Videos and slides of Bootlin presentations at FOSDEM 2021

The videos from Bootlin’s presentations earlier this month at FOSDEM 2021 are now publicly available. Once again, FOSDEM was a busy event, even if it was online for once. As in most technical conferences, Bootlin engineers volunteered to share their experience and research by giving two talks.

Maxime Chevallier – Network Performance in the Linux Kernel, Getting the most out of the Hardware

Abstract: The networking stack is one of the most complex and optimized subsystems in the Linux kernel, and for a good reason. Between the wild range of applications, the complexity and variety of the networking hardware, getting good performance while keeping the stack easily usable from userspace has been a long-standing challenge.

Nowadays, complex Network Interface Controllers (NICs) can be found even on small embedded systems, bringing powerful features that were previously found only in the server world closest to day to day users.

This is a good opportunity to dive into the Linux Networking stack, to discover what is used to make networking as fast as possible, both by using all the features of the hardware and by implementing some clever software tricks.

In this talk, we cover these various techniques, ranging from simple batch processing with NAPI, queue management with RSS, RPS, XPS and so on, flow steering and filtering with ethool and TC, to finish with the newest big change that is XDP.

We dive into these various techniques and see how to configure them to squeeze the most out of your hardware, and discover that what was previously in the realm of datacenters and huge computers can now also be applied to embedded linux development.

Here are PDF slides for this presentation.

Michael Opdenacker – Embedded Linux from Scratch in 45 minutes, on RISC-V

Abstract: Discover how to build your own embedded Linux system completely from scratch. In this presentation and tutorial, we show how to build a custom toolchain (Buildroot), bootloader (opensbi / U-Boot) and kernel (Linux), that one can run on a system with the new RISV-V open Instruction Set Architecture emulated by QEMU. We also show how one can build a minimal root filesystem by oneself thanks to the BusyBox project. The presentation ends by showing how to control the system remotely through a tiny webserver. The approach is to provide only the files that are strictly necessary. That’s all the interest of embedded Linux: one can really control and understand everything that runs on the system, and see how simple the system can be. That’s much easier than trying to understand how a GNU/Linux system works from a distribution as complex as Debian!

The presentation also shares details about what’s specific to the RISC-V architecture, in particular about the various stages of the boot process. This presentation shares all the hardware (!), source code build instructions and demo binaries needed to reproduce everything at home, and add specific improvements. Most of the details are also useful to people using other hardware architectures (in particular arm and arm64).

It’s probably the first time a tutorial manages to show so many aspects of embedded Linux in less than an hour. See by yourself! At least, that’s for sure the first one demonstrating how to boot Linux from U-Boot in a RISC-V system emulated by QEMU.

Here are PDF slides for this presentation.

Feedback from the Netdev 0x13 conference

The Netdev 0x13 conference took place last week in Prague, Czech Republic. As we work on a variety of networking topics as part of our Linux kernel contributions, Bootlin engineers Maxime Chevallier and Antoine Ténart went to meet with the Linux networking community and to see a lot of interesting sessions. It’s the third time we enjoy attending the Netdev conference (after Netdev 2.1 and Netdev 2.2) and as always, it was a blast!

The 3-day conference started with a first day of workshops and tutorials. We enjoyed learning how to be the cool kids thanks to the XDP hands-on tutorial where Jesper Brouer and Toke Høiland-Jørgensen cooked us a number of lessons to progressively get to learn how to write and load XDP programs. This was the first trial-run of the tutorial which is meant to be extended and used as a material to go through the XDP basics. The instructions are all available on Github.

We then had the chance to attend the TC workshop where face to face discussions and presentations of the traffic control hot topics being worked on happened. The session caught our attention as the topic is related to current subjects being worked on at Bootlin.

Being used to work on embedded systems, seeing the problems the Network developers face can sometimes come as a surprise. During the TC workshop, Vlad Buslov presented his recent work on removing TC flower’s the dependency to the global rtnl lock, which is an issue when you have a million classification rules to update quickly.

We also went to the hardware offload workshop. The future of the network offload APIs and support in the Linux kernel was discussed, with various topics ranging from ASIC support to switchev advanced use-cases or offloading XDP. This was very interesting to us as we do work on various networking engines providing many offloading facilities to the kernel.

The next two days were a collection of talks presenting the recent advances in the networking subsystem of the Linux kernel, as well as current issues and real-world examples of recent functionalities being leveraged.

As always XDP was brought-up with a presentation of XDP offloading using virtio-net, recent advances in combining XDP and hardware offloading techniques and a feedback from Cloudflare using XDP in their DDOS mitigation in-house solution.

But we also got to see other topics, such as SO_TIMESTAMPING being used for performance analytics. In this talk Soheil Hassas Yeganeh presented how the kernel timestamping facilities can be used to track individual packets withing the networking stack for performance analysis and debugging. This was nice to see as we worked on enabling hardware timestamping in networking engines and PHYs for our clients.

Another hot topic this year was the QUIC protocol, which was presented in details in the very good QUIC tutorial by Jana Iyengar. Since this protocol is fairly new, it was brought-up in several sessions from a lot of interesting angles.

Although QUIC was not the main subject of Alissa Cooper’s keynote on Open Source, the IETF, and You, she explained how QUIC was an example of a protocol that is designed alongside its implementations, having a tight feedback loop between the protocol specifications and its usage in real-life. Alissa shared Jana’s point on how middle-boxes are a problem when designing and deploying new protocols, and explained that an approach to overcome this “ossification” is to encrypt the protocol header themselves and document the invariant parts of the non-encrypted parts.

A consequence of having a flexible protocol is that it is not meant to be implemented in the kernel. However, Maciej Machnikowski and Joshua Hay explained that it is still possible to offload some of the processing to hardware, which sparked interesting discussions with the audience on how to do so.

Conclusion

The Netdev 0x13 conference was well organized and very pleasant to attend. The content was deeply technical and allowed us to stay up-to-date with the latest developments. We also had interesting discussions and came back with lots of ideas to explore.

Thanks for organizing Netdev, we had an amazing time!