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Date:   Sun, 16 Aug 2020 17:01:33 +0200
From:   Willy Tarreau <>
To:     Eric Dumazet <>, George Spelvin <>,
        Linus Torvalds <>
Cc:     Sedat Dilek <>,
        Amit Klein <>,
        "Jason A. Donenfeld" <>,
        Andy Lutomirski <>,
        Kees Cook <>,
        Thomas Gleixner <>,
        Peter Zijlstra <>,
Subject: Re: [DRAFT PATCH] random32: make prandom_u32() output unpredictable


so as I mentioned, I could run several test on our lab with variations
around the various proposals and come to quite positive conclusions.

Synthetic observations: the connection rate and the SYN cookie rate do not
seem to be affected the same way by the prandom changes. One explanation
is that the connection rates are less stable across reboots. Another
possible explanation is that the larger state update is more sensitive
to cache misses that increase when calling userland. I noticed that the
compiler didn't inline siprand_u32() for me, resulting in one extra
function call and noticeable register clobbering that mostly vanish
once siprand_u32() is inlined, getting back to the original performance.

The noise generation was placed as discussed in the xmit calls, however
the extra function call and state update had a negative effect on
performance and the noise function alone appeared for up to 0.23% of the
CPU usage. Simplifying the mix of data by keeping only one long for
the noise and using one siphash round on 4 input words to keep only
the last word allowed to use very few instructions and to inline them,
making the noise collection imperceptible in microbenchmarks. The noise
is now collected this way (I verified that all inputs are used), this
performs 3 xor, 2 add and 2 rol, which is way sufficient and already
better than my initial attempt with a bare add :

  static inline
  void prandom_u32_add_noise(unsigned long a, unsigned long b,
                             unsigned long c, unsigned long d)
	 * This is not used cryptographically; it's just
	 * a convenient 4-word hash function. (3 xor, 2 add, 2 rol)
	a ^= __this_cpu_read(net_rand_noise);
	PRND_SIPROUND(a, b, c, d);
	__this_cpu_write(net_rand_noise, d);

My tests were run on a 6-core 12-thread Core i7-8700k equipped with a 40G
NIC (i40e). I've mainly run two types of tests:

  - connections per second: the machine runs a server which accepts and
    closes incoming connections. The load generators aim at it and the
    connection rate is measured once it's stabilized.

  - SYN cookie rate: the load generators flood the machine with enough
    SYNs to saturate the CPU and the rate of response SYN-ACK is measured.

Both correspond to real world use cases (DDoS protection against SYN flood
and connection flood).

The base kernel was fc80c51f + Eric's patch to add a tracepoint in
prandom_u32(). Another test was made by adding George's changes to use
siphash. Then another test was made with the siprand_u32() function
inlined and with noise stored as a full siphash state. Then one test
was run with the noise reduced to a single long. And a final test was
run with the noise function inlined.

          connections    SYN cookies   Notes
          per second     emitted/s
  base:     556k          5.38M
  siphash:  535k          5.33M
  siphash inlined
  +noise:   548k          5.40M    add_noise=0.23%
  siphash + single-word
   noise    555k          5.45M    add_noise=0.10%
  siphash + single-word&inlined
   noise    559k          5.38M

Actually the last one is better than the previous one because it also
swallows more packets. There were 10.9M pps in and 5.38M pps out versus
10.77M in and 5.45M out for the previous one. I didn't report the incoming
traffic for the other ones as it was mostly irrelevant and always within
these bounds.

Finally I've added Eric's patch to reuse the skb hash when known in
tcp_conn_request(), and was happy to see the SYN cookies reach 5.45 Mpps
again and the connection rate remain unaffected. A perf record during
the SYN flood showed almost no call to prandom_u32() anymore (just a few
in tcp_rtx_synack()) so this looks like a desirable optimization.

At the moment the code is ugly, in experimental state (I've pushed all of
it at

My impression on this is that given that it's possible to maintain the
same level of performance as we currently have while making the PRNG much
better, there's no more reason for not doing it.

If there's enough interest at this point, I'm OK with restarting from
George's patches and doing the adjustments there. There's still this
prandom_seed() which looks very close to prandom_reseed() and that we
might possibly better remerge, but I'd vote for not changing everything
at once, it's ugly enough already. Also I suspect we can have an infinite
loop in prandom_seed() if entropy is 0 and the state is zero as well.
We'd be unlucky but I'd just make sure entropy is not all zeroes. And
running tests on 32-bit would be desirable as well.

Finally one can wonder whether it makes sense to keep Tausworthe for
other cases (basic statistical sampling) or drop it. We could definitely
drop it and simplify everything given that we now have the same level of
performance. But if we do it, what should we do with the test patterns ?
I personally don't think that testing a PRNG against a known sequence
brings any value by definition, and that the more random we make it the
less relevant this is.


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