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+relay interface (formerly relayfs)
+The relay interface provides a means for kernel applications to
+efficiently log and transfer large quantities of data from the kernel
+to userspace via user-defined 'relay channels'.
+A 'relay channel' is a kernel->user data relay mechanism implemented
+as a set of per-cpu kernel buffers ('channel buffers'), each
+represented as a regular file ('relay file') in user space. Kernel
+clients write into the channel buffers using efficient write
+functions; these automatically log into the current cpu's channel
+buffer. User space applications mmap() or read() from the relay files
+and retrieve the data as it becomes available. The relay files
+themselves are files created in a host filesystem, e.g. debugfs, and
+are associated with the channel buffers using the API described below.
+The format of the data logged into the channel buffers is completely
+up to the kernel client; the relay interface does however provide
+hooks which allow kernel clients to impose some structure on the
+buffer data. The relay interface doesn't implement any form of data
+filtering - this also is left to the kernel client. The purpose is to
+keep things as simple as possible.
+This document provides an overview of the relay interface API. The
+details of the function parameters are documented along with the
+functions in the relay interface code - please see that for details.
+Each relay channel has one buffer per CPU, each buffer has one or more
+sub-buffers. Messages are written to the first sub-buffer until it is
+too full to contain a new message, in which case it it is written to
+the next (if available). Messages are never split across sub-buffers.
+At this point, userspace can be notified so it empties the first
+sub-buffer, while the kernel continues writing to the next.
+When notified that a sub-buffer is full, the kernel knows how many
+bytes of it are padding i.e. unused space occurring because a complete
+message couldn't fit into a sub-buffer. Userspace can use this
+knowledge to copy only valid data.
+After copying it, userspace can notify the kernel that a sub-buffer
+has been consumed.
+A relay channel can operate in a mode where it will overwrite data not
+yet collected by userspace, and not wait for it to be consumed.
+The relay channel itself does not provide for communication of such
+data between userspace and kernel, allowing the kernel side to remain
+simple and not impose a single interface on userspace. It does
+provide a set of examples and a separate helper though, described
+The read() interface both removes padding and internally consumes the
+read sub-buffers; thus in cases where read(2) is being used to drain
+the channel buffers, special-purpose communication between kernel and
+user isn't necessary for basic operation.
+One of the major goals of the relay interface is to provide a low
+overhead mechanism for conveying kernel data to userspace. While the
+read() interface is easy to use, it's not as efficient as the mmap()
+approach; the example code attempts to make the tradeoff between the
+two approaches as small as possible.
+klog and relay-apps example code
+The relay interface itself is ready to use, but to make things easier,
+a couple simple utility functions and a set of examples are provided.
+The relay-apps example tarball, available on the relay sourceforge
+site, contains a set of self-contained examples, each consisting of a
+pair of .c files containing boilerplate code for each of the user and
+kernel sides of a relay application. When combined these two sets of
+boilerplate code provide glue to easily stream data to disk, without
+having to bother with mundane housekeeping chores.
+The 'klog debugging functions' patch (klog.patch in the relay-apps
+tarball) provides a couple of high-level logging functions to the
+kernel which allow writing formatted text or raw data to a channel,
+regardless of whether a channel to write into exists or not, or even
+whether the relay interface is compiled into the kernel or not. These
+functions allow you to put unconditional 'trace' statements anywhere
+in the kernel or kernel modules; only when there is a 'klog handler'
+registered will data actually be logged (see the klog and kleak
+examples for details).
+It is of course possible to use the relay interface from scratch,
+i.e. without using any of the relay-apps example code or klog, but
+you'll have to implement communication between userspace and kernel,
+allowing both to convey the state of buffers (full, empty, amount of
+padding). The read() interface both removes padding and internally
+consumes the read sub-buffers; thus in cases where read(2) is being
+used to drain the channel buffers, special-purpose communication
+between kernel and user isn't necessary for basic operation. Things
+such as buffer-full conditions would still need to be communicated via
+some channel though.
+klog and the relay-apps examples can be found in the relay-apps
+tarball on http://relayfs.sourceforge.net
+The relay interface user space API
+The relay interface implements basic file operations for user space
+access to relay channel buffer data. Here are the file operations
+that are available and some comments regarding their behavior:
+open() enables user to open an _existing_ channel buffer.
+mmap() results in channel buffer being mapped into the caller's
+ memory space. Note that you can't do a partial mmap - you
+ must map the entire file, which is NRBUF * SUBBUFSIZE.
+read() read the contents of a channel buffer. The bytes read are
+ 'consumed' by the reader, i.e. they won't be available
+ again to subsequent reads. If the channel is being used
+ in no-overwrite mode (the default), it can be read at any
+ time even if there's an active kernel writer. If the
+ channel is being used in overwrite mode and there are
+ active channel writers, results may be unpredictable -
+ users should make sure that all logging to the channel has
+ ended before using read() with overwrite mode. Sub-buffer
+ padding is automatically removed and will not be seen by
+ the reader.
+sendfile() transfer data from a channel buffer to an output file
+ descriptor. Sub-buffer padding is automatically removed
+ and will not be seen by the reader.
+poll() POLLIN/POLLRDNORM/POLLERR supported. User applications are
+ notified when sub-buffer boundaries are crossed.
+close() decrements the channel buffer's refcount. When the refcount
+ reaches 0, i.e. when no process or kernel client has the
+ buffer open, the channel buffer is freed.
+In order for a user application to make use of relay files, the
+host filesystem must be mounted. For example,
+ mount -t debugfs debugfs /sys/kernel/debug
+NOTE: the host filesystem doesn't need to be mounted for kernel
+ clients to create or use channels - it only needs to be
+ mounted when user space applications need access to the buffer
+ data.
+The relay interface kernel API
+Here's a summary of the API the relay interface provides to in-kernel clients:
+TBD(curr. line MT:/API/)
+ channel management functions:
+ relay_open(base_filename, parent, subbuf_size, n_subbufs,
+ callbacks, private_data)
+ relay_close(chan)
+ relay_flush(chan)
+ relay_reset(chan)
+ channel management typically called on instigation of userspace:
+ relay_subbufs_consumed(chan, cpu, subbufs_consumed)
+ write functions:
+ relay_write(chan, data, length)
+ __relay_write(chan, data, length)
+ relay_reserve(chan, length)
+ callbacks:
+ subbuf_start(buf, subbuf, prev_subbuf, prev_padding)
+ buf_mapped(buf, filp)
+ buf_unmapped(buf, filp)
+ create_buf_file(filename, parent, mode, buf, is_global)
+ remove_buf_file(dentry)
+ helper functions:
+ relay_buf_full(buf)
+ subbuf_start_reserve(buf, length)
+Creating a channel
+relay_open() is used to create a channel, along with its per-cpu
+channel buffers. Each channel buffer will have an associated file
+created for it in the host filesystem, which can be and mmapped or
+read from in user space. The files are named basename0...basenameN-1
+where N is the number of online cpus, and by default will be created
+in the root of the filesystem (if the parent param is NULL). If you
+want a directory structure to contain your relay files, you should
+create it using the host filesystem's directory creation function,
+e.g. debugfs_create_dir(), and pass the parent directory to
+relay_open(). Users are responsible for cleaning up any directory
+structure they create, when the channel is closed - again the host
+filesystem's directory removal functions should be used for that,
+e.g. debugfs_remove().
+In order for a channel to be created and the host filesystem's files
+associated with its channel buffers, the user must provide definitions
+for two callback functions, create_buf_file() and remove_buf_file().
+create_buf_file() is called once for each per-cpu buffer from
+relay_open() and allows the user to create the file which will be used
+to represent the corresponding channel buffer. The callback should
+return the dentry of the file created to represent the channel buffer.
+remove_buf_file() must also be defined; it's responsible for deleting
+the file(s) created in create_buf_file() and is called during
+Here are some typical definitions for these callbacks, in this case
+using debugfs:
+ * create_buf_file() callback. Creates relay file in debugfs.
+ */
+static struct dentry *create_buf_file_handler(const char *filename,
+ struct dentry *parent,
+ int mode,
+ struct rchan_buf *buf,
+ int *is_global)
+ return debugfs_create_file(filename, mode, parent, buf,
+ &relay_file_operations);
+ * remove_buf_file() callback. Removes relay file from debugfs.
+ */
+static int remove_buf_file_handler(struct dentry *dentry)
+ debugfs_remove(dentry);
+ return 0;
+ * relay interface callbacks
+ */
+static struct rchan_callbacks relay_callbacks =
+ .create_buf_file = create_buf_file_handler,
+ .remove_buf_file = remove_buf_file_handler,
+And an example relay_open() invocation using them:
+ chan = relay_open("cpu", NULL, SUBBUF_SIZE, N_SUBBUFS, &relay_callbacks, NULL);
+If the create_buf_file() callback fails, or isn't defined, channel
+creation and thus relay_open() will fail.
+The total size of each per-cpu buffer is calculated by multiplying the
+number of sub-buffers by the sub-buffer size passed into relay_open().
+The idea behind sub-buffers is that they're basically an extension of
+double-buffering to N buffers, and they also allow applications to
+easily implement random-access-on-buffer-boundary schemes, which can
+be important for some high-volume applications. The number and size
+of sub-buffers is completely dependent on the application and even for
+the same application, different conditions will warrant different
+values for these parameters at different times. Typically, the right
+values to use are best decided after some experimentation; in general,
+though, it's safe to assume that having only 1 sub-buffer is a bad
+idea - you're guaranteed to either overwrite data or lose events
+depending on the channel mode being used.
+The create_buf_file() implementation can also be defined in such a way
+as to allow the creation of a single 'global' buffer instead of the
+default per-cpu set. This can be useful for applications interested
+mainly in seeing the relative ordering of system-wide events without
+the need to bother with saving explicit timestamps for the purpose of
+merging/sorting per-cpu files in a postprocessing step.
+To have relay_open() create a global buffer, the create_buf_file()
+implementation should set the value of the is_global outparam to a
+non-zero value in addition to creating the file that will be used to
+represent the single buffer. In the case of a global buffer,
+create_buf_file() and remove_buf_file() will be called only once. The
+normal channel-writing functions, e.g. relay_write(), can still be
+used - writes from any cpu will transparently end up in the global
+buffer - but since it is a global buffer, callers should make sure
+they use the proper locking for such a buffer, either by wrapping
+writes in a spinlock, or by copying a write function from relay.h and
+creating a local version that internally does the proper locking.
+The private_data passed into relay_open() allows clients to associate
+user-defined data with a channel, and is immediately available
+(including in create_buf_file()) via chan->private_data or
+Buffer-only channels
+These channels have no files associated and can be created with
+relay_open(NULL, NULL, ...). Such channels are useful in scenarios such
+as when doing early tracing in the kernel, before the VFS is up. In these
+cases, one may open a buffer-only channel and then call
+relay_late_setup_files() when the kernel is ready to handle files,
+to expose the buffered data to the userspace.
+Channel 'modes'
+relay channels can be used in either of two modes - 'overwrite' or
+'no-overwrite'. The mode is entirely determined by the implementation
+of the subbuf_start() callback, as described below. The default if no
+subbuf_start() callback is defined is 'no-overwrite' mode. If the
+default mode suits your needs, and you plan to use the read()
+interface to retrieve channel data, you can ignore the details of this
+section, as it pertains mainly to mmap() implementations.
+In 'overwrite' mode, also known as 'flight recorder' mode, writes
+continuously cycle around the buffer and will never fail, but will
+unconditionally overwrite old data regardless of whether it's actually
+been consumed. In no-overwrite mode, writes will fail, i.e. data will
+be lost, if the number of unconsumed sub-buffers equals the total
+number of sub-buffers in the channel. It should be clear that if
+there is no consumer or if the consumer can't consume sub-buffers fast
+enough, data will be lost in either case; the only difference is
+whether data is lost from the beginning or the end of a buffer.
+As explained above, a relay channel is made of up one or more
+per-cpu channel buffers, each implemented as a circular buffer
+subdivided into one or more sub-buffers. Messages are written into
+the current sub-buffer of the channel's current per-cpu buffer via the
+write functions described below. Whenever a message can't fit into
+the current sub-buffer, because there's no room left for it, the
+client is notified via the subbuf_start() callback that a switch to a
+new sub-buffer is about to occur. The client uses this callback to 1)
+initialize the next sub-buffer if appropriate 2) finalize the previous
+sub-buffer if appropriate and 3) return a boolean value indicating
+whether or not to actually move on to the next sub-buffer.
+To implement 'no-overwrite' mode, the userspace client would provide
+an implementation of the subbuf_start() callback something like the
+static int subbuf_start(struct rchan_buf *buf,
+ void *subbuf,
+ void *prev_subbuf,
+ unsigned int prev_padding)
+ if (prev_subbuf)
+ *((unsigned *)prev_subbuf) = prev_padding;
+ if (relay_buf_full(buf))
+ return 0;
+ subbuf_start_reserve(buf, sizeof(unsigned int));
+ return 1;
+If the current buffer is full, i.e. all sub-buffers remain unconsumed,
+the callback returns 0 to indicate that the buffer switch should not
+occur yet, i.e. until the consumer has had a chance to read the
+current set of ready sub-buffers. For the relay_buf_full() function
+to make sense, the consumer is responsible for notifying the relay
+interface when sub-buffers have been consumed via
+relay_subbufs_consumed(). Any subsequent attempts to write into the
+buffer will again invoke the subbuf_start() callback with the same
+parameters; only when the consumer has consumed one or more of the
+ready sub-buffers will relay_buf_full() return 0, in which case the
+buffer switch can continue.
+The implementation of the subbuf_start() callback for 'overwrite' mode
+would be very similar:
+static int subbuf_start(struct rchan_buf *buf,
+ void *subbuf,
+ void *prev_subbuf,
+ unsigned int prev_padding)
+ if (prev_subbuf)
+ *((unsigned *)prev_subbuf) = prev_padding;
+ subbuf_start_reserve(buf, sizeof(unsigned int));
+ return 1;
+In this case, the relay_buf_full() check is meaningless and the
+callback always returns 1, causing the buffer switch to occur
+unconditionally. It's also meaningless for the client to use the
+relay_subbufs_consumed() function in this mode, as it's never
+The default subbuf_start() implementation, used if the client doesn't
+define any callbacks, or doesn't define the subbuf_start() callback,
+implements the simplest possible 'no-overwrite' mode, i.e. it does
+nothing but return 0.
+Header information can be reserved at the beginning of each sub-buffer
+by calling the subbuf_start_reserve() helper function from within the
+subbuf_start() callback. This reserved area can be used to store
+whatever information the client wants. In the example above, room is
+reserved in each sub-buffer to store the padding count for that
+sub-buffer. This is filled in for the previous sub-buffer in the
+subbuf_start() implementation; the padding value for the previous
+sub-buffer is passed into the subbuf_start() callback along with a
+pointer to the previous sub-buffer, since the padding value isn't
+known until a sub-buffer is filled. The subbuf_start() callback is
+also called for the first sub-buffer when the channel is opened, to
+give the client a chance to reserve space in it. In this case the
+previous sub-buffer pointer passed into the callback will be NULL, so
+the client should check the value of the prev_subbuf pointer before
+writing into the previous sub-buffer.
+Writing to a channel
+Kernel clients write data into the current cpu's channel buffer using
+relay_write() or __relay_write(). relay_write() is the main logging
+function - it uses local_irqsave() to protect the buffer and should be
+used if you might be logging from interrupt context. If you know
+you'll never be logging from interrupt context, you can use
+__relay_write(), which only disables preemption. These functions
+don't return a value, so you can't determine whether or not they
+failed - the assumption is that you wouldn't want to check a return
+value in the fast logging path anyway, and that they'll always succeed
+unless the buffer is full and no-overwrite mode is being used, in
+which case you can detect a failed write in the subbuf_start()
+callback by calling the relay_buf_full() helper function.
+relay_reserve() is used to reserve a slot in a channel buffer which
+can be written to later. This would typically be used in applications
+that need to write directly into a channel buffer without having to
+stage data in a temporary buffer beforehand. Because the actual write
+may not happen immediately after the slot is reserved, applications
+using relay_reserve() can keep a count of the number of bytes actually
+written, either in space reserved in the sub-buffers themselves or as
+a separate array. See the 'reserve' example in the relay-apps tarball
+at http://relayfs.sourceforge.net for an example of how this can be
+done. Because the write is under control of the client and is
+separated from the reserve, relay_reserve() doesn't protect the buffer
+at all - it's up to the client to provide the appropriate
+synchronization when using relay_reserve().
+Closing a channel
+The client calls relay_close() when it's finished using the channel.
+The channel and its associated buffers are destroyed when there are no
+longer any references to any of the channel buffers. relay_flush()
+forces a sub-buffer switch on all the channel buffers, and can be used
+to finalize and process the last sub-buffers before the channel is
+Some applications may want to keep a channel around and re-use it
+rather than open and close a new channel for each use. relay_reset()
+can be used for this purpose - it resets a channel to its initial
+state without reallocating channel buffer memory or destroying
+existing mappings. It should however only be called when it's safe to
+do so, i.e. when the channel isn't currently being written to.
+Finally, there are a couple of utility callbacks that can be used for
+different purposes. buf_mapped() is called whenever a channel buffer
+is mmapped from user space and buf_unmapped() is called when it's
+unmapped. The client can use this notification to trigger actions
+within the kernel application, such as enabling/disabling logging to
+the channel.
+For news, example code, mailing list, etc. see the relay interface homepage:
+ http://relayfs.sourceforge.net
+The ideas and specs for the relay interface came about as a result of
+discussions on tracing involving the following:
+Michel Dagenais <michel.dagenais@polymtl.ca>
+Richard Moore <richardj_moore@uk.ibm.com>
+Bob Wisniewski <bob@watson.ibm.com>
+Karim Yaghmour <karim@opersys.com>
+Tom Zanussi <zanussi@us.ibm.com>
+Also thanks to Hubertus Franke for a lot of useful suggestions and bug