libxdp - Man Page

libxdp - library for attaching XDP programs

This directory contains the files for the libxdp library for attaching XDP programs to network interfaces. The library is fairly lightweight and relies on libbpf to do the heavy lifting for processing eBPF object files etc.

The primary feature that libxdp provides on top of libbpf is the ability to load multiple XDP programs in sequence on a single network device (which is not natively supported by the kernel). This support relies on the freplace functionality in the kernel, which makes it possible to attach an eBPF program as a replacement for a global function in another (already loaded) eBPF program.

Using libxdp from an application

Basic usage of libxdp from an application is quite straight forward. The following example loads, then unloads, an XDP program from the 'lo' interface:

#define IFINDEX 1

struct xdp_program *prog;
int err;

prog = xdp_program__open_file("my-program.o", "section_name", NULL);
err = xdp_program__attach(prog, IFINDEX, XDP_MODE_NATIVE, 0);

if (!err)
    xdp_program__detach(prog, IFINDEX, XDP_MODE_NATIVE, 0);


The xdp_program structure is an opaque structure that represents a single XDP program. libxdp contains functions to create such a struct either from a BPF object file on disk, from a libbpf BPF object, or from an identifier of a program that is already loaded into the kernel:

struct xdp_program *xdp_program__from_bpf_obj(struct bpf_object *obj,
					      const char *section_name);
struct xdp_program *xdp_program__find_file(const char *filename,
					   const char *section_name,
					   struct bpf_object_open_opts *opts);
struct xdp_program *xdp_program__open_file(const char *filename,
					   const char *section_name,
					   struct bpf_object_open_opts *opts);
struct xdp_program *xdp_program__from_fd(int fd);
struct xdp_program *xdp_program__from_id(__u32 prog_id);
struct xdp_program *xdp_program__from_pin(const char *pin_path);

The functions that open a BPF object or file need the function name of the XDP program as well as the file name or object, since an ELF file can contain multiple XDP programs. The xdp_program__find_file() function takes a filename without a path, and will look for the object in LIBXDP_OBJECT_PATH which defaults to /usr/lib/bpf (or /usr/lib64/bpf on systems using a split library path). This is convenient for applications shipping pre-compiled eBPF object files.

The xdp_program__attach() function will attach the program to an interface, building a dispatcher program to execute it. Multiple programs can be attached at once with xdp_program__attach_multi(); they will be sorted in order of their run priority, and execution from one program to the next will proceed based on the chain call actions defined for each program (see the Program metadata section below). Because the loading process involves modifying the attach type of the program, the attach functions only work with struct xdp_program objects that have not yet been loaded into the kernel.

Due to limitations in the kernel support, it is currently not possible to attach another program to an already-attached list of programs. As such, the only way to actually run multiple programs on a single interface is to attach them all at the same time with xdp_program__attach_multi(). It is expected that this restriction will be lifted in an upcoming kernel version, after which xdp_program__attach() will simply add the program being loaded into the existing chain of programs running on the interface.

Program metadata

To support multiple XDP programs on the same interface, libxdp uses two pieces of metadata for each XDP program: Run priority and chain call actions.

Run priority

This is the priority of the program and is a simple integer used to sort programs when loading multiple programs onto the same interface. Programs that wish to run early (such as a packet filter) should set low values for this, while programs that want to run later (such as a packet forwarder or counter) should set higher values. Note that later programs are only run if the previous programs end with a return code that is part of its chain call actions (see below). If not specified, the default priority value is 50.

Chain call actions

These are the program return codes that the program indicate for packets that should continue processing. If the program returns one of these actions, later programs in the call chain will be run, whereas if it returns any other action, processing will be interrupted, and the XDP dispatcher will return the verdict immediately. If not set, this defaults to just XDP_PASS, which is likely the value most programs should use.

Specifying metadata

The metadata outlined above is specified as BTF information embedded in the ELF file containing the XDP program. The xdp_helpers.h file shipped with libxdp contains helper macros to include this information, which can be used as follows:

#include <bpf/bpf_helpers.h>
#include <xdp/xdp_helpers.h>

struct {
	__uint(priority, 10);
	__uint(XDP_PASS, 1);
	__uint(XDP_DROP, 1);
} XDP_RUN_CONFIG(my_xdp_func);

This example specifies that the XDP program in my_xdp_func should have priority 10 and that its chain call actions are XDP_PASS and XDP_DROP. In a source file with multiple XDP programs in the same file, a definition like the above can be included for each program (main XDP function). Any program that does not specify any config information will use the default values outlined above.

Inspecting and modifying metadata

libxdp exposes the following functions that an application can use to inspect and modify the metadata on an XDP program. Modification is only possible before a program is attached on an interface. These functions won't modify the BTF information itself, but the new values will be stored as part of the program attachment.

unsigned int xdp_program__run_prio(const struct xdp_program *xdp_prog);
int xdp_program__set_run_prio(struct xdp_program *xdp_prog,
			      unsigned int run_prio);
bool xdp_program__chain_call_enabled(const struct xdp_program *xdp_prog,
				     enum xdp_action action);
int xdp_program__set_chain_call_enabled(struct xdp_program *prog,
					unsigned int action,
					bool enabled);
int xdp_program__print_chain_call_actions(const struct xdp_program *prog,
					  char *buf,
					  size_t buf_len);

The dispatcher program

To support multiple non-offloaded programs on the same network interface, libxdp uses a dispatcher program which is a small wrapper program that will call each component program in turn, expect the return code, and then chain call to the next program based on the chain call actions of the previous program (see the Program metadata section above).

While applications using libxdp do not need to know the details of the dispatcher program to just load an XDP program unto an interface, libxdp does expose the dispatcher and its attached component programs, which can be used to list the programs currently attached to an interface.

The structure used for this is struct xdp_multiprog, which can only be constructed from the programs loaded on an interface based on ifindex. The API for getting a multiprog reference and iterating through the attached programs looks like this:

struct xdp_multiprog *xdp_multiprog__get_from_ifindex(int ifindex);
struct xdp_program *xdp_multiprog__next_prog(const struct xdp_program *prog,
					     const struct xdp_multiprog *mp);
void xdp_multiprog__close(struct xdp_multiprog *mp);
int xdp_multiprog__detach(struct xdp_multiprog *mp, int ifindex);
enum xdp_attach_mode xdp_multiprog__attach_mode(const struct xdp_multiprog *mp);
struct xdp_program *xdp_multiprog__main_prog(const struct xdp_multiprog *mp);
struct xdp_program *xdp_multiprog__hw_prog(const struct xdp_multiprog *mp);
bool xdp_multiprog__is_legacy(const struct xdp_multiprog *mp);

If a non-offloaded program is attached to the interface which libxdp doesn't recognise as a dispatcher program, an xdp_multiprog structure will still be returned, and xdp_multiprog__is_legacy() will return true for that program (note that this also holds true if only an offloaded program is loaded). A reference to that (regular) XDP program can be obtained by xdp_multiprog__main_prog(). If the program attached to the interface is a dispatcher program, xdp_multiprog__main_prog() will return a reference to the dispatcher program itself, which is mainly useful for obtaining other data about that program (such as the program ID). A reference to an offloaded program can be acquired using xdp_multiprog_hw_prog(). Function xdp_multiprog__attach_mode() returns the attach mode of the non-offloaded program, whether an offloaded program is attached should be checked through xdp_multiprog_hw_prog().

Pinning in bpffs

The kernel will automatically detach component programs from the dispatcher once the last reference to them disappears. To prevent this from happening, libxdp will pin the component program references in bpffs before attaching the dispatcher to the network interface. The pathnames generated for pinning is as follows:

/sys/fs/bpf/xdp/dispatch-IFINDEX-DID - dispatcher program for IFINDEX with BPF program ID DID

/sys/fs/bpf/xdp/dispatch-IFINDEX-DID/prog0-prog - component program 0, program reference

/sys/fs/bpf/xdp/dispatch-IFINDEX-DID/prog0-link - component program 0, bpf_link reference

/sys/fs/bpf/xdp/dispatch-IFINDEX-DID/prog1-prog - component program 1, program reference

/sys/fs/bpf/xdp/dispatch-IFINDEX-DID/prog1-link - component program 1, bpf_link reference

etc, up to ten component programs

If set, the LIBXDP_BPFFS environment variable will override the location of bpffs, but the xdp subdirectory is always used.


Please report any bugs on Github:


libxdp and this man page were written by Toke Høiland-Jørgensen

Referenced By


February 8, 2021 v1.1.1 libxdp - library for loading XDP programs