11. Switch Representation within DPDK Applications

11.1. Introduction

Network adapters with multiple physical ports and/or SR-IOV capabilities usually support the offload of traffic steering rules between their virtual functions (VFs), physical functions (PFs) and ports.

Like for standard Ethernet switches, this involves a combination of automatic MAC learning and manual configuration. For most purposes it is managed by the host system and fully transparent to users and applications.

On the other hand, applications typically found on hypervisors that process layer 2 (L2) traffic (such as OVS) need to steer traffic themselves according on their own criteria.

Without a standard software interface to manage traffic steering rules between VFs, PFs and the various physical ports of a given device, applications cannot take advantage of these offloads; software processing is mandatory even for traffic which ends up re-injected into the device it originates from.

This document describes how such steering rules can be configured through the DPDK flow API (rte_flow), with emphasis on the SR-IOV use case (PF/VF steering) using a single physical port for clarity, however the same logic applies to any number of ports without necessarily involving SR-IOV.

11.2. Port Representors

In many cases, traffic steering rules cannot be determined in advance; applications usually have to process a bit of traffic in software before thinking about offloading specific flows to hardware.

Applications therefore need the ability to receive and inject traffic to various device endpoints (other VFs, PFs or physical ports) before connecting them together. Device drivers must provide means to hook the “other end” of these endpoints and to refer them when configuring flow rules.

This role is left to so-called “port representors” (also known as “VF representors” in the specific context of VFs), which are to DPDK what the Ethernet switch device driver model (switchdev) [1] is to Linux, and which can be thought as a software “patch panel” front-end for applications.

  • DPDK port representors are implemented as additional virtual Ethernet device (ethdev) instances, spawned on an as needed basis through configuration parameters passed to the driver of the underlying device using devargs.
-w pci:dbdf,representor=0
-w pci:dbdf,representor=[0-3]
-w pci:dbdf,representor=[0,5-11]
  • As virtual devices, they may be more limited than their physical counterparts, for instance by exposing only a subset of device configuration callbacks and/or by not necessarily having Rx/Tx capability.
  • Among other things, they can be used to assign MAC addresses to the resource they represent.
  • Applications can tell port representors apart from other physical of virtual port by checking the dev_flags field within their device information structure for the RTE_ETH_DEV_REPRESENTOR bit-field.
struct rte_eth_dev_info {
    ...
    uint32_t dev_flags; /**< Device flags */
    ...
};
  • The device or group relationship of ports can be discovered using the switch domain_id field within the devices switch information structure. By default the switch domain_id of a port will be RTE_ETH_DEV_SWITCH_DOMAIN_ID_INVALID to indicate that the port doesn’t support the concept of a switch domain, but ports which do support the concept will be allocated a unique switch domain_id, ports within the same switch domain will share the same domain_id. The switch port_id is used to specify the port_id in terms of the switch, so in the case of SR-IOV devices the switch port_id would represent the virtual function identifier of the port.
/**
 * Ethernet device associated switch information
 */
struct rte_eth_switch_info {
    const char *name; /**< switch name */
    uint16_t domain_id; /**< switch domain id */
    uint16_t port_id; /**< switch port id */
};
[1]Ethernet switch device driver model (switchdev)

11.3. Basic SR-IOV

“Basic” in the sense that it is not managed by applications, which nonetheless expect traffic to flow between the various endpoints and the outside as if everything was linked by an Ethernet hub.

The following diagram pictures a setup involving a device with one PF, two VFs and one shared physical port

   .-------------.                 .-------------. .-------------.
   | hypervisor  |                 |    VM 1     | |    VM 2     |
   | application |                 | application | | application |
   `--+----------'                 `----------+--' `--+----------'
      |                                       |       |
.-----+-----.                                 |       |
| port_id 3 |                                 |       |
`-----+-----'                                 |       |
      |                                       |       |
    .-+--.                                .---+--. .--+---.
    | PF |                                | VF 1 | | VF 2 |
    `-+--'                                `---+--' `--+---'
      |                                       |       |
      `---------.     .-----------------------'       |
                |     |     .-------------------------'
                |     |     |
             .--+-----+-----+--.
             | interconnection |
             `--------+--------'
                      |
                 .----+-----.
                 | physical |
                 |  port 0  |
                 `----------'
  • A DPDK application running on the hypervisor owns the PF device, which is arbitrarily assigned port index 3.
  • Both VFs are assigned to VMs and used by unknown applications; they may be DPDK-based or anything else.
  • Interconnection is not necessarily done through a true Ethernet switch and may not even exist as a separate entity. The role of this block is to show that something brings PF, VFs and physical ports together and enables communication between them, with a number of built-in restrictions.

Subsequent sections in this document describe means for DPDK applications running on the hypervisor to freely assign specific flows between PF, VFs and physical ports based on traffic properties, by managing this interconnection.

11.4. Controlled SR-IOV

11.4.1. Initialization

When a DPDK application gets assigned a PF device and is deliberately not started in basic SR-IOV mode, any traffic coming from physical ports is received by PF according to default rules, while VFs remain isolated.

   .-------------.                 .-------------. .-------------.
   | hypervisor  |                 |    VM 1     | |    VM 2     |
   | application |                 | application | | application |
   `--+----------'                 `----------+--' `--+----------'
      |                                       |       |
.-----+-----.                                 |       |
| port_id 3 |                                 |       |
`-----+-----'                                 |       |
      |                                       |       |
    .-+--.                                .---+--. .--+---.
    | PF |                                | VF 1 | | VF 2 |
    `-+--'                                `------' `------'
      |
      `-----.
            |
         .--+----------------------.
         | managed interconnection |
         `------------+------------'
                      |
                 .----+-----.
                 | physical |
                 |  port 0  |
                 `----------'

In this mode, interconnection must be configured by the application to enable VF communication, for instance by explicitly directing traffic with a given destination MAC address to VF 1 and allowing that with the same source MAC address to come out of it.

For this to work, hypervisor applications need a way to refer to either VF 1 or VF 2 in addition to the PF. This is addressed by VF representors.

11.4.2. VF Representors

VF representors are virtual but standard DPDK network devices (albeit with limited capabilities) created by PMDs when managing a PF device.

Since they represent VF instances used by other applications, configuring them (e.g. assigning a MAC address or setting up promiscuous mode) affects interconnection accordingly. If supported, they may also be used as two-way communication ports with VFs (assuming switchdev topology)

   .-------------.                 .-------------. .-------------.
   | hypervisor  |                 |    VM 1     | |    VM 2     |
   | application |                 | application | | application |
   `--+---+---+--'                 `----------+--' `--+----------'
      |   |   |                               |       |
      |   |   `-------------------.           |       |
      |   `---------.             |           |       |
      |             |             |           |       |
.-----+-----. .-----+-----. .-----+-----.     |       |
| port_id 3 | | port_id 4 | | port_id 5 |     |       |
`-----+-----' `-----+-----' `-----+-----'     |       |
      |             |             |           |       |
    .-+--.    .-----+-----. .-----+-----. .---+--. .--+---.
    | PF |    | VF 1 rep. | | VF 2 rep. | | VF 1 | | VF 2 |
    `-+--'    `-----+-----' `-----+-----' `---+--' `--+---'
      |             |             |           |       |
      |             |   .---------'           |       |
      `-----.       |   |   .-----------------'       |
            |       |   |   |   .---------------------'
            |       |   |   |   |
         .--+-------+---+---+---+--.
         | managed interconnection |
         `------------+------------'
                      |
                 .----+-----.
                 | physical |
                 |  port 0  |
                 `----------'
  • VF representors are assigned arbitrary port indices 4 and 5 in the hypervisor application and are respectively associated with VF 1 and VF 2.
  • They can’t be dissociated; even if VF 1 and VF 2 were not connected, representors could still be used for configuration.
  • In this context, port index 3 can be thought as a representor for physical port 0.

As previously described, the “interconnection” block represents a logical concept. Interconnection occurs when hardware configuration enables traffic flows from one place to another (e.g. physical port 0 to VF 1) according to some criteria.

This is discussed in more detail in traffic steering.

11.4.3. Traffic Steering

In the following diagram, each meaningful traffic origin or endpoint as seen by the hypervisor application is tagged with a unique letter from A to F.

   .-------------.                 .-------------. .-------------.
   | hypervisor  |                 |    VM 1     | |    VM 2     |
   | application |                 | application | | application |
   `--+---+---+--'                 `----------+--' `--+----------'
      |   |   |                               |       |
      |   |   `-------------------.           |       |
      |   `---------.             |           |       |
      |             |             |           |       |
.----(A)----. .----(B)----. .----(C)----.     |       |
| port_id 3 | | port_id 4 | | port_id 5 |     |       |
`-----+-----' `-----+-----' `-----+-----'     |       |
      |             |             |           |       |
    .-+--.    .-----+-----. .-----+-----. .---+--. .--+---.
    | PF |    | VF 1 rep. | | VF 2 rep. | | VF 1 | | VF 2 |
    `-+--'    `-----+-----' `-----+-----' `--(D)-' `-(E)--'
      |             |             |           |       |
      |             |   .---------'           |       |
      `-----.       |   |   .-----------------'       |
            |       |   |   |   .---------------------'
            |       |   |   |   |
         .--+-------+---+---+---+--.
         | managed interconnection |
         `------------+------------'
                      |
                 .---(F)----.
                 | physical |
                 |  port 0  |
                 `----------'
  • A: PF device.
  • B: port representor for VF 1.
  • C: port representor for VF 2.
  • D: VF 1 proper.
  • E: VF 2 proper.
  • F: physical port.

Although uncommon, some devices do not enforce a one to one mapping between PF and physical ports. For instance, by default all ports of mlx4 adapters are available to all their PF/VF instances, in which case additional ports appear next to F in the above diagram.

Assuming no interconnection is provided by default in this mode, setting up a basic SR-IOV configuration involving physical port 0 could be broken down as:

PF:

  • A to F: let everything through.
  • F to A: PF MAC as destination.

VF 1:

  • A to D, E to D and F to D: VF 1 MAC as destination.
  • D to A: VF 1 MAC as source and PF MAC as destination.
  • D to E: VF 1 MAC as source and VF 2 MAC as destination.
  • D to F: VF 1 MAC as source.

VF 2:

  • A to E, D to E and F to E: VF 2 MAC as destination.
  • E to A: VF 2 MAC as source and PF MAC as destination.
  • E to D: VF 2 MAC as source and VF 1 MAC as destination.
  • E to F: VF 2 MAC as source.

Devices may additionally support advanced matching criteria such as IPv4/IPv6 addresses or TCP/UDP ports.

The combination of matching criteria with target endpoints fits well with rte_flow [6], which expresses flow rules as combinations of patterns and actions.

Enhancing rte_flow with the ability to make flow rules match and target these endpoints provides a standard interface to manage their interconnection without introducing new concepts and whole new API to implement them. This is described in flow API (rte_flow).

[6]Generic flow API (rte_flow)

11.5. Flow API (rte_flow)

11.5.1. Extensions

Compared to creating a brand new dedicated interface, rte_flow was deemed flexible enough to manage representor traffic only with minor extensions:

  • Using physical ports, PF, VF or port representors as targets.
  • Affecting traffic that is not necessarily addressed to the DPDK port ID a flow rule is associated with (e.g. forcing VF traffic redirection to PF).

For advanced uses:

  • Rule-based packet counters.
  • The ability to combine several identical actions for traffic duplication (e.g. VF representor in addition to a physical port).
  • Dedicated actions for traffic encapsulation / decapsulation before reaching an endpoint.

11.5.2. Traffic Direction

From an application standpoint, “ingress” and “egress” flow rule attributes apply to the DPDK port ID they are associated with. They select a traffic direction for matching patterns, but have no impact on actions.

When matching traffic coming from or going to a different place than the immediate port ID a flow rule is associated with, these attributes keep their meaning while applying to the chosen origin, as highlighted by the following diagram

   .-------------.                 .-------------. .-------------.
   | hypervisor  |                 |    VM 1     | |    VM 2     |
   | application |                 | application | | application |
   `--+---+---+--'                 `----------+--' `--+----------'
      |   |   |                               |       |
      |   |   `-------------------.           |       |
      |   `---------.             |           |       |
      | ^           | ^           | ^         |       |
      | | ingress   | | ingress   | | ingress |       |
      | | egress    | | egress    | | egress  |       |
      | v           | v           | v         |       |
.----(A)----. .----(B)----. .----(C)----.     |       |
| port_id 3 | | port_id 4 | | port_id 5 |     |       |
`-----+-----' `-----+-----' `-----+-----'     |       |
      |             |             |           |       |
    .-+--.    .-----+-----. .-----+-----. .---+--. .--+---.
    | PF |    | VF 1 rep. | | VF 2 rep. | | VF 1 | | VF 2 |
    `-+--'    `-----+-----' `-----+-----' `--(D)-' `-(E)--'
      |             |             |         ^ |       | ^
      |             |             |  egress | |       | | egress
      |             |             | ingress | |       | | ingress
      |             |   .---------'         v |       | v
      `-----.       |   |   .-----------------'       |
            |       |   |   |   .---------------------'
            |       |   |   |   |
         .--+-------+---+---+---+--.
         | managed interconnection |
         `------------+------------'
                    ^ |
            ingress | |
             egress | |
                    v |
                 .---(F)----.
                 | physical |
                 |  port 0  |
                 `----------'

Ingress and egress are defined as relative to the application creating the flow rule.

For instance, matching traffic sent by VM 2 would be done through an ingress flow rule on VF 2 (E). Likewise for incoming traffic on physical port (F). This also applies to C and A respectively.

11.5.3. Transferring Traffic

11.5.3.1. Without Port Representors

Traffic direction describes how an application could match traffic coming from or going to a specific place reachable from a DPDK port ID. This makes sense when the traffic in question is normally seen (i.e. sent or received) by the application creating the flow rule (e.g. as in “redirect all traffic coming from VF 1 to local queue 6”).

However this does not force such traffic to take a specific route. Creating a flow rule on A matching traffic coming from D is only meaningful if it can be received by A in the first place, otherwise doing so simply has no effect.

A new flow rule attribute named “transfer” is necessary for that. Combining it with “ingress” or “egress” and a specific origin requests a flow rule to be applied at the lowest level

         ingress only           :       ingress + transfer
                                :
.-------------. .-------------. : .-------------. .-------------.
| hypervisor  | |    VM 1     | : | hypervisor  | |    VM 1     |
| application | | application | : | application | | application |
`------+------' `--+----------' : `------+------' `--+----------'
       |           | | traffic  :        |           | | traffic
 .----(A)----.     | v          :  .----(A)----.     | v
 | port_id 3 |     |            :  | port_id 3 |     |
 `-----+-----'     |            :  `-----+-----'     |
       |           |            :        | ^         |
       |           |            :        | | traffic |
     .-+--.    .---+--.         :      .-+--.    .---+--.
     | PF |    | VF 1 |         :      | PF |    | VF 1 |
     `-+--'    `--(D)-'         :      `-+--'    `--(D)-'
       |           | | traffic  :        | ^         | | traffic
       |           | v          :        | | traffic | v
    .--+-----------+--.         :     .--+-----------+--.
    | interconnection |         :     | interconnection |
    `--------+--------'         :     `--------+--------'
             | | traffic        :              |
             | v                :              |
        .---(F)----.            :         .---(F)----.
        | physical |            :         | physical |
        |  port 0  |            :         |  port 0  |
        `----------'            :         `----------'

With “ingress” only, traffic is matched on A thus still goes to physical port F by default

testpmd> flow create 3 ingress pattern vf id is 1 / end
           actions queue index 6 / end

With “ingress + transfer”, traffic is matched on D and is therefore successfully assigned to queue 6 on A

testpmd> flow create 3 ingress transfer pattern vf id is 1 / end
          actions queue index 6 / end

11.5.3.2. With Port Representors

When port representors exist, implicit flow rules with the “transfer” attribute (described in without port representors) are be assumed to exist between them and their represented resources. These may be immutable.

In this case, traffic is received by default through the representor and neither the “transfer” attribute nor traffic origin in flow rule patterns are necessary. They simply have to be created on the representor port directly and may target a different representor as described in PORT_ID action.

Implicit traffic flow with port representor

   .-------------.   .-------------.
   | hypervisor  |   |    VM 1     |
   | application |   | application |
   `--+-------+--'   `----------+--'
      |       | ^               | | traffic
      |       | | traffic       | v
      |       `-----.           |
      |             |           |
.----(A)----. .----(B)----.     |
| port_id 3 | | port_id 4 |     |
`-----+-----' `-----+-----'     |
      |             |           |
    .-+--.    .-----+-----. .---+--.
    | PF |    | VF 1 rep. | | VF 1 |
    `-+--'    `-----+-----' `--(D)-'
      |             |           |
   .--|-------------|-----------|--.
   |  |             |           |  |
   |  |             `-----------'  |
   |  |              <-- traffic   |
   `--|----------------------------'
      |
 .---(F)----.
 | physical |
 |  port 0  |
 `----------'

11.5.4. Pattern Items And Actions

11.5.4.1. PORT Pattern Item

Matches traffic originating from (ingress) or going to (egress) a physical port of the underlying device.

Using this pattern item without specifying a port index matches the physical port associated with the current DPDK port ID by default. As described in traffic steering, specifying it should be rarely needed.

11.5.4.2. PORT Action

Directs matching traffic to a given physical port index.

11.5.4.3. PORT_ID Pattern Item

Matches traffic originating from (ingress) or going to (egress) a given DPDK port ID.

Normally only supported if the port ID in question is known by the underlying PMD and related to the device the flow rule is created against.

This must not be confused with the PORT pattern item which refers to the physical port of a device. PORT_ID refers to a struct rte_eth_dev object on the application side (also known as “port representor” depending on the kind of underlying device).

11.5.4.4. PORT_ID Action

Directs matching traffic to a given DPDK port ID.

Same restrictions as PORT_ID pattern item.

11.5.4.5. PF Pattern Item

Matches traffic originating from (ingress) or going to (egress) the physical function of the current device.

If supported, should work even if the physical function is not managed by the application and thus not associated with a DPDK port ID. Its behavior is otherwise similar to PORT_ID pattern item using PF port ID.

11.5.4.6. PF Action

Directs matching traffic to the physical function of the current device.

Same restrictions as PF pattern item.

11.5.4.7. VF Pattern Item

Matches traffic originating from (ingress) or going to (egress) a given virtual function of the current device.

If supported, should work even if the virtual function is not managed by the application and thus not associated with a DPDK port ID. Its behavior is otherwise similar to PORT_ID pattern item using VF port ID.

Note this pattern item does not match VF representors traffic which, as separate entities, should be addressed through their own port IDs.

11.5.4.8. VF Action

Directs matching traffic to a given virtual function of the current device.

Same restrictions as VF pattern item.

11.5.4.9. *_ENCAP actions

These actions are named according to the protocol they encapsulate traffic with (e.g. VXLAN_ENCAP) and using specific parameters (e.g. VNI for VXLAN).

While they modify traffic and can be used multiple times (order matters), unlike PORT_ID action and friends, they have no impact on steering.

As described in actions order and repetition this means they are useless if used alone in an action list, the resulting traffic gets dropped unless combined with either PASSTHRU or other endpoint-targeting actions.

11.5.4.10. *_DECAP actions

They perform the reverse of *_ENCAP actions by popping protocol headers from traffic instead of pushing them. They can be used multiple times as well.

Note that using these actions on non-matching traffic results in undefined behavior. It is recommended to match the protocol headers to decapsulate on the pattern side of a flow rule in order to use these actions or otherwise make sure only matching traffic goes through.

11.5.5. Actions Order and Repetition

Flow rules are currently restricted to at most a single action of each supported type, performed in an unpredictable order (or all at once). To repeat actions in a predictable fashion, applications have to make rules pass-through and use priority levels.

It’s now clear that PMD support for chaining multiple non-terminating flow rules of varying priority levels is prohibitively difficult to implement compared to simply allowing multiple identical actions performed in a defined order by a single flow rule.

  • This change is required to support protocol encapsulation offloads and the ability to perform them multiple times (e.g. VLAN then VXLAN).
  • It makes the DUP action redundant since multiple QUEUE actions can be combined for duplication.
  • The (non-)terminating property of actions must be discarded. Instead, flow rules themselves must be considered terminating by default (i.e. dropping traffic if there is no specific target) unless a PASSTHRU action is also specified.

11.6. Switching Examples

This section provides practical examples based on the established testpmd flow command syntax [2], in the context described in traffic steering

   .-------------.                 .-------------. .-------------.
   | hypervisor  |                 |    VM 1     | |    VM 2     |
   | application |                 | application | | application |
   `--+---+---+--'                 `----------+--' `--+----------'
      |   |   |                               |       |
      |   |   `-------------------.           |       |
      |   `---------.             |           |       |
      |             |             |           |       |
.----(A)----. .----(B)----. .----(C)----.     |       |
| port_id 3 | | port_id 4 | | port_id 5 |     |       |
`-----+-----' `-----+-----' `-----+-----'     |       |
      |             |             |           |       |
    .-+--.    .-----+-----. .-----+-----. .---+--. .--+---.
    | PF |    | VF 1 rep. | | VF 2 rep. | | VF 1 | | VF 2 |
    `-+--'    `-----+-----' `-----+-----' `--(D)-' `-(E)--'
      |             |             |           |       |
      |             |   .---------'           |       |
      `-----.       |   |   .-----------------'       |
            |       |   |   |   .---------------------'
            |       |   |   |   |
         .--|-------|---|---|---|--.
         |  |       |   `---|---'  |
         |  |       `-------'      |
         |  `---------.            |
         `------------|------------'
                      |
                 .---(F)----.
                 | physical |
                 |  port 0  |
                 `----------'

By default, PF (A) can communicate with the physical port it is associated with (F), while VF 1 (D) and VF 2 (E) are isolated and restricted to communicate with the hypervisor application through their respective representors (B and C) if supported.

Examples in subsequent sections apply to hypervisor applications only and are based on port representors A, B and C.

[2]Flow syntax

11.6.1. Associating VF 1 with Physical Port 0

Assign all port traffic (F) to VF 1 (D) indiscriminately through their representors

flow create 3 ingress pattern / end actions port_id id 4 / end
flow create 4 ingress pattern / end actions port_id id 3 / end

More practical example with MAC address restrictions

flow create 3 ingress
    pattern eth dst is {VF 1 MAC} / end
    actions port_id id 4 / end
flow create 4 ingress
    pattern eth src is {VF 1 MAC} / end
    actions port_id id 3 / end

11.6.2. Sharing Broadcasts

From outside to PF and VFs

flow create 3 ingress
   pattern eth dst is ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff / end
   actions port_id id 3 / port_id id 4 / port_id id 5 / end

Note port_id id 3 is necessary otherwise only VFs would receive matching traffic.

From PF to outside and VFs

flow create 3 egress
   pattern eth dst is ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff / end
   actions port / port_id id 4 / port_id id 5 / end

From VFs to outside and PF

flow create 4 ingress
   pattern eth dst is ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff src is {VF 1 MAC} / end
   actions port_id id 3 / port_id id 5 / end

flow create 5 ingress
   pattern eth dst is ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff src is {VF 2 MAC} / end
   actions port_id id 4 / port_id id 4 / end

Similar 33:33:* rules based on known MAC addresses should be added for IPv6 traffic.

11.6.3. Encapsulating VF 2 Traffic in VXLAN

Assuming pass-through flow rules are supported

flow create 5 ingress
   pattern eth / end
   actions vxlan_encap vni 42 / passthru / end
flow create 5 egress
   pattern vxlan vni is 42 / end
   actions vxlan_decap / passthru / end

Here passthru is needed since as described in actions order and repetition, flow rules are otherwise terminating; if supported, a rule without a target endpoint will drop traffic.

Without pass-through support, ingress encapsulation on the destination endpoint might not be supported and action list must provide one

flow create 5 ingress
   pattern eth src is {VF 2 MAC} / end
   actions vxlan_encap vni 42 / port_id id 3 / end

flow create 3 ingress
   pattern vxlan vni is 42 / end
   actions vxlan_decap / port_id id 5 / end