21. Generic Receive Offload Library
Generic Receive Offload (GRO) is a widely used SW-based offloading technique to reduce per-packet processing overhead. It gains performance by reassembling small packets into large ones. To enable more flexibility to applications, DPDK implements GRO as a standalone library. Applications explicitly use the GRO library to merge small packets into large ones.
The GRO library assumes all input packets have correct checksums. In addition, the GRO library doesn’t re-calculate checksums for merged packets. If input packets are IP fragmented, the GRO library assumes they are complete packets (i.e. with L4 headers).
Currently, the GRO library implements TCP/IPv4 packet reassembly.
21.1. Reassembly Modes
The GRO library provides two reassembly modes: lightweight and heavyweight mode. If applications want to merge packets in a simple way, they can use the lightweight mode API. If applications want more fine-grained controls, they can choose the heavyweight mode API.
21.1.1. Lightweight Mode
rte_gro_reassemble_burst() function is used for reassembly in
lightweight mode. It tries to merge N input packets at a time, where
N should be less than or equal to
In each invocation,
rte_gro_reassemble_burst() allocates temporary
reassembly tables for the desired GRO types. Note that the reassembly
table is a table structure used to reassemble packets and different GRO
types (e.g. TCP/IPv4 GRO and TCP/IPv6 GRO) have different reassembly table
rte_gro_reassemble_burst() function uses the reassembly
tables to merge the N input packets.
For applications, performing GRO in lightweight mode is simple. They
just need to invoke
rte_gro_reassemble_burst(). Applications can get
GROed packets as soon as
21.1.2. Heavyweight Mode
rte_gro_reassemble() function is used for reassembly in heavyweight
mode. Compared with the lightweight mode, performing GRO in heavyweight mode
is relatively complicated.
Before performing GRO, applications need to create a GRO context object
rte_gro_ctx_create(). A GRO context object holds the
reassembly tables of desired GRO types. Note that all update/lookup
operations on the context object are not thread safe. So if different
processes or threads want to access the same context object simultaneously,
some external syncing mechanisms must be used.
Once the GRO context is created, applications can then use the
rte_gro_reassemble() function to merge packets. In each invocation,
rte_gro_reassemble() tries to merge input packets with the packets
in the reassembly tables. If an input packet is an unsupported GRO type,
or other errors happen (e.g. SYN bit is set),
returns the packet to applications. Otherwise, the input packet is either
merged or inserted into a reassembly table.
When applications want to get GRO processed packets, they need to use
rte_gro_timeout_flush() to flush them from the tables manually.
21.2. TCP/IPv4 GRO
TCP/IPv4 GRO supports merging small TCP/IPv4 packets into large ones, using a table structure called the TCP/IPv4 reassembly table.
21.2.1. TCP/IPv4 Reassembly Table
A TCP/IPv4 reassembly table includes a “key” array and an “item” array. The key array keeps the criteria to merge packets and the item array keeps the packet information.
Each key in the key array points to an item group, which consists of packets which have the same criteria values but can’t be merged. A key in the key array includes two parts:
criteria: the criteria to merge packets. If two packets can be merged, they must have the same criteria values.
start_index: the item array index of the first packet in the item group.
Each element in the item array keeps the information of a packet. An item in the item array mainly includes three parts:
firstseg: the mbuf address of the first segment of the packet.
lastseg: the mbuf address of the last segment of the packet.
next_pkt_index: the item array index of the next packet in the same item group. TCP/IPv4 GRO uses
next_pkt_indexto chain the packets that have the same criteria value but can’t be merged together.
21.2.2. Procedure to Reassemble a Packet
To reassemble an incoming packet needs three steps:
- Check if the packet should be processed. Packets with one of the
following properties aren’t processed and are returned immediately:
- FIN, SYN, RST, URG, PSH, ECE or CWR bit is set.
- L4 payload length is 0.
- Traverse the key array to find a key which has the same criteria value with the incoming packet. If found, go to the next step. Otherwise, insert a new key and a new item for the packet.
- Locate the first packet in the item group via
start_index. Then traverse all packets in the item group via
next_pkt_index. If a packet is found which can be merged with the incoming one, merge them together. If one isn’t found, insert the packet into this item group. Note that to merge two packets is to link them together via mbuf’s
When packets are flushed from the reassembly table, TCP/IPv4 GRO updates packet header fields for the merged packets. Note that before reassembling the packet, TCP/IPv4 GRO doesn’t check if the checksums of packets are correct. Also, TCP/IPv4 GRO doesn’t re-calculate checksums for merged packets.