[dpdk-users] Low level understanding of mbufs needed.

Andrew Bainbridge andbain at microsoft.com
Mon Sep 4 12:44:02 CEST 2017

I'm a newbie. I want to learn more about to use mbufs to achieve the best throughput. My application is something like a VPN server. In pseudo code:

while 1:
    pkt = recv()
    if pkt.ip.daddr == CLIENT:
        new_pkt = encap(pkt)
        new_pkt = decap(pkt)

Where encap() prepends an IP and UDP header, and decap() does the opposite.

Most of each packet I send is the same as one I just received. Is it possible to do the send without having to allocate a new mbuf and memcpy into it?

I want to learn more about how the system works at the low level.

My guess of how it works is that the NIC reads in a packet from the Ethernet cable and writes it into its on-chip SRAM. Once it has enough data buffered, or enough time has elapsed it does a PCIe write request to copy the data into system RAM. The simplest scheme would be to have a single large circular buffer in system RAM and for the packets to be written nose-to-tail into that buffer.
Does DPDK do that? I guess not. I guess the supported cards all support scatter/gather, which AFAICT means the NICs are smart enough to understand an array of pointers to buffers.

So what then? I have many 1500 byte buffers allocated, and I give the NIC an array of pointers to those buffers. The NIC then "scatters" the input stream into these buffers, one packet per buffer.

I guess the best scheme for my application would be if I could tell the NIC to always leave 30 bytes or so of headroom on each packet, so that I can prepend the extra headers in the encap case. Can I request that when I configure the mbufs?

If you can point me to some kind of tutorial or blog post that covers this area, that would also be helpful.


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