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Date:	Mon, 21 Apr 2014 16:19:37 -0700
From:	Chema Gonzalez <>
To:	Alexei Starovoitov <>
Cc:	David Miller <>,
	Eric Dumazet <>,
	Daniel Borkmann <>,
	Network Development <>
Subject: Re: [PATCH v2] filter: added BPF random opcode

On Mon, Apr 21, 2014 at 3:20 PM, Alexei Starovoitov <> wrote:
> Nice. Now I see where it's going :)
> The article helps a lot.
Note that the paper implementation is slightly different from the one
here: It was implemented for the BSD engine (therefore BSD or userland
only). Also, random was implemented as a new load mode (called "ldr"),
instead of an ancillary load. This, in retrospective, was a mistake:
Ancillary load is a much simpler solution, doesn't require disabling
the BSD BPF optimizer, and allows straightforward JITing. Also, when I
think about a generic ISA, random is an OS call, not a ISA insn (I
guess rdrand is an exception).

While orthogonal to the load mode/ancillary load implementation, the
main advantage of the old patch is that it used its own LCG-based
PRNG, which allowed userland seeding (this is very important in
testing and debugging). It also provided an extension of the tcpdump
language, so you could add filters like "tcp and random 4 == 1" (which
would sample 1 in 4 tcp packets).

> btw it's funny how different people think of similar things.
> It seems to complete what you wanted in the article you'd need
> table access from the filter.
> Did you have a chance to look at my bpf table proposal?
I haven't had time.

BTW, I like your eBPF work a lot. In fact, I like it so much that I
decided to dust off the BPF random patch and send it to the list. I
see eBPF as the final push of BPF from a special-purpose ISA
(packet-filtering) to a generic-purpose one. This is the natural
evolution of the seccomp-bpf work. In fact, I see BPF as an ISA in the
kernel that can be used as *the* safe method to run stateful,
user-provided functions in the kernel.

> It seems it will fit perfectly to your use case as well.
> Here is the copy paste from the other thread:
> -----
> Similar basic interface I'm proposing to use for bpf tables.
> Probably makes sense to drop 'bpf' prefix, since they're just
> hash tables. Little to do with bpf.
> Have a netlink API from user into kernel:
> - create hash table (num_of_entries, key_size, value_size, id)
> - dump table via netlink
> - add/remove key/value pair
> Some kernel module may use it to transfer the data between
> kernel and userspace.
> This can be a generic kernel/user data sharing facility.
> Also let bpf programs do 'table_lookup/update', so that
> filters can store interesting data.
> --------
> I've posted early bpf_table patches back in September...
> Now in process of redoing them with cleaner interface.

Persistent (inter-packet) state is a (way) more complicated issue than
basic randomness. You're adding state that lives from one packet to
the next one. In principle, I like your laundry list.

- external create/init/read/write access to the tables(s). netlink
sounds a good solution
- external add/remove key[/value] entry. netlink again

But still have many questions that give me pause:

- safety: what I like best about BPF is that it's proved itself safe
in 20+ years. We need to be very careful not to introduce issues. In
particular, I've had discussions over the possibility of leaking
entropy through BPF
- what's the right approach to add state? I'd expect BPF to provide a
lump buffer, and let the filters to use that buffer according to their
needs. While a hash table is a good solution, I can see how users may
prefer other data structures (e.g. Bloom filters)
- how many hash tables? Which types? In principle, you can implement
flow sampling with a couple of Bloom filters. They're very efficient
- what about the hash function(s)? This should be configurable
- what about space limits? I can see how some of my problems require
BPF tables in the GB sizes. Is this an issue for anybody? Is this an
issue at all?
- where should the state live? Should we have common-CPU persistent
state, or also per-CPU state. Probably both are nice

The solution discussed in the paper above was too strict (simple Bloom
filters, mistakenly named "hash" tables). We also *really* wanted to
be able to run tcpdump filters, so we extended the tcpdump language
syntax. In retrospective, an asm-like syntax like the one used by
bpf_asm is way better.

I'll definitely be interested in seeing your new proposal when it's ready.

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