Driver framework (DFv2)

Fuchsia’s driver framework is a collection of libraries, tools, metadata, and components that enable developers to create, run, test, and distribute drivers for Fuchsia systems. The driver framework aims to provide a stable ABI that allows developers to write a driver once and deploy it on multiple versions of the Fuchsia platform. (However, Fuchsia's driver framework is constantly evolving and has not achieved ABI stability yet.)

The driver framework comprises the following entities for running drivers in a Fuchsia system:

Driver manager

Fuchsia's driver manager, which runs as a Fuchsia component (, is one of the initial processes to start when a Fuchsia system boots up. The driver manager starts and stops drivers in a Fuchsia system and routes FIDL capabilities for the drivers.

The driver manager maintains the topology of all known devices (or nodes) in a Fuchsia system. When the driver manager sees a node that represents a new device in the system, it asks the driver index (a Fuchsia component) to find the correct driver to bind to that node. When a driver is matched to the node, the driver manager then creates a new driver host (or reuses an existing driver host), which also runs as a component. The driver host starts an instance of the driver and begins providing the device’s services to other Fuchsia components in the system.

In addition, the driver manager hosts a virtual filesystem named devfs (as in "device filesystem"). All non-driver components use this devfs to discover services provided by the drivers running in the system.

Driver host

Every driver lives in a driver host, which runs as a Fuchsia component ( Driver hosts provide isolation between drivers in a Fuchsia system. Each driver host is a process, meaning it has its own address space and manages its own set of threads.

After the driver manager binds a driver to a node, it asks a driver host to create an instance of the driver. The driver host then initializes the driver. A driver's initialization involves calling the driver's start hook (the Start() function in the driver’s code) and handing the driver control of the node to which it’s bound.

More than one driver can be co-located within a single driver host. After a driver is bound to a node, the driver is often placed in a new driver host. However, a driver can also choose to be placed in the same driver host as its parent driver. When drivers are co-located in the same driver host, they share the same address space.


Diagram 1. Driver hosts representing USB devices connected to the PCI bus.

Driver index

The driver index, which runs as a Fuchsia component (, is responsible for the following tasks:

  • Keep track of all the drivers available in the system, where each driver is stored along with metadata (such as its component URL and bind rules).
  • Compare all known drivers to a target node (that is, a device in the system) for matching.

The driver index tracks the following types of drivers in a Fuchsia system:

  • Boot drivers: Drivers that exist in the Zircon boot image (ZBI) and are needed for bootstrapping the system (for example, storage drivers). The ZBI has limited space compared to base drivers.
  • Base drivers: Drivers that are available in the Fuchsia image and are not critical for bootstrapping the system. These drivers are loaded from the system's storage, so they need to be loaded after the boot drivers have enabled storage (for example, USB drivers, networking drivers) These are similar to Fuchsia’s base packages.
  • Universe drivers: Drivers that are registered manually after the system’s initial boot (for instance, using the ffx driver register or bazel run command), which are loaded using the universe package resolver, similar to Fuchsia’s universe packages. However, registering universe drivers is supported for driver development purposes only.

When the driver manager needs to find a driver for an unbound node in the node topology, it uses the MatchDriver FIDL protocol to send a match request to the driver index. The driver index then evaluates the node properties (which is included in the match request) against the bind rules of every driver that is being tracked. When there is a match, the driver index returns the matched driver’s metadata to the driver manager. But if there is no match, the driver index responds with a Not Found error code. (For more information on the bind rules and binding process, see Driver binding.)

Driver runtime

At a high level, a driver communicates with the following three groups in a Fuchsia system: the driver framework, other drivers, and non-driver components. Most of the communication occurs using FIDL calls over Zircon channels. However, with the driver runtime, co-located drivers in the same process can avoid going in and out of the Zircon kernel. In other words, the driver runtime provides a mechanism that enables co-located drivers to communicate with each other locally, which is much more efficient than communicating using kernel channels. The driver runtime is an in-process runtime modeled after the Zircon kernel. The driver runtime provides primitives similar to the Zircon channel and port, and a new FIDL transport is built on top of this runtime. (For more details, see the RFC on the driver runtime.)

FIDL interface

The FIDL interface in the driver framework refers to the following two FIDL protocols:

The combination of these two protocols forms the basis of how drivers communicate with the driver framework. Other protocols supported by the framework are largely used for internal communication between various driver framework entities (that is, the driver manager, the driver index, the driver hosts, etc.).

There are also some auxiliary FIDL protocols used between non-driver components and the driver framework. For instance, we have several protocols for debugging in the fuchsia.driver.development FIDL library which are used by our debugging tools. We also have some protocols for registering new drivers and handling shutdown. However, most of these are not particularly interesting for a driver developer.