path: root/Documentation/filesystems/configfs/configfs.txt
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authorJoel Becker <joel.becker@oracle.com>2005-12-15 14:29:43 -0800
committerJoel Becker <joel.becker@oracle.com>2006-01-03 11:45:28 -0800
commit7063fbf2261194f72ee75afca67b3b38b554b5fa (patch)
tree7bfe4eeab8ce784b767cf30886623d456c384718 /Documentation/filesystems/configfs/configfs.txt
parent88026842b0a760145aa71d69e74fbc9ec118ca44 (diff)
[PATCH] configfs: User-driven configuration filesystem
Configfs, a file system for userspace-driven kernel object configuration. The OCFS2 stack makes extensive use of this for propagation of cluster configuration information into kernel. Signed-off-by: Joel Becker <joel.becker@oracle.com>
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+configfs - Userspace-driven kernel object configuation.
+Joel Becker <joel.becker@oracle.com>
+Updated: 31 March 2005
+Copyright (c) 2005 Oracle Corporation,
+ Joel Becker <joel.becker@oracle.com>
+[What is configfs?]
+configfs is a ram-based filesystem that provides the converse of
+sysfs's functionality. Where sysfs is a filesystem-based view of
+kernel objects, configfs is a filesystem-based manager of kernel
+objects, or config_items.
+With sysfs, an object is created in kernel (for example, when a device
+is discovered) and it is registered with sysfs. Its attributes then
+appear in sysfs, allowing userspace to read the attributes via
+readdir(3)/read(2). It may allow some attributes to be modified via
+write(2). The important point is that the object is created and
+destroyed in kernel, the kernel controls the lifecycle of the sysfs
+representation, and sysfs is merely a window on all this.
+A configfs config_item is created via an explicit userspace operation:
+mkdir(2). It is destroyed via rmdir(2). The attributes appear at
+mkdir(2) time, and can be read or modified via read(2) and write(2).
+As with sysfs, readdir(3) queries the list of items and/or attributes.
+symlink(2) can be used to group items together. Unlike sysfs, the
+lifetime of the representation is completely driven by userspace. The
+kernel modules backing the items must respond to this.
+Both sysfs and configfs can and should exist together on the same
+system. One is not a replacement for the other.
+[Using configfs]
+configfs can be compiled as a module or into the kernel. You can access
+it by doing
+ mount -t configfs none /config
+The configfs tree will be empty unless client modules are also loaded.
+These are modules that register their item types with configfs as
+subsystems. Once a client subsystem is loaded, it will appear as a
+subdirectory (or more than one) under /config. Like sysfs, the
+configfs tree is always there, whether mounted on /config or not.
+An item is created via mkdir(2). The item's attributes will also
+appear at this time. readdir(3) can determine what the attributes are,
+read(2) can query their default values, and write(2) can store new
+values. Like sysfs, attributes should be ASCII text files, preferably
+with only one value per file. The same efficiency caveats from sysfs
+apply. Don't mix more than one attribute in one attribute file.
+Like sysfs, configfs expects write(2) to store the entire buffer at
+once. When writing to configfs attributes, userspace processes should
+first read the entire file, modify the portions they wish to change, and
+then write the entire buffer back. Attribute files have a maximum size
+of one page (PAGE_SIZE, 4096 on i386).
+When an item needs to be destroyed, remove it with rmdir(2). An
+item cannot be destroyed if any other item has a link to it (via
+symlink(2)). Links can be removed via unlink(2).
+[Configuring FakeNBD: an Example]
+Imagine there's a Network Block Device (NBD) driver that allows you to
+access remote block devices. Call it FakeNBD. FakeNBD uses configfs
+for its configuration. Obviously, there will be a nice program that
+sysadmins use to configure FakeNBD, but somehow that program has to tell
+the driver about it. Here's where configfs comes in.
+When the FakeNBD driver is loaded, it registers itself with configfs.
+readdir(3) sees this just fine:
+ # ls /config
+ fakenbd
+A fakenbd connection can be created with mkdir(2). The name is
+arbitrary, but likely the tool will make some use of the name. Perhaps
+it is a uuid or a disk name:
+ # mkdir /config/fakenbd/disk1
+ # ls /config/fakenbd/disk1
+ target device rw
+The target attribute contains the IP address of the server FakeNBD will
+connect to. The device attribute is the device on the server.
+Predictably, the rw attribute determines whether the connection is
+read-only or read-write.
+ # echo > /config/fakenbd/disk1/target
+ # echo /dev/sda1 > /config/fakenbd/disk1/device
+ # echo 1 > /config/fakenbd/disk1/rw
+That's it. That's all there is. Now the device is configured, via the
+shell no less.
+[Coding With configfs]
+Every object in configfs is a config_item. A config_item reflects an
+object in the subsystem. It has attributes that match values on that
+object. configfs handles the filesystem representation of that object
+and its attributes, allowing the subsystem to ignore all but the
+basic show/store interaction.
+Items are created and destroyed inside a config_group. A group is a
+collection of items that share the same attributes and operations.
+Items are created by mkdir(2) and removed by rmdir(2), but configfs
+handles that. The group has a set of operations to perform these tasks
+A subsystem is the top level of a client module. During initialization,
+the client module registers the subsystem with configfs, the subsystem
+appears as a directory at the top of the configfs filesystem. A
+subsystem is also a config_group, and can do everything a config_group
+[struct config_item]
+ struct config_item {
+ char *ci_name;
+ char ci_namebuf[UOBJ_NAME_LEN];
+ struct kref ci_kref;
+ struct list_head ci_entry;
+ struct config_item *ci_parent;
+ struct config_group *ci_group;
+ struct config_item_type *ci_type;
+ struct dentry *ci_dentry;
+ };
+ void config_item_init(struct config_item *);
+ void config_item_init_type_name(struct config_item *,
+ const char *name,
+ struct config_item_type *type);
+ struct config_item *config_item_get(struct config_item *);
+ void config_item_put(struct config_item *);
+Generally, struct config_item is embedded in a container structure, a
+structure that actually represents what the subsystem is doing. The
+config_item portion of that structure is how the object interacts with
+Whether statically defined in a source file or created by a parent
+config_group, a config_item must have one of the _init() functions
+called on it. This initializes the reference count and sets up the
+appropriate fields.
+All users of a config_item should have a reference on it via
+config_item_get(), and drop the reference when they are done via
+By itself, a config_item cannot do much more than appear in configfs.
+Usually a subsystem wants the item to display and/or store attributes,
+among other things. For that, it needs a type.
+[struct config_item_type]
+ struct configfs_item_operations {
+ void (*release)(struct config_item *);
+ ssize_t (*show_attribute)(struct config_item *,
+ struct configfs_attribute *,
+ char *);
+ ssize_t (*store_attribute)(struct config_item *,
+ struct configfs_attribute *,
+ const char *, size_t);
+ int (*allow_link)(struct config_item *src,
+ struct config_item *target);
+ int (*drop_link)(struct config_item *src,
+ struct config_item *target);
+ };
+ struct config_item_type {
+ struct module *ct_owner;
+ struct configfs_item_operations *ct_item_ops;
+ struct configfs_group_operations *ct_group_ops;
+ struct configfs_attribute **ct_attrs;
+ };
+The most basic function of a config_item_type is to define what
+operations can be performed on a config_item. All items that have been
+allocated dynamically will need to provide the ct_item_ops->release()
+method. This method is called when the config_item's reference count
+reaches zero. Items that wish to display an attribute need to provide
+the ct_item_ops->show_attribute() method. Similarly, storing a new
+attribute value uses the store_attribute() method.
+[struct configfs_attribute]
+ struct configfs_attribute {
+ char *ca_name;
+ struct module *ca_owner;
+ mode_t ca_mode;
+ };
+When a config_item wants an attribute to appear as a file in the item's
+configfs directory, it must define a configfs_attribute describing it.
+It then adds the attribute to the NULL-terminated array
+config_item_type->ct_attrs. When the item appears in configfs, the
+attribute file will appear with the configfs_attribute->ca_name
+filename. configfs_attribute->ca_mode specifies the file permissions.
+If an attribute is readable and the config_item provides a
+ct_item_ops->show_attribute() method, that method will be called
+whenever userspace asks for a read(2) on the attribute. The converse
+will happen for write(2).
+[struct config_group]
+A config_item cannot live in a vaccum. The only way one can be created
+is via mkdir(2) on a config_group. This will trigger creation of a
+child item.
+ struct config_group {
+ struct config_item cg_item;
+ struct list_head cg_children;
+ struct configfs_subsystem *cg_subsys;
+ struct config_group **default_groups;
+ };
+ void config_group_init(struct config_group *group);
+ void config_group_init_type_name(struct config_group *group,
+ const char *name,
+ struct config_item_type *type);
+The config_group structure contains a config_item. Properly configuring
+that item means that a group can behave as an item in its own right.
+However, it can do more: it can create child items or groups. This is
+accomplished via the group operations specified on the group's
+ struct configfs_group_operations {
+ struct config_item *(*make_item)(struct config_group *group,
+ const char *name);
+ struct config_group *(*make_group)(struct config_group *group,
+ const char *name);
+ int (*commit_item)(struct config_item *item);
+ void (*drop_item)(struct config_group *group,
+ struct config_item *item);
+ };
+A group creates child items by providing the
+ct_group_ops->make_item() method. If provided, this method is called from mkdir(2) in the group's directory. The subsystem allocates a new
+config_item (or more likely, its container structure), initializes it,
+and returns it to configfs. Configfs will then populate the filesystem
+tree to reflect the new item.
+If the subsystem wants the child to be a group itself, the subsystem
+provides ct_group_ops->make_group(). Everything else behaves the same,
+using the group _init() functions on the group.
+Finally, when userspace calls rmdir(2) on the item or group,
+ct_group_ops->drop_item() is called. As a config_group is also a
+config_item, it is not necessary for a seperate drop_group() method.
+The subsystem must config_item_put() the reference that was initialized
+upon item allocation. If a subsystem has no work to do, it may omit
+the ct_group_ops->drop_item() method, and configfs will call
+config_item_put() on the item on behalf of the subsystem.
+IMPORTANT: drop_item() is void, and as such cannot fail. When rmdir(2)
+is called, configfs WILL remove the item from the filesystem tree
+(assuming that it has no children to keep it busy). The subsystem is
+responsible for responding to this. If the subsystem has references to
+the item in other threads, the memory is safe. It may take some time
+for the item to actually disappear from the subsystem's usage. But it
+is gone from configfs.
+A config_group cannot be removed while it still has child items. This
+is implemented in the configfs rmdir(2) code. ->drop_item() will not be
+called, as the item has not been dropped. rmdir(2) will fail, as the
+directory is not empty.
+[struct configfs_subsystem]
+A subsystem must register itself, ususally at module_init time. This
+tells configfs to make the subsystem appear in the file tree.
+ struct configfs_subsystem {
+ struct config_group su_group;
+ struct semaphore su_sem;
+ };
+ int configfs_register_subsystem(struct configfs_subsystem *subsys);
+ void configfs_unregister_subsystem(struct configfs_subsystem *subsys);
+ A subsystem consists of a toplevel config_group and a semaphore.
+The group is where child config_items are created. For a subsystem,
+this group is usually defined statically. Before calling
+configfs_register_subsystem(), the subsystem must have initialized the
+group via the usual group _init() functions, and it must also have
+initialized the semaphore.
+ When the register call returns, the subsystem is live, and it
+will be visible via configfs. At that point, mkdir(2) can be called and
+the subsystem must be ready for it.
+[An Example]
+The best example of these basic concepts is the simple_children
+subsystem/group and the simple_child item in configfs_example.c It
+shows a trivial object displaying and storing an attribute, and a simple
+group creating and destroying these children.
+[Hierarchy Navigation and the Subsystem Semaphore]
+There is an extra bonus that configfs provides. The config_groups and
+config_items are arranged in a hierarchy due to the fact that they
+appear in a filesystem. A subsystem is NEVER to touch the filesystem
+parts, but the subsystem might be interested in this hierarchy. For
+this reason, the hierarchy is mirrored via the config_group->cg_children
+and config_item->ci_parent structure members.
+A subsystem can navigate the cg_children list and the ci_parent pointer
+to see the tree created by the subsystem. This can race with configfs'
+management of the hierarchy, so configfs uses the subsystem semaphore to
+protect modifications. Whenever a subsystem wants to navigate the
+hierarchy, it must do so under the protection of the subsystem
+A subsystem will be prevented from acquiring the semaphore while a newly
+allocated item has not been linked into this hierarchy. Similarly, it
+will not be able to acquire the semaphore while a dropping item has not
+yet been unlinked. This means that an item's ci_parent pointer will
+never be NULL while the item is in configfs, and that an item will only
+be in its parent's cg_children list for the same duration. This allows
+a subsystem to trust ci_parent and cg_children while they hold the
+[Item Aggregation Via symlink(2)]
+configfs provides a simple group via the group->item parent/child
+relationship. Often, however, a larger environment requires aggregation
+outside of the parent/child connection. This is implemented via
+A config_item may provide the ct_item_ops->allow_link() and
+ct_item_ops->drop_link() methods. If the ->allow_link() method exists,
+symlink(2) may be called with the config_item as the source of the link.
+These links are only allowed between configfs config_items. Any
+symlink(2) attempt outside the configfs filesystem will be denied.
+When symlink(2) is called, the source config_item's ->allow_link()
+method is called with itself and a target item. If the source item
+allows linking to target item, it returns 0. A source item may wish to
+reject a link if it only wants links to a certain type of object (say,
+in its own subsystem).
+When unlink(2) is called on the symbolic link, the source item is
+notified via the ->drop_link() method. Like the ->drop_item() method,
+this is a void function and cannot return failure. The subsystem is
+responsible for responding to the change.
+A config_item cannot be removed while it links to any other item, nor
+can it be removed while an item links to it. Dangling symlinks are not
+allowed in configfs.
+[Automatically Created Subgroups]
+A new config_group may want to have two types of child config_items.
+While this could be codified by magic names in ->make_item(), it is much
+more explicit to have a method whereby userspace sees this divergence.
+Rather than have a group where some items behave differently than
+others, configfs provides a method whereby one or many subgroups are
+automatically created inside the parent at its creation. Thus,
+mkdir("parent) results in "parent", "parent/subgroup1", up through
+"parent/subgroupN". Items of type 1 can now be created in
+"parent/subgroup1", and items of type N can be created in
+These automatic subgroups, or default groups, do not preclude other
+children of the parent group. If ct_group_ops->make_group() exists,
+other child groups can be created on the parent group directly.
+A configfs subsystem specifies default groups by filling in the
+NULL-terminated array default_groups on the config_group structure.
+Each group in that array is populated in the configfs tree at the same
+time as the parent group. Similarly, they are removed at the same time
+as the parent. No extra notification is provided. When a ->drop_item()
+method call notifies the subsystem the parent group is going away, it
+also means every default group child associated with that parent group.
+As a consequence of this, default_groups cannot be removed directly via
+rmdir(2). They also are not considered when rmdir(2) on the parent
+group is checking for children.
+[Committable Items]
+NOTE: Committable items are currently unimplemented.
+Some config_items cannot have a valid initial state. That is, no
+default values can be specified for the item's attributes such that the
+item can do its work. Userspace must configure one or more attributes,
+after which the subsystem can start whatever entity this item
+Consider the FakeNBD device from above. Without a target address *and*
+a target device, the subsystem has no idea what block device to import.
+The simple example assumes that the subsystem merely waits until all the
+appropriate attributes are configured, and then connects. This will,
+indeed, work, but now every attribute store must check if the attributes
+are initialized. Every attribute store must fire off the connection if
+that condition is met.
+Far better would be an explicit action notifying the subsystem that the
+config_item is ready to go. More importantly, an explicit action allows
+the subsystem to provide feedback as to whether the attibutes are
+initialized in a way that makes sense. configfs provides this as
+committable items.
+configfs still uses only normal filesystem operations. An item is
+committed via rename(2). The item is moved from a directory where it
+can be modified to a directory where it cannot.
+Any group that provides the ct_group_ops->commit_item() method has
+committable items. When this group appears in configfs, mkdir(2) will
+not work directly in the group. Instead, the group will have two
+subdirectories: "live" and "pending". The "live" directory does not
+support mkdir(2) or rmdir(2) either. It only allows rename(2). The
+"pending" directory does allow mkdir(2) and rmdir(2). An item is
+created in the "pending" directory. Its attributes can be modified at
+will. Userspace commits the item by renaming it into the "live"
+directory. At this point, the subsystem recieves the ->commit_item()
+callback. If all required attributes are filled to satisfaction, the
+method returns zero and the item is moved to the "live" directory.
+As rmdir(2) does not work in the "live" directory, an item must be
+shutdown, or "uncommitted". Again, this is done via rename(2), this
+time from the "live" directory back to the "pending" one. The subsystem
+is notified by the ct_group_ops->uncommit_object() method.