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Ethernet switch device driver model (switchdev)
Copyright (c) 2014 Jiri Pirko <>
Copyright (c) 2014-2015 Scott Feldman <>
The Ethernet switch device driver model (switchdev) is an in-kernel driver
model for switch devices which offload the forwarding (data) plane from the
Figure 1 is a block diagram showing the components of the switchdev model for
an example setup using a data-center-class switch ASIC chip. Other setups
with SR-IOV or soft switches, such as OVS, are possible.
User-space tools
user space |
kernel | Netlink
| Network stack |
| (Linux) |
| |
sw1p2 sw1p4 sw1p6
sw1p1 + sw1p3 + sw1p5 + eth1
+ | + | + | +
| | | | | | |
+--+----+----+----+----+----+---+ +-----+-----+
| Switch driver | | mgmt |
| (this document) | | driver |
| | | |
+--------------+----------------+ +-----------+
kernel | HW bus (eg PCI)
hardware |
| Switch device (sw1) |
| +----+ +--------+
| | v offloaded data path | mgmt port
| | | |
| | | | | |
+ + + + + +
p1 p2 p3 p4 p5 p6
front-panel ports
Fig 1.
Include Files
#include <linux/netdevice.h>
#include <net/switchdev.h>
Use "depends NET_SWITCHDEV" in driver's Kconfig to ensure switchdev model
support is built for driver.
Switch Ports
On switchdev driver initialization, the driver will allocate and register a
struct net_device (using register_netdev()) for each enumerated physical switch
port, called the port netdev. A port netdev is the software representation of
the physical port and provides a conduit for control traffic to/from the
controller (the kernel) and the network, as well as an anchor point for higher
level constructs such as bridges, bonds, VLANs, tunnels, and L3 routers. Using
standard netdev tools (iproute2, ethtool, etc), the port netdev can also
provide to the user access to the physical properties of the switch port such
as PHY link state and I/O statistics.
There is (currently) no higher-level kernel object for the switch beyond the
port netdevs. All of the switchdev driver ops are netdev ops or switchdev ops.
A switch management port is outside the scope of the switchdev driver model.
Typically, the management port is not participating in offloaded data plane and
is loaded with a different driver, such as a NIC driver, on the management port
Switch ID
The switchdev driver must implement the net_device operation
ndo_get_port_parent_id for each port netdev, returning the same physical ID for
each port of a switch. The ID must be unique between switches on the same
system. The ID does not need to be unique between switches on different
The switch ID is used to locate ports on a switch and to know if aggregated
ports belong to the same switch.
Port Netdev Naming
Udev rules should be used for port netdev naming, using some unique attribute
of the port as a key, for example the port MAC address or the port PHYS name.
Hard-coding of kernel netdev names within the driver is discouraged; let the
kernel pick the default netdev name, and let udev set the final name based on a
port attribute.
Using port PHYS name (ndo_get_phys_port_name) for the key is particularly
useful for dynamically-named ports where the device names its ports based on
external configuration. For example, if a physical 40G port is split logically
into 4 10G ports, resulting in 4 port netdevs, the device can give a unique
name for each port using port PHYS name. The udev rule would be:
SUBSYSTEM=="net", ACTION=="add", ATTR{phys_switch_id}=="<phys_switch_id>", \
ATTR{phys_port_name}!="", NAME="swX$attr{phys_port_name}"
Suggested naming convention is "swXpYsZ", where X is the switch name or ID, Y
is the port name or ID, and Z is the sub-port name or ID. For example, sw1p1s0
would be sub-port 0 on port 1 on switch 1.
Port Features
If the switchdev driver (and device) only supports offloading of the default
network namespace (netns), the driver should set this feature flag to prevent
the port netdev from being moved out of the default netns. A netns-aware
driver/device would not set this flag and be responsible for partitioning
hardware to preserve netns containment. This means hardware cannot forward
traffic from a port in one namespace to another port in another namespace.
Port Topology
The port netdevs representing the physical switch ports can be organized into
higher-level switching constructs. The default construct is a standalone
router port, used to offload L3 forwarding. Two or more ports can be bonded
together to form a LAG. Two or more ports (or LAGs) can be bridged to bridge
L2 networks. VLANs can be applied to sub-divide L2 networks. L2-over-L3
tunnels can be built on ports. These constructs are built using standard Linux
tools such as the bridge driver, the bonding/team drivers, and netlink-based
tools such as iproute2.
The switchdev driver can know a particular port's position in the topology by
monitoring NETDEV_CHANGEUPPER notifications. For example, a port moved into a
bond will see it's upper master change. If that bond is moved into a bridge,
the bond's upper master will change. And so on. The driver will track such
movements to know what position a port is in in the overall topology by
registering for netdevice events and acting on NETDEV_CHANGEUPPER.
L2 Forwarding Offload
The idea is to offload the L2 data forwarding (switching) path from the kernel
to the switchdev device by mirroring bridge FDB entries down to the device. An
FDB entry is the {port, MAC, VLAN} tuple forwarding destination.
To offloading L2 bridging, the switchdev driver/device should support:
- Static FDB entries installed on a bridge port
- Notification of learned/forgotten src mac/vlans from device
- STP state changes on the port
- VLAN flooding of multicast/broadcast and unknown unicast packets
Static FDB Entries
The switchdev driver should implement ndo_fdb_add, ndo_fdb_del and ndo_fdb_dump
to support static FDB entries installed to the device. Static bridge FDB
entries are installed, for example, using iproute2 bridge cmd:
bridge fdb add ADDR dev DEV [vlan VID] [self]
The driver should use the helper switchdev_port_fdb_xxx ops for ndo_fdb_xxx
ops, and handle add/delete/dump of SWITCHDEV_OBJ_ID_PORT_FDB object using
switchdev_port_obj_xxx ops.
XXX: what should be done if offloading this rule to hardware fails (for
example, due to full capacity in hardware tables) ?
Note: by default, the bridge does not filter on VLAN and only bridges untagged
traffic. To enable VLAN support, turn on VLAN filtering:
echo 1 >/sys/class/net/<bridge>/bridge/vlan_filtering
Notification of Learned/Forgotten Source MAC/VLANs
The switch device will learn/forget source MAC address/VLAN on ingress packets
and notify the switch driver of the mac/vlan/port tuples. The switch driver,
in turn, will notify the bridge driver using the switchdev notifier call:
err = call_switchdev_notifiers(val, dev, info, extack);
Where val is SWITCHDEV_FDB_ADD when learning and SWITCHDEV_FDB_DEL when
forgetting, and info points to a struct switchdev_notifier_fdb_info. On
SWITCHDEV_FDB_ADD, the bridge driver will install the FDB entry into the
bridge's FDB and mark the entry as NTF_EXT_LEARNED. The iproute2 bridge
command will label these entries "offload":
$ bridge fdb
52:54:00:12:35:01 dev sw1p1 master br0 permanent
00:02:00:00:02:00 dev sw1p1 master br0 offload
00:02:00:00:02:00 dev sw1p1 self
52:54:00:12:35:02 dev sw1p2 master br0 permanent
00:02:00:00:03:00 dev sw1p2 master br0 offload
00:02:00:00:03:00 dev sw1p2 self
33:33:00:00:00:01 dev eth0 self permanent
01:00:5e:00:00:01 dev eth0 self permanent
33:33:ff:00:00:00 dev eth0 self permanent
01:80:c2:00:00:0e dev eth0 self permanent
33:33:00:00:00:01 dev br0 self permanent
01:00:5e:00:00:01 dev br0 self permanent
33:33:ff:12:35:01 dev br0 self permanent
Learning on the port should be disabled on the bridge using the bridge command:
bridge link set dev DEV learning off
Learning on the device port should be enabled, as well as learning_sync:
bridge link set dev DEV learning on self
bridge link set dev DEV learning_sync on self
Learning_sync attribute enables syncing of the learned/forgotten FDB entry to
the bridge's FDB. It's possible, but not optimal, to enable learning on the
device port and on the bridge port, and disable learning_sync.
To support learning, the driver implements switchdev op
switchdev_port_attr_set for SWITCHDEV_ATTR_PORT_ID_{PRE}_BRIDGE_FLAGS.
FDB Ageing
The bridge will skip ageing FDB entries marked with NTF_EXT_LEARNED and it is
the responsibility of the port driver/device to age out these entries. If the
port device supports ageing, when the FDB entry expires, it will notify the
driver which in turn will notify the bridge with SWITCHDEV_FDB_DEL. If the
device does not support ageing, the driver can simulate ageing using a
garbage collection timer to monitor FDB entries. Expired entries will be
notified to the bridge using SWITCHDEV_FDB_DEL. See rocker driver for
example of driver running ageing timer.
To keep an NTF_EXT_LEARNED entry "alive", the driver should refresh the FDB
entry by calling call_switchdev_notifiers(SWITCHDEV_FDB_ADD, ...). The
notification will reset the FDB entry's last-used time to now. The driver
should rate limit refresh notifications, for example, no more than once a
second. (The last-used time is visible using the bridge -s fdb option).
STP State Change on Port
Internally or with a third-party STP protocol implementation (e.g. mstpd), the
bridge driver maintains the STP state for ports, and will notify the switch
driver of STP state change on a port using the switchdev op
switchdev_attr_port_set for SWITCHDEV_ATTR_PORT_ID_STP_UPDATE.
State is one of BR_STATE_*. The switch driver can use STP state updates to
update ingress packet filter list for the port. For example, if port is
DISABLED, no packets should pass, but if port moves to BLOCKED, then STP BPDUs
and other IEEE 01:80:c2:xx:xx:xx link-local multicast packets can pass.
Note that STP BDPUs are untagged and STP state applies to all VLANs on the port
so packet filters should be applied consistently across untagged and tagged
VLANs on the port.
Flooding L2 domain
For a given L2 VLAN domain, the switch device should flood multicast/broadcast
and unknown unicast packets to all ports in domain, if allowed by port's
current STP state. The switch driver, knowing which ports are within which
vlan L2 domain, can program the switch device for flooding. The packet may
be sent to the port netdev for processing by the bridge driver. The
bridge should not reflood the packet to the same ports the device flooded,
otherwise there will be duplicate packets on the wire.
To avoid duplicate packets, the switch driver should mark a packet as already
forwarded by setting the skb->offload_fwd_mark bit. The bridge driver will mark
the skb using the ingress bridge port's mark and prevent it from being forwarded
through any bridge port with the same mark.
It is possible for the switch device to not handle flooding and push the
packets up to the bridge driver for flooding. This is not ideal as the number
of ports scale in the L2 domain as the device is much more efficient at
flooding packets that software.
If supported by the device, flood control can be offloaded to it, preventing
certain netdevs from flooding unicast traffic for which there is no FDB entry.
IGMP Snooping
In order to support IGMP snooping, the port netdevs should trap to the bridge
driver all IGMP join and leave messages.
The bridge multicast module will notify port netdevs on every multicast group
changed whether it is static configured or dynamically joined/leave.
The hardware implementation should be forwarding all registered multicast
traffic groups only to the configured ports.
L3 Routing Offload
Offloading L3 routing requires that device be programmed with FIB entries from
the kernel, with the device doing the FIB lookup and forwarding. The device
does a longest prefix match (LPM) on FIB entries matching route prefix and
forwards the packet to the matching FIB entry's nexthop(s) egress ports.
To program the device, the driver has to register a FIB notifier handler
using register_fib_notifier. The following events are available:
FIB_EVENT_ENTRY_ADD: used for both adding a new FIB entry to the device,
or modifying an existing entry on the device.
FIB_EVENT_ENTRY_DEL: used for removing a FIB entry
FIB_EVENT_RULE_ADD, FIB_EVENT_RULE_DEL: used to propagate FIB rule changes
struct fib_entry_notifier_info {
struct fib_notifier_info info; /* must be first */
u32 dst;
int dst_len;
struct fib_info *fi;
u8 tos;
u8 type;
u32 tb_id;
u32 nlflags;
to add/modify/delete IPv4 dst/dest_len prefix on table tb_id. The *fi
structure holds details on the route and route's nexthops. *dev is one of the
port netdevs mentioned in the route's next hop list.
Routes offloaded to the device are labeled with "offload" in the ip route
$ ip route show
default via dev eth0 dev sw1p1 proto kernel scope link src offload via dev sw1p1 proto zebra metric 20 offload dev sw1p2 proto kernel scope link src offload via dev sw1p2 proto zebra metric 20 offload proto zebra metric 30 offload
nexthop via dev sw1p1 weight 1
nexthop via dev sw1p2 weight 1 via dev sw1p1 proto zebra metric 20 offload via dev sw1p2 proto zebra metric 20 offload dev eth0 proto kernel scope link src
The "offload" flag is set in case at least one device offloads the FIB entry.
XXX: add/mod/del IPv6 FIB API
Nexthop Resolution
The FIB entry's nexthop list contains the nexthop tuple (gateway, dev), but for
the switch device to forward the packet with the correct dst mac address, the
nexthop gateways must be resolved to the neighbor's mac address. Neighbor mac
address discovery comes via the ARP (or ND) process and is available via the
arp_tbl neighbor table. To resolve the routes nexthop gateways, the driver
should trigger the kernel's neighbor resolution process. See the rocker
driver's rocker_port_ipv4_resolve() for an example.
The driver can monitor for updates to arp_tbl using the netevent notifier
NETEVENT_NEIGH_UPDATE. The device can be programmed with resolved nexthops
for the routes as arp_tbl updates. The driver implements ndo_neigh_destroy
to know when arp_tbl neighbor entries are purged from the port.