and PMD Fig. 11.9.


Fig. 11.9 CRYPTO and interaction with PMD device.

  1. Performance issue isolation for enqueue
    • Ensure cryptodev, resources and enqueue is running on NUMA cores.
    • Isolate if the cause of errors for err_count using rte_cryptodev_stats.
    • Parallelize enqueue thread for varied multiple queue pair.
  2. Performance issue isolation for dequeue
    • Ensure cryptodev, resources and dequeue are running on NUMA cores.
    • Isolate if the cause of errors for err_count using rte_cryptodev_stats.
    • Parallelize dequeue thread for varied multiple queue pair.
  3. Performance issue isolation for crypto operation
    • If the cryptodev software-assist is in use, ensure the library is built with right (SIMD) flags or check if the queue pair using CPU ISA for feature_flags AVX|SSE|NEON using rte_cryptodev_info_get.
    • If the cryptodev hardware-assist is in use, ensure both firmware and drivers are up to date.
  4. Configuration issue isolation
    • Identify cryptodev instances with rte_cryptodev_count and rte_cryptodev_info_get.

11.2.7. Is user functions performance is not as expected?

Custom worker function Fig. 11.10.


Fig. 11.10 Custom worker function performance drops.

  1. Performance issue isolation
    • The functions running on CPU cores without context switches are the performing scenarios. Identify lcore with rte_lcore and lcore index mapping with CPU using rte_lcore_index.
    • Use rte_thread_get_affinity to isolate functions running on the same CPU core.
  2. Configuration issue isolation
    • Identify core role using rte_eal_lcore_role to identify RTE, OFF, SERVICE and NON_EAL. Check performance functions are mapped to run on the cores.
    • For high-performance execution logic ensure running it on correct NUMA and worker core.
    • Analyze run logic with rte_dump_stack and rte_memdump for more insights.
    • Make use of objdump to ensure opcode is matching to the desired state.

11.2.8. Is the execution cycles for dynamic service functions are not frequent?

service functions on service cores Fig. 11.11.


Fig. 11.11 functions running on service cores

  1. Performance issue isolation
    • Services configured for parallel execution should have rte_service_lcore_count should be equal to rte_service_lcore_count_services.
    • A service to run parallel on all cores should return RTE_SERVICE_CAP_MT_SAFE for rte_service_probe_capability and rte_service_map_lcore_get returns unique lcore.
    • If service function execution cycles for dynamic service functions are not frequent?
    • If services share the lcore, overall execution should fit budget.
  2. Configuration issue isolation
    • Check if service is running with rte_service_runstate_get.
    • Generic debug via rte_service_dump.

11.2.9. Is there a bottleneck in the performance of eventdev?

  1. Check for generic configuration
    • Ensure the event devices created are right NUMA using rte_event_dev_count and rte_event_dev_socket_id.
    • Check for event stages if the events are looped back into the same queue.
    • If the failure is on the enqueue stage for events, check if queue depth with rte_event_dev_info_get.
  2. If there are performance drops in the enqueue stage
    • Use rte_event_dev_dump to dump the eventdev information.
    • Periodically checks stats for queue and port to identify the starvation.
    • Check the in-flight events for the desired queue for enqueue and dequeue.

11.2.10. Is there a variance in traffic manager?

Traffic Manager on TX interface Fig. 11.12.


Fig. 11.12 Traffic Manager just before TX.

  1. Identify the cause for a variance from expected behavior, is due to insufficient CPU cycles. Use rte_tm_capabilities_get to fetch features for hierarchies, WRED and priority schedulers to be offloaded hardware.
  2. Undesired flow drops can be narrowed down to WRED, priority, and rates limiters.
  3. Isolate the flow in which the undesired drops occur. Use rte_tn_get_number_of_leaf_node and flow table to ping down the leaf where drops occur.
  4. Check the stats using rte_tm_stats_update and rte_tm_node_stats_read for drops for hierarchy, schedulers and WRED configurations.

11.2.11. Is the packet in the unexpected format?

Packet capture before and after processing Fig. 11.13.


Fig. 11.13 Capture points of Traffic at RX-TX.

  1. To isolate the possible packet corruption in the processing pipeline, carefully staged capture packets are to be implemented.

    • First, isolate at NIC entry and exit.

      Use pdump in primary to allow secondary to access port-queue pair. The packets get copied over in RX|TX callback by the secondary process using ring buffers.

    • Second, isolate at pipeline entry and exit.

      Using hooks or callbacks capture the packet middle of the pipeline stage to copy the packets, which can be shared to the secondary debug process via user-defined custom rings.


Use similar analysis to objects and metadata corruption.

11.2.12. Does the issue still persist?

The issue can be further narrowed down to the following causes.

  1. If there are vendor or application specific metadata, check for errors due to META data error flags. Dumping private meta-data in the objects can give insight into details for debugging.
  2. If there are multi-process for either data or configuration, check for possible errors in the secondary process where the configuration fails and possible data corruption in the data plane.
  3. Random drops in the RX or TX when opening other application is an indication of the effect of a noisy neighbor. Try using the cache allocation technique to minimize the effect between applications.

11.3. How to develop a custom code to debug?

  1. For an application that runs as the primary process only, debug functionality is added in the same process. These can be invoked by timer call-back, service core and signal handler.
  2. For the application that runs as multiple processes. debug functionality in a standalone secondary process.