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Date:	Sat, 18 Oct 2008 07:02:14 +0200
From:	Eric Dumazet <>
To:	Patrick Ohly <>
Cc:, Octavian Purdila <>,
	Stephen Hemminger <>,
	Ingo Oeser <>, Andi Kleen <>,
	"Ronciak, John" <>
Subject: Re: hardware time stamps + existing time stamp usage

Patrick Ohly a écrit :
> Hello folks!
> It's been a while, I hope you are still interested in the topic. It was
> previously discussed under the subject "[RFC][PATCH 1/1] net: support
> for hardware timestamping". I would like to revive the discussion (and
> eventually the implementation), therefore I'm starting a new thread. I
> also have two questions about oddities (?) in the current code.
> Octavian posted a patch which modified the sk_buff::tstamp field so that
> it can store both system time and hardware time stamps (which may be
> unrelated to system time!). A single bit distinguishes the two. Ingo
> suggested to drop that distinction. Before going into details of what
> might have to be changed, let me take stock of what is currently done
> with sk_buff::tstamp.
> There seem to be at least three usages: 
>       * the netfilter code uses it to trigger timing related filter
>         rules (net/netfilter/xt_time.c)

This netfilter code could be changed to use current system time 
(low second resolution : xtime), and not skb time. When no sniffer is running,
we get timestamp at the time netfilter code is running anyway, not
at time packet is received by NIC driver.

>       * keep track of the time stamp of the last packet received via a
>         socket (SOCK_TIMESTAMP, net/sock/core.c), used for
>         SIOCGSTAMP[NS] 
>       * deliver receive time together with packet to user space
>         (SOCK_RCVTSTAMP[NS], net/sock/sock.c)
> Currently time stamping is enabled via sock_enable_timestamp(), which
> itself uses the lower level net_enable_timestamp(). At that level, a
> counter keeps track of how many users need time stamping.
> Based on how sk_buff::tstamp is used, one can conclude that it needs to
> be reasonably close to system time (for the netfilter code) but not
> absolutely the same. Ingo also said that it should be monotonically
> increasing. However, I doubt that this is currently guaranteed: the
> value is created with ktime_get_real(), which in contrast to ktime_get()
> is not monotonic (if I read the comments right).
> While looking at the code I ran into a few oddities which I don't quite
> understand. Could be me, of course ;-}
> First, in net/ipv[46]/netfilter/ip*_queue.c, the call to
> net_enable_timestamp() is in an else branch of __ipq_rcv_skb(). The
> net_disable_timestamp() is unconditionally in __ipq_reset(). Shouldn't
> the code take care that enable/disable calls always match exactly?
> Perhaps I'm missing something, but at least at first glance that doesn't
> seem to be the case. Also, is it possible that net_enable_timestamp() in
> __ipq_rcv_skb() is called repeatedly? 
> Second, sock_recv_timestamp() in include/net/sock.h only copies
> sk_buff::tstamp into sock::sk_tstamp if SOCK_RCVTSTAMP[NS] is not set.
> If this is set (note that SOCK_RCVTSTAMPNS also sets SOCK_RCVTSTAMP),
> then __sock_recv_timestamp() copies the value into cmsgs instead. Is
> that really the intended semantic? My expectation is that all of the
> usages above are possible at the same time.
> Let's move on to the changes necessary for hardware time stamping.
> With regards to hardware time stamps we identified the following
> additional usages of sk_buff::tstamp (assuming that we recycle it
> instead of adding a new field): 
>       * Transport the original hardware timestamps to user space:
>         Octavian is doing that with custom patches at the moment that he
>         would like to replace with an upstream solution. These hardware
>         time stamps are *not* synchronized with system time, only
>         between cards. Transforming them to system time decreases their
>         accuracy and therefore is not desirable. 
>       * Use hardware timestamps as replacement for the currently rather
>         inaccurate, software-only time stamps, both for incoming and for
>         outgoing packets: this improves the accuracy of system time
>         synchronization with PTP [1]. For this use case, the time stamp
>         delivered to the user space PTPd should be consistently
>         generated either by hardware or in software. Alternating between
>         the two methods introduces jumps, which decreases the accuracy
>         of the clock synchronization.
> The first use case is problematic if the hardware time diverges from
> system time *and* net time stamping is enabled (implying that one of the
> existing usages of tstamp is active). Would it be acceptable to let the
> user of the Linux kernel avoid this conflict or does the kernel itself
> need to detect the conflict?
> The second additional use case has no such conflict. Ensuring that the
> user space daemon just gets the kind of time stamps he wants is harder.
> In the previous discussion we ended with the proposal to add socket
> flags which determine what kind of time stamps are to be generated (TX
> or RX, hardware or software). After looking at this again I believe that
> deciding that at the socket level is too late: suppose the daemon has
> initialized the hardware time stamping successfully and then requests to
> get only hardware time stamps. A packet is received but couldn't be time
> stamped (can happen due to hardware limitations). The IP filter needs a
> time stamp and therefore generates one in software, which is stored in
> sk_buff::tstamp. Now the socket code cannot tell whether this is a time
> stamp that it can report to the daemon.
> The only solution that I see is to use one bit as flag to distinguish
> between hardware and software time stamps, as Octavian originally
> suggested. In contrast to his proposal, the rest of the bits are to be
> interpreted as system time, i.e., there would be no delayed conversion
> of hardware time stamps to system time stamps. In my opinion, such a
> conversion would be tricky, for example because it would have to be done
> by the hardware driver which generated the time stamp, but there is no
> link back to it from sk_buff.
> If that flag bit is not acceptable for Linux upstream, then PTPd would
> still work, albeit with lower accuracy.
> That's all for now - the mail is long enough as it is...
> Comments?
> [1]

Interesting stuff :)

1) You want hardware TX stamping on all frames sent behalf a given socket
  Mark a WANT_HARDWARE_TX_STAMP flag at socket level
   Copy this flag when generating skb for this socket.
     When transmitting WANT_HARDWARE_TX_STAMP tagged frame to device,
     dont feed it to dev_queue_xmit_nit() in dev_hard_start_xmit()
     In NIC driver tx completion, test skb WANT_HARDWARE_TX_STAMP flag.
     If set, get tstamp from hardware and copy it to skb tstamp, 
     and call dev_queue_xmit_nit() (we might avoid cloning skb there, since
     nic driver doesnt need it anymore)

  This flag could also be set at device level, for all sent frames. (tcpdump new option)

2) You want hardware RX stamping on a particular device, yet being able to
   deliver system time to legacy apps, unaware of hardware tstamps.

   Set a global flag on device, telling linux stack this device feeds hardware stamp.
   In driver RX completion, set skb tstamp with hardware stamps.

   Mark a WANT_HARDWARE_RX_STAMP flag at socket level, for PTP applications.

   In recv(), if current socket is not marked WANT_HARDWARE_RX_STAMP and device has
   the global flag set, copy system time in tstamp, overrinding hardware tstamp.

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