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Date:   Wed,  9 Jan 2019 13:43:27 +0100
From:   Petr Mladek <>
To:     Jiri Kosina <>,
        Josh Poimboeuf <>,
        Miroslav Benes <>
Cc:     Jason Baron <>,
        Joe Lawrence <>,
        Evgenii Shatokhin <>,,,
        Petr Mladek <>
Subject: [PATCH v15 09/11] livepatch: Atomic replace and cumulative patches documentation

User documentation for the atomic replace feature. It makes it easier
to maintain livepatches using so-called cumulative patches.

Signed-off-by: Petr Mladek <>
Acked-by: Miroslav Benes <>
Acked-by: Joe Lawrence <>
 Documentation/livepatch/cumulative-patches.txt | 105 +++++++++++++++++++++++++
 Documentation/livepatch/livepatch.txt          |   2 +
 2 files changed, 107 insertions(+)
 create mode 100644 Documentation/livepatch/cumulative-patches.txt

diff --git a/Documentation/livepatch/cumulative-patches.txt b/Documentation/livepatch/cumulative-patches.txt
new file mode 100644
index 000000000000..e7cf5be69f23
--- /dev/null
+++ b/Documentation/livepatch/cumulative-patches.txt
@@ -0,0 +1,105 @@
+Atomic Replace & Cumulative Patches
+There might be dependencies between livepatches. If multiple patches need
+to do different changes to the same function(s) then we need to define
+an order in which the patches will be installed. And function implementations
+from any newer livepatch must be done on top of the older ones.
+This might become a maintenance nightmare. Especially if anyone would want
+to remove a patch that is in the middle of the stack.
+An elegant solution comes with the feature called "Atomic Replace". It allows
+creation of so called "Cumulative Patches". They include all wanted changes
+from all older livepatches and completely replace them in one transition.
+The atomic replace can be enabled by setting "replace" flag in struct klp_patch,
+for example:
+	static struct klp_patch patch = {
+		.mod = THIS_MODULE,
+		.objs = objs,
+		.replace = true,
+	};
+Such a patch is added on top of the livepatch stack when enabled.
+All processes are then migrated to use the code only from the new patch.
+Once the transition is finished, all older patches are automatically
+disabled and removed from the stack of patches.
+Ftrace handlers are transparently removed from functions that are no
+longer modified by the new cumulative patch.
+As a result, the livepatch authors might maintain sources only for one
+cumulative patch. It helps to keep the patch consistent while adding or
+removing various fixes or features.
+Users could keep only the last patch installed on the system after
+the transition to has finished. It helps to clearly see what code is
+actually in use. Also the livepatch might then be seen as a "normal"
+module that modifies the kernel behavior. The only difference is that
+it can be updated at runtime without breaking its functionality.
+The atomic replace allows:
+  + Atomically revert some functions in a previous patch while
+    upgrading other functions.
+  + Remove eventual performance impact caused by core redirection
+    for functions that are no longer patched.
+  + Decrease user confusion about stacking order and what code
+    is actually in use.
+  + Once the operation finishes, there is no straightforward way
+    to reverse it and restore the replaced patches atomically.
+    A good practice is to set .replace flag in any released livepatch.
+    Then re-adding an older livepatch is equivalent to downgrading
+    to that patch. This is safe as long as the livepatches do _not_ do
+    extra modifications in (un)patching callbacks or in the module_init()
+    or module_exit() functions, see below.
+    Also note that the replaced patch can be removed and loaded again
+    only when the transition was not forced.
+  + Only the (un)patching callbacks from the _new_ cumulative livepatch are
+    executed. Any callbacks from the replaced patches are ignored.
+    In other words, the cumulative patch is responsible for doing any actions
+    that are necessary to properly replace any older patch.
+    As a result, it might be dangerous to replace newer cumulative patches by
+    older ones. The old livepatches might not provide the necessary callbacks.
+    This might be seen as a limitation in some scenarios. But it makes life
+    easier in many others. Only the new cumulative livepatch knows what
+    fixes/features are added/removed and what special actions are necessary
+    for a smooth transition.
+    In any case, it would be a nightmare to think about the order of
+    the various callbacks and their interactions if the callbacks from all
+    enabled patches were called.
+  + There is no special handling of shadow variables. Livepatch authors
+    must create their own rules how to pass them from one cumulative
+    patch to the other. Especially that they should not blindly remove
+    them in module_exit() functions.
+    A good practice might be to remove shadow variables in the post-unpatch
+    callback. It is called only when the livepatch is properly disabled.
diff --git a/Documentation/livepatch/livepatch.txt b/Documentation/livepatch/livepatch.txt
index 2a70f43166f6..6f32d6ea2fcb 100644
--- a/Documentation/livepatch/livepatch.txt
+++ b/Documentation/livepatch/livepatch.txt
@@ -365,6 +365,8 @@ the ftrace handler is unregistered and the struct klp_ops is
 freed when the related function is not modified by the new patch
 and func_stack list becomes empty.
+See Documentation/livepatch/cumulative-patches.txt for more details.
 5.4. Disabling

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