Re: [RFC PATCH v2 tip 0/7] 64-bit BPF insn set and tracing filters

From: Alexei Starovoitov
Date: Thu Feb 06 2014 - 20:21:04 EST

On Thu, Feb 6, 2014 at 2:42 AM, Daniel Borkmann <dborkman@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> Hi Alexei,
> On 02/06/2014 02:10 AM, Alexei Starovoitov wrote:
>> Hi All,
>> this patch set addresses main sticking points of the previous discussion:
>> Main difference:
>> . all components are now in one place
>> tools/bpf/llvm - standalone LLVM backend for extended BPF instruction
>> set
>> ., regs.di accessors are replaced with arg1, arg2
>> . compiler enforces presence of 'license' string in source C code
>> kernel enforces GPL compatibility of BPF program
>> Why bother with it?
>> Current 32-bit BPF is safe, but limited.
>> kernel modules are 'all-goes', but not-safe.
>> Extended 64-bit BPF provides safe and restricted kernel modules.
>> Just like the first two, extended BPF can be used for all sorts of things.
>> Initially for tracing/debugging/[ks]tap-like without vmlinux around,
>> then for networking, security, etc
>> To make exising kernel modules safe the x86 disassembler and code analyzer
>> are needed. We've tried to follow that path. Disassembler was straight
>> forward,
>> but x86 analyzer was becoming unbearably complex due to variety of
>> addressing
>> modes, so we started to hack GCC to reduce output x86 insns and facing
>> the headache of redoing disasm/analyzer for arm and other arhcs.
>> Plus there is old 32-bit bpf insn set already.
>> On one side extended BPF is a 64-bit extension to current BPF.
>> On the other side it's a common subset of x86-64/aarch64/... ISAs:
>> a generic 64-bit insn set that can be JITed to native HW one to one.

Hi Daniel,

Thank you for taking a look. Good questions. I had the same concerns.
Old BPF was carefully extended in specific places.
End result may look big at first glance, but every extension has specific
reason behind it. I tried to explain the reasoning in Documentation/bpf_jit.txt

I'm planning to write an on-the-fly converter from old BPF to BPF64
when BPF64 manages to demonstrate that it is equally safe.
It is straight forward to convert. Encoding is very similar.
Core concepts are the same.
Try diff include/uapi/linux/filter.h include/linux/bpf.h
to see how much is reused.

I believe that old BPF outlived itself and BPF64 should
replace it in all current use cases plus a lot more.
It just cannot happen at once.
BPF64 can come in. bpf32->bpf64 converter functioning.
JIT from bpf64->aarch64 and may be sparc64 needs to be in place.
Then old bpf can fade away.

> First of all, I think it's very interesting work ! I'm just a bit concerned
> that this _huge_ patchset with 64 bit BPF, or however we call it, will line

kernel is only 2k
the rest is 6k of userspace LLVM backend where most of it is llvm's
boilerplate code. GCC backend for BPF is 3k.
The goal is to have both GCC and LLVM backends to be upstreamed
when kernel pieces are agreed upon.
For comparison existing tools/net/bpf* is 2.5k
but here with 6k we get optimizing compiler from C and assembler.

> up in one row next to the BPF code we currently have and next to new
> nftables
> engine and we will end up with three such engines which do quite similar
> things and are all exposed to user space thus they need to be maintained
> _forever_, adding up legacy even more. What would be the long-term future
> use
> cases where the 64 bit engine comes into place compared to the current BPF
> engine? What are the concrete killer features? I didn't went through your

killer features vs old bpf are:
- zero-cost function calls
- 32-bit vs 64-bit
- optimizing compiler that can compile C into BPF64

Why call kernel function from BPF?
So that BPF instruction set has to be extended only once and JITs are
written only once.
Over the years many extensions crept into old BPF as 'negative offsets'.
but JITs don't support all of them and assume bpf input as 'skb' only.
seccomp is using old bpf, but, because of these limitations, cannot use JIT.
BPF64 allows seccomp to be JITed, since bpf input is generalized
as 'struct bpf_context'.
New 'negative offset' extension for old bpf would mean implementing it in
JITs of all architectures? Painful, but doable. We can do better.

Fixed instruction set that allows zero-overhead calls into kernel functions
is much more flexible and extendable in a clean way.
Take a look at kernel/trace/bpf_trace_callbacks.c
It is a customization of generic BPF64 core for 'tracing filters'.
The set of functions for networking and definition of 'bpf_context'
will be different.
So BPF64 for tracing need X extensions, BPF64 for networking needs Y
extensions, but core framework stays the same and JIT stays the same.

How to do zero-overhead call?
Map BPF registers to native registers one to one
and have compatible calling convention between BPF and native.
Then BPF asm code:
mov R1, 1
mov R2, 2
call foo
will be JITed into x86-64:
mov rdi, 1
mov rsi, 2
call foo
That makes BPF64 calls into kernel as fast as possible.
Especially for networking we don't want overhead of FFI mechanisms.

That's why A and X regs and lack of callee-saved regs make old BPF
impractical to support generic function calls.

BPF64 defines R1-R5 as function arguments and R6-R9 as
callee-saved, so kernel can natively call into JIT-ed BPF and back
with no extra argument shuffling.
gcc/llvm backends know that R6-R9 will be preserved while BPF is
calling into kernel functions and can make proper optimizations.
R6-R9 map to rbx-r15 on x86-64. On aarch64 we have
even more freedom of mapping.

> code
> in detail, but although we might/could have _some_ performance benefits but
> at
> the _huge_ cost of adding complexity. The current BPF I find okay to debug
> and
> to follow, but how would be debug'ability of 64 bit programs end up, as you
> mention, it becomes "unbearably complex"?

"unbearably complex" was the reference to x86 static analyzer :)
It's difficult to reconstruct and verify control and data flow of x86 asm code.
Binary compilers do that (like transmeta and others), but that's not suitable
for kernel.

Both old bpf asm and bpf64 asm code I find equivalent in readability.

clang dropmon.c ...|llc -filetype=asm
will produce the following bpf64 asm code:
mov r6, r1
ldd r1, 8(r6)
std -8(r10), r1
mov r7, 0
mov r3, r10
addi r3, -8
mov r1, r6
mov r2, r7
call bpf_table_lookup
jeqi r0, 0 goto .LBB0_2

which corresponds to C:
void dropmon(struct bpf_context *ctx)
{ void *loc;
uint64_t *drop_cnt;
loc = (void *)ctx->arg2;
drop_cnt = bpf_table_lookup(ctx, 0, &loc);
if (drop_cnt) ...

I think restricted C is easier to program and debug.
Which is another killer feature of bpf64.

Interesting use case would be if some kernel subsystem
decides to generate BPF64 insns on the fly and JIT them.
Sort of self-modifieable kernel code.
It's certainly easier to generate BPF64 binary with macroses
from linux/bpf.h instead of x86 binary...
I may be dreaming here :)

> Did you instead consider to
> replace
> the current BPF engine instead, and add a sort of built-in compatibility
> mode for current BPF programs? I think that this would be the way better
> option to go with instead of adding a new engine next to the other. For
> maintainability, trying to replace the old one might be harder to do on the
> short term but better to maintain on the long run for everyone, no?

Exactly. I think on-the-fly converter from bpf32->bpf64 is this built-in
compatibility layer. I completely agree that replacing bpf32 is hard
short term, since it will raise too many concerns about
stability/safety, but long term it's a way to go.

I'm open to all suggestions on how to make it more generic, useful,

Thank you for feedback.

To unsubscribe from this list: send the line "unsubscribe linux-kernel" in
the body of a message to majordomo@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
More majordomo info at
Please read the FAQ at