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RFC-0109: Fast UDP sockets

RFC-0109: Fast UDP sockets
  • Netstack

Implement network UDP socket data transport using zircon sockets.

Gerrit change
Date submitted (year-month-day)2021-06-17
Date reviewed (year-month-day)2021-06-25


Implement network datagram socket data transport using zircon sockets. Implement client-side argument validation using client-cached network state.


Increase datagram socket throughput and reduce CPU utilization.

Prior to https://fxbug.dev/21123 datagram network sockets were implemented using zircon sockets; clients would zx_socket_write to send data and zx_socket_read to receive data. A minimal protocol was used to carry metadata such as the destination address, if one was provided by the calling application.

This approach was abandoned because it did not provide for error signaling to the caller in certain cases. Consider an application that wishes to send a payload to a remote to which the network stack does not have a route; in order to comply with the expectations of third party software targeting Linux, the implementation must return an error to indicate that no action was taken on behalf of the caller.

The current implementation is defined in fuchsia.posix.socket/DatagramSocket.{Recv,Send}Msg. Both sending and receiving data requires multiple context switches due to support FIDL responses. Ignoring FIDL serialization:

| Client                      | Netstack                |
| `zx_channel_call(...)`      |                         |
|                             |                         |
|                             | `zx_channel_read(...)`  |
|                             | `zx_channel_write(...)` |
|                             |                         |
| (`zx_channel_call` returns) |                         |

The reverse (receiving data) looks much the same. Compare this to unacknowledged I/O:

| Client                  | Netstack               |
| `zx_channel_write(...)` |                        |
| `zx_channel_write(...)` | `zx_channel_read(...)` |

While unacknowledged I/O is possible with zircon channels and FIDL, it does not provide backpressure, and can lead to runaway memory growth. Thus, we propose to use zircon sockets:

| Client                 | Netstack              |
| `zx_socket_write(...)` |                       |
| `zx_socket_write(...)` | `zx_socket_read(...)` |


Metadata Validation

Utilizing unacknowledged I/O presupposes that datagram socket metadata (e.g. destination address) can be entirely validated on the local machine without interaction with the network, and that the results of this validation can be cached across multiple interactions with the socket (so that the validation cost can be amortized).

Note that this assumption notably does not hold for IPPROTO_ICMP sockets - their payloads are checked for validity - so the existing FIDL-based protocol will be retained and used where performance is not critical and deep validation is required.

Extract FIDL from existing types to be reused and rename DatagramSocket for clarity:

protocol BaseDatagramSocket {
  compose BaseSocket;

  /// Retrieves creation information from the socket.
  GetInfo() -> (Domain domain, DatagramSocketProtocol proto) error fuchsia.posix.Errno;

protocol SynchronousDatagramSocket {
  compose BaseDatagramSocket;

  /// Receives a message from the socket.
  RecvMsg(bool want_addr, uint32 data_len, bool want_control, RecvMsgFlags flags) -> (fuchsia.net.SocketAddress? addr, bytes data, RecvControlData control, uint32 truncated) error fuchsia.posix.Errno;
  /// Sends a message on the socket.
  SendMsg(fuchsia.net.SocketAddress? addr, bytes:MAX data, SendControlData control, SendMsgFlags flags) -> (int64 len) error fuchsia.posix.Errno;

Define the new FIDL protocol with validation functions:

/// Matches the definition in //zircon/system/public/zircon/types.h.
const uint32 ZX_WAIT_MANY_MAX_ITEMS = 64;

/// Describes an intent to send data.
type SendMsgArguments = table {
  /// The destination address.
  /// If absent, interpreted as the method receiver's connected address and
  /// causes the connected address to be returned in [`SendMsgBoardingPass.to`].
  /// Required if the method receiver is not connected.
  1: to fuchsia.net.SocketAddress;

/// Describes a granted approval to send data.
type SendMsgBoardingPass = resource table {
  /// The validated destination address.
  /// Present only in response to an unset
  /// [`SendMsgArguments.to`].
  1: to fuchsia.net.SocketAddress;
  /// Represents the validity of this structure.
  /// The structure is invalid if any of the elements' peer is closed.
  /// Datagrams sent to the associated destination after invalidation will be
  /// silently dropped.
  2: validity vector<zx.handle:<EVENTPAIR, zx.RIGHTS_BASIC>>:ZX_WAIT_MANY_MAX_ITEMS;
  /// The maximum datagram size that can be sent.
  /// Datagrams exceeding this will be silently dropped.
  3: maximum_size uint32;

protocol DatagramSocket {
  compose BaseDatagramSocket;

  /// Validates that data can be sent.
  /// + request `args` the requested disposition of data to be sent.
  /// - response `pass` the constraints sent data must satisfy.
  /// * error the error code indicating the reason for validation failure.
  SendMsgPreflight(SendMsgArguments args) -> (SendMsgBoardingPass pass) error fuchsia.posix.Errno;

Define FIDL structures to be sent on the zircon socket:

/// A datagram received on a network socket, along with its metadata.
type RecvMsgPayload = table {
  1: from fuchsia.net.SocketAddress;
  2: control RecvControlData;
  3: datagram bytes:MAX;

/// A datagram to be sent on a network socket, along with its metadata.
type SendMsgPayload = table {
  1: args SendMsgArguments;
  2: control SendControlData;
  3: datagram bytes:MAX;

Clients attempting to send data follow a procedure depicted by the following (horizontally squished) diagram:

+--------------------------------+               +---------------------------+               +----------------+
| cache.getSendMsgBoardingPass() | - Present ->  | checkPeerClosed(validity) |   +- ZX_OK -> | Return success |
+--------------------------------+               +---------------------------+   |           +----------------+
 |    ^                                            ^                     |  |    |
 |    |                                            |                     |  |  +------------------------------+
 |  +------+                  +----------------------------------+       |  |  | socket.write(SendMsgPayload) | - != ZX_OK -----+
 |  | Send |    +- Success -> | cache.storeSendMsgBoardingPass() |       |  |  +------------------------------+                 |
 |  +------+    |             +----------------------------------+       |  |                         ^                         |
 |            +--------------------+                                     |  |                         |                         |
 +- Absent -> | SendMsgPreflight() |  +- (ZX_OK, ZX_SIGNAL_PEER_CLOSED) -+  +- (ZX_ERR_TIMED_OUT) -+  |                         |
              +--------------------+  |                                                            |  +- No -+                  |
                |                ^    |   +-----------------------------------+                    |         |                  |
                |                |    +-> | cache.removeSendMsgBoardingPass() |                    |   +---------------------+  |
                |                |        +-----------------------------------+                    +-> | size > maximum_size |  |
                |                |          |                                                          +---------------------+  |
                |                |          |  +--------------+                                              |                  |
                |                +----------+  |              | <-------------------------------------- Yes -+                  |
                |                              | Return error |                                                                 |
                +- Failure ------------------> |              | <---------------------------------------------------------------+

Where the client's cache "implements" SendMsgPreflight; it is roughly a map from fuchsia.net.SocketAddress to (vector<zx::eventpair>, maximum_size).

Note that the cache formed by this strategy is eventually-consistent; it is possible for invalidation to interleave a client's validity check and its payload arriving at the network stack. This is acceptable for datagram sockets whose delivery semantics are best-effort.

Guaranteeing Synchronous Behavior


Under POSIX semantics, clients expect the system to provide synchronous send and recv behavior with respect to other client-initiated changes to incoming/outgoing packet processing. Specifically, clients expect that those changes apply to ALL OF the payloads not yet received and to NONE OF the payloads already sent.

In the current implementation, synchronous behavior is guaranteed because:

  1. Netstack is responsible for all relevant packet processing.
  2. Clients send and receive payloads via synchronous FIDL calls.
  3. Clients request changes to packet processing by setting socket options, which are also implemented as synchronous FIDL calls.

Replacing synchronous FIDL calls with unacknowledged I/O over a zircon socket transport breaks these semantics. The resulting problems and solutions are described below.

Send Path


On the Send Path, clients modify how payloads are processed by setting a socket option. Because setsockopt is implemented via a synchronous FIDL, the new value of the option might be applied to packets enqueued before the call was made. For example:

  1. Client sets IP_TOS to some value A, synchronously updating state in Netstack.
  2. Client calls sendto, which enqueues a payload in the zircon socket.
  3. Client sets IP_TOS to some value B.
  4. Netstack dequeues the payload and sends it out onto the network with IP_TOS=B.

Amend the FIDL handlers used to set socket options relevant to the send path to block until the zircon socket has been drained by the Netstack's dequeuing goroutine. Afterwards, the handler modifies the relevant state and returns to the client. Since all payloads sent prior to the call to setsockopt have already been dequeued from the zircon socket into the Netstack, none of them will be processed with the new setting.

Recv Path


On the Recv Path, clients can request control messages that provide ancillary data about the payload and its delivery by setting a socket option. Again, because setsockopt is synchronous, there is room for skew. For example:

  1. Netstack enqueues a payload into the zircon socket.
  2. Client sets IP_RECVTOS.
  3. Client dequeues a payload and returns it to the user without the IP_TOS control message.

In the Netstack, enqueue each payload alongside the minimal state needed to derive any of the supported control messages.

Define a FIDL method to retrieve the current set of requested control messages:

protocol DatagramSocket {
  compose BaseDatagramSocket;

  /// Returns the set of requested control messages.
  /// - response `cmsg_set` the set of currently requested control messages.
  RecvMsgPostflight() -> (struct {
    cmsg_set @generated_name("RequestedCmsgSet") table {
      /// Represents the validity of this structure.
      /// The structure is invalid if the peer is closed.
      1: validity zx.handle:<EVENTPAIR, zx.RIGHTS_BASIC>;
      /// Identifies whether the `IP_RECVTOS` control message is requested.
      2: ip_recvtos bool;

In the client, cache the set of currently requested control messages and use that set to filter the control message state passed by the netstack over the socket, according to the following procedure:

| socket.read() -> (Payload, RecvMsgMeta) | -----------> ZX_OK
+-----------------------------------------+                |
  |                                                        |
  |                    +-----------------------------+     |
  |                    | cache.getRequestedCmsgSet() | <---+
  |                    +-----------------------------+
  |                               |    |
  |                               |    |
  |                               |    |
  |  Absent  <--------------------+    +-----------------------------> Present
  |    |                                                                   |
  |    |  +-----------------------+                                        |
  |    |  | Return Payload, cmsgs |     +---------------------------+      |
  |    |  +-----------------------+     | checkPeerClosed(validity) |<-----+
  |    |           ^                    +---------------------------+
  |    |           |                      |          |         ^
  |    |           |                      |          |         |
  |    |   (ZX_ERR_TIMED_OUT) <-----------+          |         |
  |    |                                             |         |
  |    |                                             |         |
  |    |     +--(ZX_OK, ZX_SIGNAL_PEER_CLOSED) <-----+         |
  |    |     |                                                 |
  |    |     |                                                 |
  |    |     |      +--------------------------------+         |
  |    |     +--->  | cache.removeRequestedCmsgSet() |         |
  |    |            +--------------------------------+         |
  |    |                                 |                     |
  |    |                                 |                     |
  |    |    +---------------------+      |                     |
  |    +--> | RecvMsgPostflight() |  <---+                     |
  |         +---------------------+                            |
  |                     |      |                               |
  |                     |      |                +------------------------------+
  |  +-------Failure <--+      +--> Success --> | cache.storeRequestedCmsgSet()|
  |  |                                          +------------------------------+
  |  |
  |  |
  |  |    +--------------+
  |  +--> |              |
  |       | Return error |
  +-----> |              |

Adding control message state to each payload adds overhead when copying memory into and out of the zircon socket. We believe this is an acceptable tradeoff for two reasons:

  1. The control messages we're likely to support can fit in ~100 bytes. This is a copy overhead of < 10%, assuming an MTU of ~1500 bytes.
  2. The vast majority of control message state is "per-packet", meaning that the Netstack holds it in memory alongside each packet and frees that memory once the packet is enqueued into the socket. For this reason, the system's overall memory consumption should not increase.

Additionally, we will use a microbenchmark to track relevant metrics and run it whenever a new control message is added. If and when the results suggest that the tradeoff is no longer worth making, we can revert to the slow path (which we'll need to keep around anyway in order to support ICMP datagrams).

Serialization Protocol

The simplest way to perform I/O over the zircon socket is to define a single FIDL table to hold the UDP payload and its metadata and serialize it using FIDL at rest. The disadvantage of this method is that it forces the sender and receiver to serialize the payload and metadata into a temporary buffer, guaranteeing at least one copy of both.

Since vectorized socket reads and writes are likely to become available soon, it's preferable to construct a protocol that can avoid that copy by taking advantage of the vectorized APIs.


Define FIDL tables for send and recv metadata:

/// Metadata used when receiving a datagram payload.
type RecvMsgMeta = table {
  1: fuchsia.net.SocketAddress from;
  2: RecvControlData control;

/// Metadata used when sending a datagram payload.
type SendMsgMeta = table {
  1: SendMsgArguments args;
  2: SendControlData control;

In the fuchsia.io/NodeInfo returned to the client in Describe, specify the size of the buffers used to receive the bytes containing the serialized metadata tables:

type NodeInfo = strict resource union {
  // Other variants omitted.
  9: datagram_socket resource struct {
    /// See [`fuchsia.posix.socket.DatagramSocket`] for details.
    socket zx.handle:<SOCKET, zx.rights.TRANSFER | zx.RIGHTS_IO | zx.rights.WAIT | zx.rights.INSPECT>;
    /// Size of the buffer used to receive Tx metadata.
    tx_meta_buf_size uint64;
    /// Size of the buffer used to receive Rx metadata.
    rx_meta_buf_size uint64;


tx_meta_bytes = fidl_at_rest::serialize(SendMsgMeta)
tx_meta_size = len(tx_meta_bytes)

When sending a payload, the client constructs and enqueues the following buffer:

      ( 2 )       (tx_meta_size)   (tx_meta_buf_size - tx_meta_size)
| tx_meta_size |  tx_meta_bytes  |             Padding              | Payload |

The Netstack:

  • Allocates a buffer with room for 2 + tx_meta_buf_size + max_payload_size bytes and dequeues a message into that buffer.
  • Interprets the first two bytes as a uint16 identifying the size of the region of the buffer holding the serialized metadata, in bytes.
  • Deserializes the SendMsgMeta using FIDL at rest.

The receive path works in an exactly symmetrical manner.

uint32_t tx_meta_buf_size = fidl::MaxSizeInChannel<fuchsia_posix_socket::wire::SendMsgMeta, fidl::MessageDirection::kSending>();

which computes a bound on a message's size in the sending direction, assuming that no unknown fields are present. The Netstack can safely assume that all fields in RecvMsgMeta are known because the Netstack itself serializes that message. It can assume that all fields in SendMsgMeta are known because:

  1. The client's ABI revision circumscribes the set of all fields in client-serialized tables.
  2. The platform will refuse to run a client if it doesn't support the client's ABI revision.
  3. The Netstack will always be built with the platform. This assumption has been silently relied upon throughout the existing system. Here, we note it explicitly.


Add the new implementation to fuchsia.io/NodeInfo:

resource union NodeInfo {
    /// The connection composes [`fuchsia.posix.socket/DatagramSocket`].
    N: DatagramSocket datagram_socket;

/// A [`NodeInfo`] variant.
// TODO(https://fxbug.dev/74683): replace with an anonymous struct inline.
resource struct DatagramSocket {
    zx.handle:<SOCKET, zx.RIGHTS_BASIC | zx.RIGHTS_IO> socket;

Change the return type of fuchsia.posix.socket/Provider.DatagramSocket to a variant:

/// Contains a datagram socket implementation.
resource union DatagramSocketImpl {
    1: DatagramSocket datagram_socket;
    2: SynchronousDatagramSocket synchronous_datagram_socket;

...and change the behavior such that a DatagramSocket is returned whenever permitted by the arguments (i.e. the caller did not request an ICMP socket).

The initial implementation is expected to supply two elements in each SendMsgBoardingPass.validity:

  1. Represents a known state of the routing table; shared by all sockets and invalidated on any change to the routing table.
  2. Represents a known state of the particular socket; invalidated on any change to the socket that may change the socket's behavior e.g. calls to bind, connect, setsockopt(..., SO_BROADCAST, ...), setsockopt(..., SO_BINDTODEVICE, ...), etc.


Throughput of SOCK_DGRAM sockets is expected to approximately double; this estimate is based on the performance regression seen after https://fxbug.dev/21123.

CPU utilization is expected to decrease by a meaningful but unknown magnitude.


This change does not have meaningful impact on ergonomics as downstream users do not directly consume the interfaces presented here.

Backwards Compatibility

Preserve ABI compatibility by initially leaving fuchsia.posix.socket/Provider.DatagramSocket unchanged and implementing the new functionality as DatagramSocket2. Following necessary ABI transition, rename DatagramSocket2 to DatagramSocket and remove the previous implementation. Following another ABI transition, remove DatagramSocket2.

Security considerations

This proposal has no impact on security.

Privacy considerations

This proposal has no impact on privacy.


Existing unit tests cover the functionality affected.


No documentation is necessary apart from FIDL doc comments presented here.

Drawbacks, alternatives, and unknowns

This proposal addresses the motivation by building machinery in userspace. Another possibility is to build this machinery in the kernel.

A sketch for translating it to kernel:

  1. With each zx::socket endpoint, the kernel would maintain a map from SocketAdddres to max_size.
  2. We'd add some zx_socket_add_route / zx_socket_remove_route system calls for modifying that map on the peer endpoint.
  3. We'd add some zx_socket_send_to / zx_socket_receive_from system calls that would consume/provide addresses.

If userspace called zx_socket_send_to with an address that wasn't in the map, the operation would fail and userspace would need to send a synchronous message to the netstack to request that route be added to the zx::socket. If that request failed, then the address operation fails with an error.


In the kernel approach, sending a UDP packet (in the fast case) is a single syscall (zx_socket_send_to) rather than two syscalls (zx_object_wait_many, zx_socket_write).

This is potentially a non-pro because of possible optimizations to the userspace approach. Realizing that we always zx_object_wait_many with time::infinite_past, we could optimized the operation to do its work without a system call, provided that the necessary state is maintained using atomic operations. This might require the handle table to be in the vDSO as well, which may not be the case and may not be possible.

An alternative for clients with runtimes is to use zx_object_wait_async instead of wait_many to maintain the local cache, allowing the fast path to avoid the extra syscall.

We also avoid the dependency on FIDL at rest and the extra data copy inherent in FIDL because the message payload is baked into the system calls, which can copy the payload directly to the final destination.


In the kernel approach, there isn't an obvious way to do O(1) route cancellation when the routing table changes. As described, we could add a flag to zx_socket_remove_route that removes all the routes (probably desirable anyway), but the netstack would need to issue a zx_socket_remove_route on every socket.

We could get super fancy and have zx_socket_add_route take an eventpair for cancellation, but that's getting pretty baroque.

Baking these structures into the kernel is also costly in terms of introducing yet another protocol evolution model to the platform; we'd now have a much tighter coupling between particular FIDL types and system calls, which would not automatically remain in sync.

Future Work

The use of an eventpair to signal the validity of the client's cache incurs an additional system call on both the send and recv paths. This system call can be eliminated by instead using a VMO to signal validity. In such a design, the eventpair is logically replaced by an offset into a VMO mapped into the client's address space. Subsequently, the client can check validity with a simple read into the VMO.


There's also a question about how to deal with SendControlData. Perhaps that would need to be an additional parameter to zx_socket_send_to or maybe a flag on the operation.