Composite Devices

This document is part of the Zircon Driver Development Kit documentation.


In this section, we look at composite devices. A composite device is a device composed of other devices.

These devices address the case of hardware-level composition, in which a "device" (from the user's perspective) is implemented by several distinct hardware blocks.

Examples include:

  • a touch panel composed of an I2C device and a GPIO,
  • an ethernet device composed of a MAC chip and one or more PHYs, or
  • an audio device composed of an audio controller and a set of codecs.

In these situations, the relationship of the hardware is known to the board driver at boot time (either statically or through a dynamic means, such as ACPI).

We'll use the astro-audio device for our examples:

Figure: Composite hardware device on I2C bus with GPIOs

This device features:

  • an I2C bus interface
  • two sets of GPIOs (one for fault, one for enable)
  • MMIO (memory mapped I/O) for bulk data transfer, and
  • an IRQ (interrupt request) line to generate interrupts to the driver.

Note that the ZX_PROTOCOL_I2C and ZX_PROTOCOL_GPIO protocols are used to transfer data; that is, I2C messages, and GPIO pin status are sent and received via the respective drivers.

The ZX_PROTOCOL_PDEV part is different. Here, the protocol is used only to grant access (the green checkmarks in the diagram) to the MMIO and IRQ; the actual MMIO data and interrupts are not handled by the PDEV; they're handled directly by the astro-audio driver itself.

Creating a composite device

To create a composite device, a number of data structures need to be set up.

Binding instructions

We need a number of binding instructions (zx_bind_inst_t) that tell us which devices we match. These binding instructions are the ones we've already discussed in the "Registration" topic in the introduction section.

For the astro-audio device, we have:

static const zx_bind_inst_t root_match[] = {

static const zx_bind_inst_t i2c_match[] = {

static const zx_bind_inst_t fault_gpio_match[] = {

static const zx_bind_inst_t enable_gpio_match[] = {

These binding instructions are used to find the devices.

We have four binding instruction arrays; a root_match[], which contains common information for the other three, and then the three devices: the I2C (i2c_match[]) device and the two GPIOs (fault_gpio_match[] and enable_gpio_match[]).

These instructions are then placed into an array of structures (device_component_part_t) which defines each component:

Figure: Binding instructions gathered into a component

In the astro-audio device, we have:

static const device_component_part_t i2c_component[] = {
    { countof(root_match), root_match },
    { countof(i2c_match), i2c_match },

static const device_component_part_t fault_gpio_component[] = {
    { countof(root_match), root_match },
    { countof(fault_gpio_match), fault_gpio_match },

static const device_component_part_t enable_gpio_component[] = {
    { countof(root_match), root_match },
    { countof(enable_gpio_match), enable_gpio_match },

At this point, we have three component devices, i2c_component[], fault_gpio_component[], and enable_gpio_component[].

Component device matching rules

The following rules apply:

  1. The first element must describe the root of the device tree — this is why we've used the mnemonic root_match identifier. Note that this requirement is likely to change, since most users provide an "always match" anyway.
  2. The last element must describe the target device itself.
  3. The remaining elements must match devices on the path from the root to the target device, in order. Some of those devices may be skipped, but every element must be matched.
  4. Every device on the path that has a property from the range BIND_TOPO_START through BIND_TOPO_END (basically buses, like I2C and PCI) must be matched. These sequences of matches must be unique.

Finally, we combine them into an aggregate called components[] of type device_component_t:

Figure: Gathering components into an aggregate

This now gives us a single identifier, components[], that we can use when creating the composite device.

In astro-audio, this looks like:

static const device_component_t components[] = {
    { countof(i2c_component), i2c_component },
    { countof(fault_gpio_component), fault_gpio_component },
    { countof(enable_gpio_component), enable_gpio_component },

Creating the device

For simple (non-composite) devices, we used device_add() (which we saw in the "Registration" section previously).

For composite devices, we use device_add_composite():

zx_status_t device_add_composite(
    zx_device_t* dev,
    const char* name,
    const zx_device_prop_t* props,
    size_t props_count,
    const device_component_t* components,
    size_t components_count,
    uint32_t coresident_device_index);

The arguments are as follows:

Argument Meaning
dev Parent device
name The name of the device
props Properties (see "Declaring a Driver")
props_count How many entries are in props
components The individual component devices
components_count How many entries are in components
coresident_device_index Which devhost to use

The dev value must be the zx_device_t corresponding to the "sys" device (i.e., the platform bus driver's device).

Note that the coresident_device_index is used to indicate which devhost the new device should use. If you specify UINT32_MAX, the device will reside in a new devhost.

Note that astro-audio uses pbus_composite_device_add() rather than composite_device_add(). The difference is that pbus_composite_device_add() is an API provided by the platform bus driver that wraps composite_device_add() and inserts an additional component for ferrying over direct-access resources such as MMIO, IRQs, and BTIs.

Using a composite device

From a programming perspective, a composite device acts like an ordinary device that implements a ZX_PROTOCOL_COMPOSITE protocol. This allows you to access all of the individual components that make up the composite device.

The first thing to do is get a list of the devices. This is done via composite_get_components():

void composite_get_components (
     composite_protocol_t* composite,
     zx_device_t* components,
     size_t component_count,
     size_t* actual_count);

The arguments are as follows:

Argument Meaning
composite The protocol handle
components Pointer to an array of zx_device_t*
component_count Size of components array
actual_count Actual number of entries filled in components

The program starts by calling device_get_protocol() to get the protocol for the composite driver:

composite_protocol_t composite;

auto status = device_get_protocol(parent, ZX_PROTOCOL_COMPOSITE, &composite);

Assuming there aren't any errors (status is equal to ZX_OK), the next step is to declare an array of zx_device_t* pointers to hold the devices, and call composite_get_components():

enum {

zx_device_t* components[COMPONENT_COUNT];
size_t actual;
composite_get_components(&composite, components, COMPONENT_COUNT, &actual);
if (actual != COMPONENT_COUNT) {
    zxlogf(ERROR, "%s: could not get our components\n", __FILE__);
    return ZX_ERR_INTERNAL;

The ordering of the devices returned by device_get_components() is defined to be the same as the ordering given to the device_add_composite() call by the board driver. Therefore, any enums are for convenience, and are not inherently tied to the ordering. Many composite devices will have a fixed number of components in a specific order, but there may also be composite devices that have a variable number of components, in which case the components might be identified by device metadata (via device_get_metadata()), or by some other means.

Advanced Topics

Here we discuss some specialized / advanced topics.

Composite devices and proxies

What's actually going on in the astro-audio driver is a little more complex than initially shown:

Figure: Composite hardware device using proxies

The components are bound to an internal driver (located in the //zircon/system/core/devmgr/component directory).

The driver handles proxying across process boundaries if necessary. This proxying uses the DEVICE_ADD_MUST_ISOLATE mechanism (introduced in the Isolate devices section).

When a device is added with DEVICE_ADD_MUST_ISOLATE, two devices end up being created: the normal device, in the same process as its parent, and a proxy.

The proxy is created in a new devhost; if the normal device's driver is, then its driver is This driver is expected to implement a create() method which calls device_add() and stashes the IPC channel it's given. That channel will be used later for communicating with the normal device in order to satisfy the proxy's children's requests.

The normal device implements the rxrpc hook, which is invoked by the driver runtime each time a message is received from the channel shared with the proxy.

So, in order to implement a new protocol proxy, one must modify the drivers to handle the desired protocol by sending messages to the normal device, and modify the driver to service those messages appropriately.

The component proxy is implemented in /zircon/system/core/devmgr/component/component-proxy.cpp, and the other half in /zircon/system/core/devmgr/component/component.cpp.