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Date:	Mon, 11 Jun 2007 14:12:09 -0500
From: (Linas Vepstas)
To:	Jeff Garzik <>
Cc:	Michael Ellerman <>,,
Subject: [PATCH 15/15] spidernet: driver docmentation

Documentation for the spidernet driver.

Signed-off-by: Linas Vepstas <>

 Documentation/networking/spider_net.txt |  204 ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
 1 file changed, 204 insertions(+)

Index: linux-2.6.22-rc1/Documentation/networking/spider_net.txt
--- /dev/null	1970-01-01 00:00:00.000000000 +0000
+++ linux-2.6.22-rc1/Documentation/networking/spider_net.txt	2007-06-11 11:53:31.000000000 -0500
@@ -0,0 +1,204 @@
+            The Spidernet Device Driver
+            ===========================
+Written by Linas Vepstas <>
+Version of 7 June 2007
+This document sketches the structure of portions of the spidernet
+device driver in the Linux kernel tree. The spidernet is a gigabit
+ethernet device built into the Toshiba southbridge commonly used
+in the SONY Playstation 3 and the IBM QS20 Cell blade.
+The Structure of the RX Ring.
+The receive (RX) ring is a circular linked list of RX descriptors,
+together with three pointers into the ring that are used to manage its
+The elements of the ring are called "descriptors" or "descrs"; they
+describe the received data. This includes a pointer to a buffer
+containing the received data, the buffer size, and various status bits.
+There are three primary states that a descriptor can be in: "empty",
+"full" and "not-in-use".  An "empty" or "ready" descriptor is ready
+to receive data from the hardware. A "full" descriptor has data in it,
+and is waiting to be emptied and processed by the OS. A "not-in-use"
+descriptor is neither empty or full; it is simply not ready. It may
+not even have a data buffer in it, or is otherwise unusable.
+During normal operation, on device startup, the OS (specifically, the
+spidernet device driver) allocates a set of RX descriptors and RX
+buffers. These are all marked "empty", ready to receive data. This
+ring is handed off to the hardware, which sequentially fills in the
+buffers, and marks them "full". The OS follows up, taking the full
+buffers, processing them, and re-marking them empty.
+This filling and emptying is managed by three pointers, the "head"
+and "tail" pointers, managed by the OS, and a hardware current
+descriptor pointer (GDACTDPA). The GDACTDPA points at the descr
+currently being filled. When this descr is filled, the hardware
+marks it full, and advances the GDACTDPA by one.  Thus, when there is
+flowing RX traffic, every descr behind it should be marked "full",
+and everything in front of it should be "empty".  If the hardware
+discovers that the current descr is not empty, it will signal an
+interrupt, and halt processing.
+The tail pointer tails or trails the hardware pointer. When the
+hardware is ahead, the tail pointer will be pointing at a "full"
+descr. The OS will process this descr, and then mark it "not-in-use",
+and advance the tail pointer.  Thus, when there is flowing RX traffic,
+all of the descrs in front of the tail pointer should be "full", and
+all of those behind it should be "not-in-use". When RX traffic is not
+flowing, then the tail pointer can catch up to the hardware pointer.
+The OS will then note that the current tail is "empty", and halt
+The head pointer (somewhat mis-named) follows after the tail pointer.
+When traffic is flowing, then the head pointer will be pointing at
+a "not-in-use" descr. The OS will perform various housekeeping duties
+on this descr. This includes allocating a new data buffer and
+dma-mapping it so as to make it visible to the hardware. The OS will
+then mark the descr as "empty", ready to receive data. Thus, when there
+is flowing RX traffic, everything in front of the head pointer should
+be "not-in-use", and everything behind it should be "empty". If no
+RX traffic is flowing, then the head pointer can catch up to the tail
+pointer, at which point the OS will notice that the head descr is
+"empty", and it will halt processing.
+Thus, in an idle system, the GDACTDPA, tail and head pointers will
+all be pointing at the same descr, which should be "empty". All of the
+other descrs in the ring should be "empty" as well.
+The show_rx_chain() routine will print out the the locations of the
+GDACTDPA, tail and head pointers. It will also summarize the contents
+of the ring, starting at the tail pointer, and listing the status
+of the descrs that follow.
+A typical example of the output, for a nearly idle system, might be
+net eth1: Total number of descrs=256
+net eth1: Chain tail located at descr=20
+net eth1: Chain head is at 20
+net eth1: HW curr desc (GDACTDPA) is at 21
+net eth1: Have 1 descrs with stat=x40800101
+net eth1: HW next desc (GDACNEXTDA) is at 22
+net eth1: Last 255 descrs with stat=xa0800000
+In the above, the hardware has filled in one descr, number 20. Both
+head and tail are pointing at 20, because it has not yet been emptied.
+Meanwhile, hw is pointing at 21, which is free.
+The "Have nnn decrs" refers to the descr starting at the tail: in this
+case, nnn=1 descr, starting at descr 20. The "Last nnn descrs" refers
+to all of the rest of the descrs, from the last status change. The "nnn"
+is a count of how many descrs have exactly the same status.
+The status x4... corresponds to "full" and status xa... corresponds
+to "empty". The actual value printed is RXCOMST_A.
+In the device driver source code, a different set of names are
+used for these same concepts, so that
+"full"  == SPIDER_NET_DESCR_FRAME_END == 0x4
+"not in use" == SPIDER_NET_DESCR_NOT_IN_USE == 0xf
+The RX RAM full bug/feature
+As long as the OS can empty out the RX buffers at a rate faster than
+the hardware can fill them, there is no problem. If, for some reason,
+the OS fails to empty the RX ring fast enough, the hardware GDACTDPA
+pointer will catch up to the head, notice the not-empty condition,
+ad stop. However, RX packets may still continue arriving on the wire.
+The spidernet chip can save some limited number of these in local RAM.
+When this local ram fills up, the spider chip will issue an interrupt
+indicating this (GHIINT0STS will show ERRINT, and the GRMFLLINT bit
+will be set in GHIINT1STS).  When the RX ram full condition occurs,
+a certain bug/feature is triggered that has to be specially handled.
+This section describes the special handling for this condition.
+When the OS finally has a chance to run, it will empty out the RX ring.
+In particular, it will clear the descriptor on which the hardware had
+stopped. However, once the hardware has decided that a certain
+descriptor is invalid, it will not restart at that descriptor; instead
+it will restart at the next descr. This potentially will lead to a
+deadlock condition, as the tail pointer will be pointing at this descr,
+which, from the OS point of view, is empty; the OS will be waiting for
+this descr to be filled. However, the hardware has skipped this descr,
+and is filling the next descrs. Since the OS doesn't see this, there
+is a potential deadlock, with the OS waiting for one descr to fill,
+while the hardware is waiting for a different set of descrs to become
+A call to show_rx_chain() at this point indicates the nature of the
+problem. A typical print when the network is hung shows the following:
+net eth1: Spider RX RAM full, incoming packets might be discarded!
+net eth1: Total number of descrs=256
+net eth1: Chain tail located at descr=255
+net eth1: Chain head is at 255
+net eth1: HW curr desc (GDACTDPA) is at 0
+net eth1: Have 1 descrs with stat=xa0800000
+net eth1: HW next desc (GDACNEXTDA) is at 1
+net eth1: Have 127 descrs with stat=x40800101
+net eth1: Have 1 descrs with stat=x40800001
+net eth1: Have 126 descrs with stat=x40800101
+net eth1: Last 1 descrs with stat=xa0800000
+Both the tail and head pointers are pointing at descr 255, which is
+marked xa... which is "empty". Thus, from the OS point of view, there
+is nothing to be done. In particular, there is the implicit assumption
+that everything in front of the "empty" descr must surely also be empty,
+as explained in the last section. The OS is waiting for descr 255 to
+become non-empty, which, in this case, will never happen.
+The HW pointer is at descr 0. This descr is marked 0x4.. or "full".
+Since its already full, the hardware can do nothing more, and thus has
+halted processing. Notice that descrs 0 through 254 are all marked
+"full", while descr 254 and 255 are empty. (The "Last 1 descrs" is
+descr 254, since tail was at 255.) Thus, the system is deadlocked,
+and there can be no forward progress; the OS thinks there's nothing
+to do, and the hardware has nowhere to put incoming data.
+This bug/feature is worked around with the spider_net_resync_head_ptr()
+routine. When the driver receives RX interrupts, but an examination
+of the RX chain seems to show it is empty, then it is probable that
+the hardware has skipped a descr or two (sometimes dozens under heavy
+network conditions). The spider_net_resync_head_ptr() subroutine will
+search the ring for the next full descr, and the driver will resume
+operations there.  Since this will leave "holes" in the ring, there
+is also a spider_net_resync_tail_ptr() that will skip over such holes.
+As of this writing, the spider_net_resync() strategy seems to work very
+well, even under heavy network loads.
+The TX ring
+The TX ring uses a low-watermark interrupt scheme to make sure that
+the TX queue is appropriately serviced for large packet sizes.
+For packet sizes greater than about 1KBytes, the kernel can fill
+the TX ring quicker than the device can drain it. Once the ring
+is full, the netdev is stopped. When there is room in the ring,
+the netdev needs to be reawakened, so that more TX packets are placed
+in the ring. The hardware can empty the ring about four times per jiffy,
+so its not appropriate to wait for the poll routine to refill, since
+the poll routine runs only once per jiffy.  The low-watermark mechanism
+marks a descr about 1/4th of the way from the bottom of the queue, so
+that an interrupt is generated when the descr is processed. This
+interrupt wakes up the netdev, which can then refill the queue.
+For large packets, this mechanism generates a relatively small number
+of interrupts, about 1K/sec. For smaller packets, this will drop to zero
+interrupts, as the hardware can empty the queue faster than the kernel
+can fill it.
+ ======= END OF DOCUMENT ========
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