Zircon Device Model


In Zircon, device drivers are implemented as ELF shared libraries (DSOs) which are loaded into Device Host (devhost) processes. The Device Manager (devmgr) process, contains the Device Coordinator which keeps track of drivers and devices, manages the discovery of drivers, the creation and direction of Device Host processes, and maintains the Device Filesystem (devfs), which is the mechanism through which userspace services and applications (constrained by their namespaces) gain access to devices.

The Device Coordinator views devices as part of a single unified tree. The branches (and sub-branches) of that tree consist of some number of devices within a Device Host process. The decision as to how to sub-divide the overall tree among Device Hosts is based on system policy for isolating drivers for security or stability reasons and colocating drivers for performance reasons.

NOTE: The current policy is simple (each device representing a physical bus-master capable hardware device and its children are placed into a separate devhost). It will evolve to provide finer-grained partitioning.

Devices, Drivers, and Device Hosts

Here's a (slightly trimmed for clarity) dump of the tree of devices in Zircon running on Qemu x86-64:

$ dm dump
   <root> pid=1509
      [null] pid=1509 /boot/driver/builtin.so
      [zero] pid=1509 /boot/driver/builtin.so
      <misc> pid=1645
         [console] pid=1645 /boot/driver/console.so
         [dmctl] pid=1645 /boot/driver/dmctl.so
         [ptmx] pid=1645 /boot/driver/pty.so
         [i8042-keyboard] pid=1645 /boot/driver/pc-ps2.so
            [hid-device-001] pid=1645 /boot/driver/hid.so
         [i8042-mouse] pid=1645 /boot/driver/pc-ps2.so
            [hid-device-002] pid=1645 /boot/driver/hid.so
      <sys> pid=1416 /boot/driver/bus-acpi.so
         [acpi] pid=1416 /boot/driver/bus-acpi.so
         [pci] pid=1416 /boot/driver/bus-acpi.so
            [00:00:00] pid=1416 /boot/driver/bus-pci.so
            [00:01:00] pid=1416 /boot/driver/bus-pci.so
               <00:01:00> pid=2015 /boot/driver/bus-pci.proxy.so
                  [bochs_vbe] pid=2015 /boot/driver/bochs-vbe.so
                     [framebuffer] pid=2015 /boot/driver/framebuffer.so
            [00:02:00] pid=1416 /boot/driver/bus-pci.so
               <00:02:00> pid=2052 /boot/driver/bus-pci.proxy.so
                  [intel-ethernet] pid=2052 /boot/driver/intel-ethernet.so
                     [ethernet] pid=2052 /boot/driver/ethernet.so
            [00:1f:00] pid=1416 /boot/driver/bus-pci.so
            [00:1f:02] pid=1416 /boot/driver/bus-pci.so
               <00:1f:02> pid=2156 /boot/driver/bus-pci.proxy.so
                  [ahci] pid=2156 /boot/driver/ahci.so
            [00:1f:03] pid=1416 /boot/driver/bus-pci.so

The names in square brackets are devices. The names in angle brackets are proxy devices, which are instantiated in the “lower” devhost, when process isolation is being provided. The pid= field indicates the process object id of the devhost process that device is contained within. The path indicates which driver implements that device.

Above, for example, the pid 1416 devhost contains the pci bus driver, which has created devices for each PCI device in the system. PCI device 00:02:00 happens to be an intel ethernet interface, which we have a driver for (intel-ethernet.so). A new devhost (pid 2052) is created, set up with a proxy device for PCI 00:02:00, and the intel ethernet driver is loaded and bound to it.

Proxy devices are invisible within the Device filesystem, so this ethernet device appears as /dev/sys/pci/00:02:00/intel-ethernet.

Protocols, Interfaces, and Classes

Devices may implement Protocols, which are C ABIs used by child devices to interact with parent devices in a device-specific manner. The PCI Protocol, USB Protocol, Block Core Protocol, and Ethermac Protocol, are examples of these. Protocols are usually in-process interactions between devices in the same devhost, but in cases of driver isolation, they may take place via RPC to a “higher” devhost (via proxy).

Devices may implement Interfaces, which are FIDL RPC protocols that clients (services, applications, etc) use. The base device interface supports POSIX style open/close/read/write IO. Interfaces are supported via the message() operation in the base device interface. For legacy reasons, an ioctl() operation is currently present, but it is deprecated and in the process of being removed.

In many cases a Protocol is used to allow drivers to be simpler by taking advantage of a common implementation of an Interface. For example, the “block” driver implements the common block interface, and binds to devices implementing the Block Core Protocol, and the “ethernet” driver does the same thing for the Ethernet Interface and Ethermac Protocol. Some protocols, such as the two cited here, make use of shared memory, and non-rpc signaling for more efficient, lower latency, and higher throughput than could be achieved otherwise.

Classes represent a promise that a device implements an Interface or Protocol. Devices exist in the Device Filesystem under a topological path, like /sys/pci/00:02:00/intel-ethernet. If they are a specific class, they also appear as an alias under /dev/class/CLASSNAME/.... The intel-ethernet driver implements the Ethermac interface, so it also shows up at /dev/class/ethermac/000. The names within class directories are unique but not meaningful, and are assigned on demand.

NOTE: Currently names in class directories are 3 digit decimal numbers, but they are likely to change form in the future. Clients should not assume there is any specific meaning to a class alias name.

Device Driver Lifecycle

Device drivers are loaded into devhost processes when it is determined they are needed. What determines if they are loaded or not is the Binding Program, which is a description of what device a driver can bind to. The Binding Program is defined using macros in ddk/binding.h

An example Binding Program from the Intel Ethernet driver:

ZIRCON_DRIVER_BEGIN(intel_ethernet, intel_ethernet_driver_ops, "zircon", "0.1", 9)
    BI_ABORT_IF(NE, BIND_PCI_VID, 0x8086),
    BI_MATCH_IF(EQ, BIND_PCI_DID, 0x100E), // Qemu
    BI_MATCH_IF(EQ, BIND_PCI_DID, 0x15A3), // Broadwell
    BI_MATCH_IF(EQ, BIND_PCI_DID, 0x1570), // Skylake
    BI_MATCH_IF(EQ, BIND_PCI_DID, 0x1533), // I210 standalone
    BI_MATCH_IF(EQ, BIND_PCI_DID, 0x15b7), // Skull Canyon NUC
    BI_MATCH_IF(EQ, BIND_PCI_DID, 0x15b8), // I219
    BI_MATCH_IF(EQ, BIND_PCI_DID, 0x15d8), // Kaby Lake NUC

The ZIRCON_DRIVER_BEGIN and _END macros include the necessary compiler directives to put the binding program into an ELF NOTE section, allowing it to be inspected by the Device Coordinator without needing to fully load the driver into its process. The second parameter to the _BEGIN macro is a zx_driver_ops_t structure pointer (defined by [ddk/driver.h](../../system/ulib/ddk/include/ddk/driver.h) which defines the init, bind, create, and release methods.

init() is invoked when a driver is loaded into a Device Host process and allows for any global initialization. Typically none is required. If the init() method is implemented and fails, the driver load will fail.

bind() is invoked to offer the driver a device to bind to. The device is one that has matched the bind program the driver has published. If the bind() method succeeds, the driver must create a new device and add it as a child of the device passed in to the bind() method. See Device Lifecycle for more information.

create() is invoked for platform/system bus drivers or proxy drivers. For the vast majority of drivers, this method is not required.

release() is invoked before the driver is unloaded, after all devices it may have created in bind() and elsewhere have been destroyed. Currently this method is never invoked. Drivers, once loaded, remain loaded for the life of a Device Host process.

Device Lifecycle

Within a Device Host process, devices exist as a tree of zx_device_t structures which are opaque to the driver. These are created with device_add() which the driver provides a zx_protocol_device_t structure to. The methods defined by the function pointers in this structure are the “device ops”. The various structures and functions are defined in device.h

The device_add() function creates a new device, adding it as a child to the provided parent device. That parent device must be either the device passed in to the bind() method of a device driver, or another device which has been created by the same device driver.

A side-effect of device_add() is that the newly created device will be added to the global Device Filesystem maintained by the Device Coordinator. If the device is created with the DEVICE_ADD_INVISIBLE flag, it will not be accessible via opening its node in devfs until device_make_visible() is invoked. This is useful for drivers that have to do extended initialization or probing and do not want to visibly publish their device(s) until that succeeds (and quietly remove them if that fails).

Devices are reference counted. When a driver creates one with device_add(), it then holds a reference on that device until it eventually calls device_remove(). If a device is opened by a remote process via the Device Filesystem, a reference is acquired there as well. When a device's parent is removed, its unbind() method is invoked. This signals to the driver that it should start shutting the device down and remove any child devices it has created by calling device_remove() on them.

Since a child device may have work in progress when its unbind() method is called, it's possible that the parent device which just called device_remove() on the child could continue to receive device method calls or protocol method calls on behalf of that child. It is advisable that before removing its children, the parent device should arrange for these methods to return errors, so that calls from a child before the child removal is completed do not start more work or cause unexpected interactions.

From the moment that device_add() is called without the DEVICE_ADD_INVISIBLE flag, or device_make_visible() is called on an invisible device, other device ops may be called by the Device Host.

The release() method is only called after the creating driver has called device_remove() on the device, all open instances of that device have been closed, and all children of that device have been removed and released. This is the last opportunity for the driver to destroy or free any resources associated with the device. It is not valid to refer to the zx_device_t for that device after release() returns. Calling any device methods or protocol methods for protocols obtained from the parent device past this point is illegal and will likely result in a crash.

An Example of the Tear-Down Sequence

To explain how the unbind() and release() work during the tear-down process, below is an example of how a USB WLAN driver would usually handle it. In short, the unbind() call sequence is top-down while the release() sequence is bottom-up.

Note that this is just an example. This might not match what exactly the real WLAN driver is doing.

Assume a WLAN device is plugged in as a USB device, and a PHY interface has been created under the USB device. In addition to the PHY interface, 2 MAC interfaces have been created under the PHY interface.

            | USB Device |
            |  WLAN PHY  | .unbind()
            +------------+ .release()
              |        |
    +------------+  +------------+
    | WLAN MAC 0 |  | WLAN MAC 1 | .unbind()
    +------------+  +------------+ .release()

Now, we unplug this USB WLAN device.

  • The USB XHCI detects the removal and calls device_remove(usb_device).

  • Since the parent device is being removed, the WLAN PHY's unbind() is called. In this unbind(), it would remove the interface it created via device_add():

    wlan_phy_unbind(void* ctx) {
        // Stop interrupt or anything to prevent incoming requests.

  • When wlan_phy is removed, unbind() will be called on all of its children (wlan_mac_0, wlan_mac_1).
    wlan_mac_unbind(void* ctx) {
        // Stop accepting new requests, and notify clients that this device is offline (often just
        // by returning an ZX_ERR_IO_NOT_PRESENT to any requests that happen after unbind).

  • Once all the clients of a device have been removed, and that device has no children, its refcount will reach zero and its release() method will be called.

  • WLAN MAC 0 and 1's release() are called.

    wlan_mac_release(void* ctx) {
        // Release sources allocated at creation.

        // Delete the object here.
  • The wlan_phy has no open connections, but still has child devices (wlan_mac_0 and wlan_mac_1). Once they have both been released, its refcount finally reaches zero and its release() method is invoked.
    wlan_phy_release(void* ctx) {
        // Release sources allocated at creation.

        // Delete the object here.