Lucy Parker ( https://sel4.atlassian.net/secure/ViewProfile.jspa?accountId=624efd15f6a269… ) *updated* an issue
RFCs ( https://sel4.atlassian.net/browse/RFC?atlOrigin=eyJpIjoiODg3ZDg0NzZkMjU0NDd… ) / RFC ( https://sel4.atlassian.net/browse/RFC-12?atlOrigin=eyJpIjoiODg3ZDg0NzZkMjU0… ) RFC-12 ( https://sel4.atlassian.net/browse/RFC-12?atlOrigin=eyJpIjoiODg3ZDg0NzZkMjU0… ) The seL4 Device Driver Framework ( https://sel4.atlassian.net/browse/RFC-12?atlOrigin=eyJpIjoiODg3ZDg0NzZkMjU0… )
Change By: Lucy Parker ( https://sel4.atlassian.net/secure/ViewProfile.jspa?accountId=624efd15f6a269… )
The seL4 Device Driver Framework (sDDF) provides libraries, interfaces and protocols for writing/porting device drivers to run as performant user level programs on seL4. Specifically, the sDDF aims to:
* support a wide class of devices, including network, USB, graphics, storage, serial ports etc;
* achieve performance comparable to Linux in-kernel drivers, as measured by throughput, latency and CPU load, at least for latency-sensitive high-throughput devices (network cards and USB);
* be robust against defined threats;
* extend to a device virtualisation framework (sDVF) for sharing devices between virtual machines and native components on seL4;
* provide strong separation of concerns;
* enable the formal verification of its components.
The seL4 microkernel prescribes device drivers to run in user level. While this provides strong fault containment, it can lead to performance degradation due to the extra context switches required. Furthermore, writing/porting device drivers to seL4 is tedious and error prone. The sDDF aims to ease this development by defining a general device model that is performant, eliminates common causes of driver bugs and aids formal verification. It is based on an asynchronous transport mechanism that minimises overheads while keeping driver interfaces simple.
The goals of the sDDF are to:
* simplify drivers by making them single-threaded and event-based
* further simplify drivers by having them serve no purpose other than abstracting device hardware
* exclusively use lock-free shared data structures
* avoid any data copying in the driver
* minimise trust in the driver by enabling configurations where I/O data is not mapped in the driver's address space
h1. Guide-level explanation
The sDDF will consist of:
* a general device model that enables formal reasoning and simplifies implementation of performant user level device drivers.
* An asynchronous transport mechanism that provides a means of communication between a driver and other components in the system.
* User level libraries to ease development of I/O systems such as a network stack and file system.
* Sample device drivers.
The sDDF currently supports network interfaces on the seL4 Core Platform and provides a sample Gigabit Ethernet driver as well a test configuration where the driver's client consists of an IP stack (lwip) co-located with an echo server. The configuration outperforms an equivalent Linux configuration on the same hardware by a large margin.
h1. Reference-level explanation
For simplicity, the following explanation assumes a 2-component structure, comprising a device driver running in one address space, and a server utilising the driver's services in a separate address space. Multiple clients sharing a device will require a multiplexer component that implements a sharing policy, this leaves the driver focussed on hardware abstraction and largely policy-free. Sample multiplexers will be provided in the near future.
The transport layer consists of a number of shared memory regions, data structures and access protocols. The three memory regions are:
# The control region shared between the driver and server
# The metadata region, shared between the device and driver.
# The data region, shared between the device and server.
The device takes instructions from its metadata region, and reads/writes data to the data region. The data region can be considered as an array of I/O buffers. The server and driver communicate and share the buffers via the control region.
The control region consists of single producer, single consumer, lockless bounded queues implemented as ring buffers. There are two queues per direction. The transmit free (TxF) queue keeps track of buffers that are ready to be re-used for transmit. The transmit available (TxA) queue keeps track of buffers with data available for transmit. Likewise, the receive free (RxF) queue and receive free (RxA) queue store buffers to be re-used and with newly available data. The corresponding interfaces to dequeue and enqueue buffers are in libsharedringbuffer. This library can be easily expanded to include interfaces for request ring buffers to support storage device classes in the future.
The driver itself is event driven and acts in response to:
* Transmit requests from another component.
* Data available interrupts from the device.
* Transmit complete interrupts from the device.
* Receive buffers available signals from another component.
In this way, the driver can be a simple, single threaded component that reacts to the above events. The driver thread runs at highest priority to ensure the timely handling of interrupts as well as immediate response to server requests. However, the driver could be active (with a scheduling context bound to it’s TCB) or passive (with a scheduling context bound to its interrupt handling notification object). The case for active vs passive drivers is yet to be fully researched and likely depends on other component needs.
The active model uses seL4 notifications for all its interfaces. The notifications are used to signal updates to the shared memory regions. However, in the passive model, the server must instead hold a badged capability to the drivers endpoint in order to use IPC to signal updates to the control region.
The sDDF currently supports both driver models for a network device driver running on the iMX8MM hardware, with a combined echo client and IP stack (lwIP) operating as a server that communicate via the transport architecture as outlined above.
While the zero-copy transport architecture enables high performance, it implies that multiple clients would have to trust each other, which is unreasonable for most use cases where a device is shared by multiple clients. Such cases require a multiplexer that copies data as appropriate, or re-maps DMA buffers frequently. The trade-offs here are not yet fully understood and are likely dependent on the hardware platform and device class. More research is required to fully understand these issues, this research is planned for the next calendar year.
The sDDF is based on the newly developed seL4 Core Platform (seL4CP) and the MCS version of seL4. At this stage, the seL4CP is still immature and only supportx a small number of hardware platforms. Furthermore, the sDDF is still missing many components, including but not limited to:
* support for further device classes, particularly storage;
* support for other architectures/platforms;
* evaluation of more realistic use cases.
Finally, there are still many open research questions, including:
* What scenarios favour an active vs passive driver?
* What are appropriate budget/period configurations for a device driver servicing client/s with differing needs (eg. client-initiated I/O vs device-initiated, asymmetric traffic)?
* How will the design perform when distributed over multiple cores? The relatively fine-grained modularity, combined with the lock-free, asynchronous transport, lends itself to using multiple cores without requiring extra effort or even code, but we have not yet evaluated that.
h1. Rationale and alternatives
The intention of the sDDF is that utilising the design will ease development of user level device drivers on the seL4 Core Platform that achieve performance competitive with in kernel drivers. Alternatives presented to date do not achieve the level of performance we aim for, and generally result in more complex drivers, although some ease the integration of legacy drivers.
h1. Prior art
The sDDF was originally implemented on the CAmkES framework. However, the rigidity of that framework, and hidden overheads, made development difficult and competitive performance infeasible, leading to re-targeting to the seL4CP. The simplified, event driven model enforced by the Core Platform framework further eases the development of device drivers on seL4.
h1. Unresolved questions
There is still outstanding research to be done in order to completely satisfy the sDDF’s aims. These are outlined as drawbacks.
A proof of concept system can be found [here|https://github.com/lucypa/sDDF].
A more detailed design document can be found [here|https://trustworthy.systems/projects/TS/drivers/].
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