Category Archives: rss

More RSS UDP tests – this time on a Dell R720

I've recently had the chance to run my RSS UDP test suite up on a pair of Dell R720s. They came with on-board 10G Intel NICs (ixgbe(4) in FreeBSD) so I figured I'd run my test suite up on it.

Thank you to the Enterprise Storage Division at Dell for providing hardware for me to develop on!

The config is like in the previous blog post, but now I have two 8-core Sandy Bridge Xeon CPUs to play with. To simply things (and to not have to try and solve NUMA related issues) I'm running this on the first socket. The Intel NIC is attached to the first CPU socket.

So:


  • CPU: Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E5-2650 0 @ 2.00GHz (2000.04-MHz K8-class CPU) x 2
  • RAM: 64GiB
  • HTT disabled
/boot/loader.conf:

# ... until ncpus is tunable, make it use 8 buckets.
net.inet.rss.bits=3
net.isr.maxthreads=8
net.isr.bindthreads=1

This time I want to test with 8 streams, so after some trial and error I found the right IPv4 addresses to use:

  • Server: 10.11.2.1/24
  • Client: 10.11.2.3/24, 10.11.2.2/24, 10.11.2.32/24, 10.11.2.33/24, 10.11.2.64/24, 10.11.2.65/24, 10.11.2.17/24, 10.11.2.18/24
The test was like before - the server ran one rss-udp-srv program that spawns one thread per RSS bucket. The client side runs rss-clt programs to generate traffic - but now there's eight of them instead of four.

The results are what I expected: the contention is in the same place (UDP receive) and it's per-core - it doesn't contend between CPU cores.

Each CPU is transmitting and receiving 215,000 510-byte UDP frames a second. It scales linearly - 1 CPU is 215,000 TX/RX frames a second. 8 CPUs is 215,000 TX/RX frames a second * 8. There's no degrading as the CPU core count increases.

That's 1.72 million packets per second. At 510 bytes frames it's about 7 gigabits/sec in and out.

The other 8 cores are idle. Ideally we'd be able to run an application in those cores - so hopefully I can get my network / rss library up and running enough to prototype an RSS-aware memcached and see if it'll handle this particular workload.

It's a far cry from what I think we can likely achieve - but please keep in mind that I know I could do more awesome looking results with netmap, PF_RING or Intel's DPDK software. What I'm trying to do is push the existing kernel networking subsystem to its limits so the issues can be exposed and fixed.

So, where's the CPU going?

In the UDP server program (pid 1620), it looks thus:

# pmcstat -P CPU_CLK_UNHALTED_CORE -T -w 1 -p 1620
PMC: [CPU_CLK_UNHALTED_CORE] Samples: 34298 (100.0%) , 155 unresolved

%SAMP IMAGE      FUNCTION             CALLERS
  8.0 kernel     fget_unlocked        kern_sendit:4.2 kern_recvit:3.9
  7.0 kernel     copyout              soreceive_dgram:5.6 amd64_syscall:0.9
  3.6 kernel     __mtx_unlock_flags   ixgbe_mq_start
  3.5 kernel     copyin               m_uiotombuf:1.8 amd64_syscall:1.2
  3.4 kernel     memcpy               ip_output:2.9 ether_output:0.6
  3.4 kernel     toeplitz_hash        rss_hash_ip4_2tuple
  3.3 kernel     bcopy                rss_hash_ip4_2tuple:1.4 rss_proto_software_hash_v4:0.9
  3.0 kernel     _mtx_lock_spin_cooki pmclog_reserve
  2.7 kernel     udp_send             sosend_dgram
  2.5 kernel     ip_output            udp_send

In the NIC receive / transmit thread(s) (pid 12), it looks thus:

# pmcstat -P CPU_CLK_UNHALTED_CORE -T -w 1 -p 12

PMC: [CPU_CLK_UNHALTED_CORE] Samples: 79319 (100.0%) , 0 unresolved

%SAMP IMAGE      FUNCTION             CALLERS
 10.3 kernel     ixgbe_rxeof          ixgbe_msix_que
  9.3 kernel     __mtx_unlock_flags   ixgbe_rxeof:4.8 netisr_dispatch_src:2.1 in_pcblookup_mbuf:1.3
  8.3 kernel     __mtx_lock_flags     ixgbe_rxeof:2.8 netisr_dispatch_src:2.4 udp_append:1.2 in_pcblookup_mbuf:1.1 knote:0.6
  3.8 kernel     bcmp                 netisr_dispatch_src
  3.6 kernel     uma_zalloc_arg       sbappendaddr_locked_internal:2.0 m_getjcl:1.6
  3.4 kernel     ip_input             netisr_dispatch_src
  3.4 kernel     lock_profile_release __mtx_unlock_flags
  3.4 kernel     in_pcblookup_mbuf    udp_input
  3.0 kernel     ether_nh_input       netisr_dispatch_src
  2.4 kernel     udp_input            ip_input
  2.4 kernel     mb_free_ext          m_freem
  2.2 kernel     lock_profile_obtain_ __mtx_lock_flags
  2.1 kernel     ixgbe_refresh_mbufs  ixgbe_rxeof

It looks like there's some obvious optimisations to poke at (what the heck is fget_unlocked() doing up there?) and yes, copyout/copyin are really terrible but currently unavoidable. The toeplitz hash and bcopy aren't very nice but they're occuring in the transmit path because at the moment there's no nice way to efficiently set both the outbound RSS hash and RSS bucket ID and send to a non-connected socket destination (ie, specify the destination IP:port as part of the send.) There's also some lock contention that needs to be addressed.

The output of the netisr queue statistics looks good:

root@abaddon:/home/adrian/git/github/erikarn/freebsd-rss # netstat -Q
Configuration:
Setting                        Current        Limit
Thread count                         8            8
Default queue limit                256        10240
Dispatch policy                 direct          n/a
Threads bound to CPUs          enabled          n/a

Protocols:
Name   Proto QLimit Policy Dispatch Flags
ip         1    256    cpu   hybrid   C--
igmp       2    256 source  default   ---
rtsock     3    256 source  default   ---
arp        4    256 source  default   ---
ether      5    256    cpu   direct   C--
ip6        6    256   flow  default   ---
ip_direct     9    256    cpu   hybrid   C--

Workstreams:
WSID CPU   Name     Len WMark   Disp'd  HDisp'd   QDrops   Queued  Handled
   0   0   ip         0    25        0 839349259        0       49 839349308
   0   0   igmp       0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   0   0   rtsock     0     2        0        0        0       92       92
   0   0   arp        0     0      118        0        0        0      118
   0   0   ether      0     0 839349600        0        0        0 839349600
   0   0   ip6        0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   0   0   ip_direct     0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   1   1   ip         0    20        0 829928186        0      286 829928472
   1   1   igmp       0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   1   1   rtsock     0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   1   1   arp        0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   1   1   ether      0     0 829928672        0        0        0 829928672
   1   1   ip6        0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   1   1   ip_direct     0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   2   2   ip         0     0        0 835558437        0        0 835558437
   2   2   igmp       0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   2   2   rtsock     0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   2   2   arp        0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   2   2   ether      0     0 835558610        0        0        0 835558610
   2   2   ip6        0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   2   2   ip_direct     0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   3   3   ip         0     1        0 850271162        0       23 850271185
   3   3   igmp       0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   3   3   rtsock     0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   3   3   arp        0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   3   3   ether      0     0 850271163        0        0        0 850271163
   3   3   ip6        0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   3   3   ip_direct     0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   4   4   ip         0    23        0 817439448        0      345 817439793
   4   4   igmp       0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   4   4   rtsock     0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   4   4   arp        0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   4   4   ether      0     0 817439625        0        0        0 817439625
   4   4   ip6        0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   4   4   ip_direct     0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   5   5   ip         0    19        0 817862508        0      332 817862840
   5   5   igmp       0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   5   5   rtsock     0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   5   5   arp        0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   5   5   ether      0     0 817862675        0        0        0 817862675
   5   5   ip6        0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   5   5   ip_direct     0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   6   6   ip         0    19        0 817281399        0      457 817281856
   6   6   igmp       0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   6   6   rtsock     0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   6   6   arp        0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   6   6   ether      0     0 817281665        0        0        0 817281665
   6   6   ip6        0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   6   6   ip_direct     0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   7   7   ip         0     0        0 813562616        0        0 813562616
   7   7   igmp       0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   7   7   rtsock     0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   7   7   arp        0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   7   7   ether      0     0 813562620        0        0        0 813562620
   7   7   ip6        0     0        0        0        0        0        0
   7   7   ip_direct     0     0        0        0        0        0        0
root@abaddon:/home/adrian/git/github/erikarn/freebsd-rss # 

It looks like everything is being dispatched correctly; nothing is being queued and/or dropped.

But yes, we're running out of socket buffers because each core is 100% pinned:

root@abaddon:/home/adrian/git/github/erikarn/freebsd-rss # netstat -sp udp
udp:
        6773040390 datagrams received
        0 with incomplete header
        0 with bad data length field
        0 with bad checksum
        0 with no checksum
        17450880 dropped due to no socket
        136 broadcast/multicast datagrams undelivered
        1634117674 dropped due to full socket buffers
        0 not for hashed pcb
        5121471700 delivered
        5121471044 datagrams output
        0 times multicast source filter matched

There's definitely room for improvement.

UDP RSS update: ixbge(4) turned out to have issues..

I started digging deeper into the RSS performance on my home test platform. Four cores and one (desktop) socket isn't all that much, but it's a good starting point for this.

It turns out that there was some lock contention inside netisr. Which made no sense, as RSS should be keeping all the flows local to each CPU.

After a bunch of digging, I discovered that the NIC was occasionally receiving packets into the wrong ring. Have a look at tihs:

Sep 12 08:04:32 adrian-hackbox kernel: ix0: ixgbe_rxeof: 100034:
m=0xfffff80047713d00; flowid=0x21f7db62; rxr->me=3
Sep 12 08:04:32 adrian-hackbox kernel: ix0: ixgbe_rxeof: 100034:
m=0xfffff8004742e100; flowid=0x21f7db62; rxr->me=3
Sep 12 08:04:32 adrian-hackbox kernel: ix0: ixgbe_rxeof: 100034:
m=0xfffff800474c2e00; flowid=0x21f7db62; rxr->me=3
Sep 12 08:04:32 adrian-hackbox kernel: ix0: ixgbe_rxeof: 100034:
m=0xfffff800474c5000; flowid=0x21f7db62; rxr->me=3
Sep 12 08:04:32 adrian-hackbox kernel: ix0: ixgbe_rxeof: 100034:
m=0xfffff8004742ec00; flowid=0x21f7db62; rxr->me=3
Sep 12 08:04:32 adrian-hackbox kernel: ix0: ixgbe_rxeof: 100032:
m=0xfffff8004727a700; flowid=0x335a5c03; rxr->me=2
Sep 12 08:04:32 adrian-hackbox kernel: ix0: ixgbe_rxeof: 100032:
m=0xfffff80006f11600; flowid=0x335a5c03; rxr->me=2
Sep 12 08:04:32 adrian-hackbox kernel: ix0: ixgbe_rxeof: 100032:
m=0xfffff80047279b00; flowid=0x335a5c03; rxr->me=2
Sep 12 08:04:32 adrian-hackbox kernel: ix0: ixgbe_rxeof: 100032:
m=0xfffff80006f0b700; flowid=0x335a5c03; rxr->me=2



The RX flowid was correct - I hashed the packets in software too and verified the software hash equaled the hardware hash. But they were turning up on the wrong receive queue. "rxr->me" is the queue id; the hardware should be hashing on the last 7 bits. 0x3 -> ring 3, 0x2 -> ring 2.

It also only happened when I was sending traffic to more than one receive ring. Everything was okay if I just transmitted to a single receive ring.

Luckily for me, some developers from Verisign saw some odd behaviour in their TCP stress testing and had dug in a bit further. They were seeing corrupted frames on the receive side that looked a lot like internal NIC configuration state. They figured out that the ixgbe(4) driver wasn't initialising the flow director and receive units correctly - the FreeBSD driver was not correctly setting up the amount of memory each was allocated on the NIC and they were overlapping. They also found a handful of incorrectly handled errors and double-freed mbufs.

So, with that all fixed, their TCP problem went away and my UDP tests started properly behaving themselves. Now all the flows are ending up on the right CPUs.

The flow director code was also dynamically programming flows into the NIC to try and rebalance traffic. Trouble is, I think it's a bit buggy and it's likely not working well with generic receive offload (LRO).

What's it mean for normal people? Well, it's fixed in FreeBSD-HEAD now. I'm hoping I or someone else will backport it to FreeBSD-10 soon. It fixes my UDP tests - now I hit around 1.3 million packets per second transmit and receive on my test rig; the server now has around 10-15% CPU free. It also fixed issues that Verisign were seeing with their high transaction rate TCP tests. I'm hoping that it fixes the odd corner cases that people have seen with Intel 10 gigabit hardware on FreeBSD and makes LRO generally more useful and stable.

Next up - some code refactoring, then finishing off IPv6 RSS!

 
 

Receive side scaling: testing UDP throughput

I think it's about time I shared some more details about the RSS stuff going into FreeBSD and how I'm testing it.

For now I'm focusing on IPv4 + UDP on the Intel 10GE NICs. The TCP side of things is done (and the IPv6 side of things works too!) but enough of the performance walls show up in the IPv4 UDP case that it's worth sticking to it for now.

I'm testing on a pair of 4-core boxes at home. They're not special - and they're very specifically not trying to be server-class hardware. I'd like to see where these bottlenecks are even at low core count.

The test setup in question:

Testing software:

  • http://github.com/erikarn/freebsd-rss
  • It requires libevent2 - an updated copy; previous versions of libevent2 didn't handle FreeBSD specific errors gracefully and would early error out of the IO loop.

Server:

  • CPU: Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-3550 CPU @ 3.30GHz (3292.59-MHz K8-class CPU)
  • There's no SMT/HTT, but I've disabled it in the BIOS just to be sure
  • 4GB RAM
  • FreeBSD-HEAD, amd64
  • NIC:  '82599EB 10-Gigabit SFI/SFP+ Network Connection
  • ix0: 10.11.2.1/24
/etc/sysctl.conf:

# for now redirect processing just makes the lock overhead suck even more.
# disable it.
net.inet.ip.redirect=0
net.inet.icmp.drop_redirect=1

/boot/loader.conf:

hw.ix.num_queues=8

# experiment with deferred dispatch for RSS
net.isr.numthreads=4
net.isr.maxthreads=4
net.isr.bindthreads=1
 

kernel config:

include GENERIC
ident HACKBOX

device netmap
options RSS
options PCBGROUP

# in-system lock profiling
options LOCK_PROFILING

# Flowtable - the rtentry locking is a bit .. slow.
options   FLOWTABLE

# This debugging code has too much overhead to do accurate
# testing with.
nooptions         INVARIANTS
nooptions         INVARIANT_SUPPORT
nooptions         WITNESS
nooptions         WITNESS_SKIPSPIN


The server runs the "rss-udp-srv" process, which behaves like a multi-threaded UDP echo server on port 8080.

Client

The client box is slightly more powerful to compensate for (currently) not using completely affinity-aware RSS UDP transmit code.

  • CPU: Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-4460  CPU @ 3.20GHz (3192.68-MHz K8-class CPU)
  • SMT/HTT: Disabled in BIOS
  • 8GB RAM
  • FreeBSD-HEAD amd64
  • Same kernel config, loader and sysctl config as the server
  • ix0: configured as 10.11.2.2/24, 10.11.2.3/32, 10.11.2.4/32, 10.11.2.32/32, 10.11.2.33/32
The client runs 'udp-clt' programs to source and sink traffic to the server.

Running things

The server-side simply runs the listen server, configured to respond to each frame:

$ rss-udp-srv 1 10.11.2.1

The client-side runs four couples of udp-clt, each from different IP addresses. These are run in parallel (i do it in different screens, so I can quickly see what's going on):

$ ./udp-clt -l 10.11.2.3 -r 10.11.2.1 -p 8080 -n 10000000000 -s 510
$ ./udp-clt -l 10.11.2.4 -r 10.11.2.1 -p 8080 -n 10000000000 -s 510
$ ./udp-clt -l 10.11.2.32 -r 10.11.2.1 -p 8080 -n 10000000000 -s 510
$ ./udp-clt -l 10.11.2.33 -r 10.11.2.1 -p 8080 -n 10000000000 -s 510

The IP addresses are chosen so that the 2-tuple topelitz hash using the default Microsoft key hash to different RSS buckets that live on individual CPUs.

Results: Round one

When the server is responding to each frame, the following occurs. The numbers are "number of frames generated by the client (netstat)", "number of frames received by the server (netstat)", "number of frames seen by udp-rss-srv", "number of responses transmitted from udp-rss-srv", "number of frames seen by the server (netstat)"
  • 1 udp-clt process: 710,000; 710,000; 296,000; 283,000; 281,000
  • 2 udp-clt processes: 1,300,000; 1,300,000; 592,000; 592,000; 575,000
  • 3 udp-clt processes: 1,800,000; 1,800,000; 636,000; 636,000; 600,000
  • 4 udp-clt processes: 2,100,000; 2,100,000; 255,000; 255,000; 255,000
So, it's not actually linear past two cores. The question here is: why?

There are a couple of parts to this.

Firstly - I had left turbo boost on. What this translated to:

  • One core active: ~ 30% increase in clock speed
  • Two cores active: ~ 30% increase in clock speed
  • Three cores active: ~ 25% increase in clock speed
  • Four cores active: ~ 15% increase in clock speed.
Secondly and more importantly - I had left flow control enabled. This made a world of difference.

The revised results are mostly linear - with more active RSS buckets (and thus CPUs) things seem to get slightly more efficient:
  • 1 udp-clt process: 710,000; 710,000; 266,000; 266,000; 266,000
  • 2 udp-clt processes: 1,300,000; 1,300,000; 512,000; 512,000; 512,000
  • 3 udp-clt processes: 1,800,000; 1,800,000; 810,000; 810,000; 810,000
  • 4 udp-clt processes: 2,100,000; 2,100,000; 1,120,000; 1,120,000; 1,120,000

Finally, let's repeat the process but only receiving instead also echoing back the packet to the client:

$ rss-udp-srv 0 10.11.2.1
  • 1 udp-clt process: 710,000; 710,000; 204,000
  • 2 udp-clt processes: 1,300,000; 1,300,000; 378,000
  • 3 udp-clt processes: 1,800,000; 1,800,000; 645,000
  • 4 udp-clt processes: 2,100,000; 2,100,000; 900,000
The receive-only workload is actually worse off versus the transmit + receive workload!

What's going on here?

Well, a little digging shows that in both instances - even with a single udp-clt thread running which means only one CPU on the server side is actually active! - there's active lock contention.

Here's an example dtrace output for measuring lock contention with only one active process, where one CPU is involved (and the other three are idle):

Receive only, 5 seconds:

root@adrian-hackbox:/home/adrian/git/github/erikarn/freebsd-rss # dtrace -n 'lockstat:::adaptive-block { @[stack()] = sum(arg1); }'
dtrace: description 'lockstat:::adaptive-block ' matched 1 probe
^C


              kernel`udp_append+0x11c
              kernel`udp_input+0x8cc
              kernel`ip_input+0x116
              kernel`netisr_dispatch_src+0x1cb
              kernel`ether_demux+0x123
              kernel`ether_nh_input+0x34d
              kernel`netisr_dispatch_src+0x61
              kernel`ether_input+0x26
              kernel`ixgbe_rxeof+0x2f7
              kernel`ixgbe_msix_que+0xb6
              kernel`intr_event_execute_handlers+0x83
              kernel`ithread_loop+0x96
              kernel`fork_exit+0x71
              kernel`0xffffffff80cd19de
         46729281

Transmit + receive, 5 seconds:

dtrace: description 'lockstat:::adaptive-block ' matched 1 probe
^C


              kernel`knote+0x7e
              kernel`sowakeup+0x65
              kernel`udp_append+0x14a
              kernel`udp_input+0x8cc
              kernel`ip_input+0x116
              kernel`netisr_dispatch_src+0x1cb
              kernel`ether_demux+0x123
              kernel`ether_nh_input+0x34d
              kernel`netisr_dispatch_src+0x61
              kernel`ether_input+0x26
              kernel`ixgbe_rxeof+0x2f7
              kernel`ixgbe_msix_que+0xb6
              kernel`intr_event_execute_handlers+0x83
              kernel`ithread_loop+0x96
              kernel`fork_exit+0x71
              kernel`0xffffffff80cd19de
             3793

              kernel`udp_append+0x11c
              kernel`udp_input+0x8cc
              kernel`ip_input+0x116
              kernel`netisr_dispatch_src+0x1cb
              kernel`ether_demux+0x123
              kernel`ether_nh_input+0x34d
              kernel`netisr_dispatch_src+0x61
              kernel`ether_input+0x26
              kernel`ixgbe_rxeof+0x2f7
              kernel`ixgbe_msix_que+0xb6
              kernel`intr_event_execute_handlers+0x83
              kernel`ithread_loop+0x96
              kernel`fork_exit+0x71
              kernel`0xffffffff80cd19de
          3823793

              kernel`ixgbe_msix_que+0xd3
              kernel`intr_event_execute_handlers+0x83
              kernel`ithread_loop+0x96
              kernel`fork_exit+0x71
              kernel`0xffffffff80cd19de
          9918140

Somehow it seems there's less lock contention / blocking going on when both transmit and receive is running!

So then I dug into it using the lock profiling suite. This is for 5 seconds with receive-only traffic on a single RSS bucket / CPU (all other CPUs are idle):

# sysctl debug.lock.prof.enable = 1; sleep 5 ; sysctl debug.lock.prof.enable=0

root@adrian-hackbox:/home/adrian/git/github/erikarn/freebsd-rss # sysctl debug.lock.prof.enable=1 ; sleep 5 ; sysctl debug.lock.prof.enable=0
debug.lock.prof.enable: 1 -> 1
debug.lock.prof.enable: 1 -> 0

root@adrian-hackbox:/home/adrian/git/github/erikarn/freebsd-rss # sysctl debug.lock.prof.stats | head -2 ; sysctl debug.lock.prof.stats | sort -nk4 | tail -10
debug.lock.prof.stats: 
     max  wait_max       total  wait_total       count    avg wait_avg cnt_hold cnt_lock name
    1496         0       10900           0          28    389      0  0      0 /usr/home/adrian/work/freebsd/head/src/sys/dev/usb/usb_device.c:2755 (sx:USB config SX lock)
debug.lock.prof.stats: 
       0         0          31           1          67      0      0  0      4 /usr/home/adrian/work/freebsd/head/src/sys/kern/sched_ule.c:888 (spin mutex:sched lock 2)
       0         0        2715           1       49740      0      0  0      7 /usr/home/adrian/work/freebsd/head/src/sys/dev/random/random_harvestq.c:294 (spin mutex:entropy harvest mutex)
       1         0          51           1         131      0      0  0      2 /usr/home/adrian/work/freebsd/head/src/sys/kern/sched_ule.c:1179 (spin mutex:sched lock 1)
       0         0          69           2         170      0      0  0      8 /usr/home/adrian/work/freebsd/head/src/sys/kern/sched_ule.c:886 (spin mutex:sched lock 2)
       0         0       40389           2      287649      0      0  0      8 /usr/home/adrian/work/freebsd/head/src/sys/kern/kern_intr.c:1359 (spin mutex:sched lock 2)
       0         2           2           4          12      0      0  0      2 /usr/home/adrian/work/freebsd/head/src/sys/dev/usb/usb_device.c:2762 (sleep mutex:Giant)
      15        20        6556         520        2254      2      0  0    105 /usr/home/adrian/work/freebsd/head/src/sys/dev/acpica/Osd/OsdSynch.c:535 (spin mutex:ACPI lock (0xfffff80002b10f00))
       4         5      195967       65888     3445501      0      0  0  28975 /usr/home/adrian/work/freebsd/head/src/sys/netinet/udp_usrreq.c:369 (sleep mutex:so_rcv)

Notice the lock contention for the so_rcv (socket receive buffer) handling? What's going on here is pretty amusing - it turns out that because there's so much receive traffic going on, the userland process receiving the data is being preempted by the NIC receive thread very often - and when this happens, there's a good chance it's going to be within the small window that the receive socket buffer lock is held. Once this happens, the NIC receive thread processes frames until it gets to one that requires it to grab the same sock buffer lock that is already held by userland - and it fails - so the NIC thread sleeps until the userland thread finishes consuming a packet. Then the CPU flips back to the NIC thread and continues processing a packet.

When the userland code is also transmitting frames it's increasing the amount of time in between socket receives and decreasing the probability of hitting the lock contention condition above.

Note there's no contention between CPUs here - this is entirely contention within a single CPU.

So for now I'm happy that the UDP IPv4 path is scaling well enough with RSS on a single core. The main performance problem here is the socket receive buffer locking (and, yes, copyin() / copyout().)

Next!

Receive Side Scaling: figuring out how to handle IP fragments

The TL:DR; of this is - IP fragments are annoying.

If everything was awesome and there were never IP fragments, all TCP and UDP frames would always have the TCP/UDP header stamped on them, and the NIC could hash the TCP/UDP header in hardware to calculate the destination queue to receive traffic on.

However, everything isn't awesome and there will be cases where IP frames are fragmented. When this happens, the first frame in the fragment has the IPv4 header and the TCP/UDP header - but the subsequent fragments only have the IPv4 header. That means there's not enough information in the rest of the fragments to hash them to the same hash value and thus hardware queue as the first fragment - only the first has the full IPv4+TCP/UDP information.

The Intel and Chelsio NICs will hash on all packets that are fragmented by only hashing on the IPv4 details. So, if it's a fragmented TCP or UDP frame, it will hash the first fragment the same as the others - it'll ignore the TCP/UDP details and only hash on the IPv4 frame. This means that all the fragments in a given IP datagram will hash to the same value and thus the same queue.

But if there are a mix of fragmented and non-fragmented packets in a given flow - for example, small versus larger UDP frames - then some may be hashed via the IPv4+TCP or IPv4+UDP details and some will just be hashed via the IPv4 details. This means that packets in the same flow will end up being received in different receive queues and thus highly likely be processed out of order.

The Linux intel driver code flipped off IPv4+UDP hashing a while ago - they hash UDP frames by their IPv4 details only and then do whatever other load balancing in the kernel they choose. I found this and updated the FreeBSD drivers to do the same. This should result in less out of order UDP frames for UDP heavy workloads. I'm not sure about the Chelsio driver yet - when I convert it to the RSS framework it'll disable IPv4+UDP hashing if that isn't enabled at boot time. This is a good stop-gap, but it's not the whole story.

TCP is where it gets annoying. People don't want to flip off IPv4+TCP hashing as they're convinced that the TCP MSS negotiation and path-MTU discovery stuff will prevent there from being any IP fragmented TCP frames. But, well, that's not really viable in the real world. There are too many misconfigured networks out there and IP fragmentation does occur. So this is also a problem for TCP. This means that the IPv4 fragmented TCP frames in those sessions will come into another receive queue and CPU and this will show up as out of order data.

So, what's this all have to do with receive side scaling?

With RSS, there's a well defined hash for packets and a configuration for what the operating system and NICs are supposed to be doing. It's entirely possible that we'll configure IPv4+TCP to be hashed and also entirely possible we'll see IP fragments showing up on other CPUs. So in order to have the TCP stack run on the right CPU, the IP fragments need to be assembled on whichever CPU they're received upon and then re-injected into the correct destination queue to run on the correct CPU.

Fortunately the FreeBSD netisr scheme makes this easy.

So what I'm doing in my branch (and what will soon show up in -HEAD) is thus:


  • UDP is still hashed as IPv4-only frames for now. I'll change that later to hash on IPv4+UDP and have things reinjected on the correct destination RSS bucket / netisr queue / CPU.
  • I create one netisr thread, pinned to a CPU, for each RSS CPU that's defined.
    • Ideally I'd create one netisr thread for each RSS bucket and pin that, but that'll come later.
  • IP fragments will be hashed to whatever the IPv4 hash calculates, so fragment reassembly will occur on some CPU;
    • .. and it's the same CPU for all frames in a fragmented datagram.
  • Then when the fragment is reassembled, a software hash is calculated for the newly reassembled frame.
    • If RSS is configured to hash for IPv4 only, then it'll see that the hash on the reassembled datagram matches the configured hash for that packet type and reuse it.
    • So, if it's UDP right now, it'll see that UDP is only hashing on IPv4 details and reuse it.
    • .. but if IPv4+UDP hashing is configured, it'll software hash the packet and assign the new flow type and RSS hash.
  • Then, it'll reinject the frame into netisr to be requeued and reprocessed.
  • .. this uses the nh_m2cpuid function to calculate the destination CPU for the given RSS hash.
    • If it's handled on the same destination CPU then it'll be handled.
    • If it's handled on a different destination CPU then it'll be queued to that netisr and dispatched appropriately.
This works. It's not great, and I'd rather the IP fragment reassembly code was much more efficient, but it's correct. I'm going for correctness here to begin with.

Now, before you ask - yes, IPv6 has fragments and yes, I have to do the same thing for IPv6 flows. Most of the code is written.

Finally - the same thing applies to things like IPv4 tunnels, IPv6-in-IPv4 tunnels, IPSEC tunnels and the like. The NIC hashes the packets on the IPv4 header details but once the packet is de-encapsulated, it needs to be reinjected back into the correct CPU for further processing.

Application awareness of receive side scaling (RSS) on FreeBSD

Part of testing this receive side scaling work is designing a set of APIs that allow for some kind of affinity awareness. It's not easy - the general case is difficult and highly varying. But something has to be tested! So, where should it begin?

The main tricky part of this is the difference between incoming, outgoing and listening sockets.

For incoming traffic, the NIC has already calculated the RSS hash value and there's already a map between RSS hash and destination CPU. Well, destination queue to be much more precise; then there's a CPU for that queue.

For outgoing traffic, the thread(s) in question can be scheduled on any CPU core and as you have more cores, it's increasingly unlikely to be the right one. In FreeBSD, the default is to direct dispatch transmit related socket and protocol work in the thread that started it, save a handful of places like TCP timers. Once the driver if_transmit() method is called to transmit a frame it can check the mbuf to see what the flowid is and map that to a destination transmit queue. Before RSS, that's typically done to keep packets vaguely in some semblance of in-order behaviour - ie, for a given traffic flow between two endpoints (say, IP, or TCP, or UDP) the packets should be transmitted in-order. It wasn't really done for CPU affinity reasons.

Before RSS, there was no real consistency with how drivers hashed traffic upon receive, nor any rules on how it should select an outbound transmit queue for a given buffer. Most multi-queue drivers got it "mostly right". They definitely didn't try to make any CPU affinity choices - it was all done to preserve the in-order behaviour of traffic flows.

For an incoming socket, all the information about the destination CPU can be calculated from the RSS hash provided during frame reception. So, for TCP, the RSS hash for the received ACK during the three way handshake goes into the inpcb entry. For UDP it's not so simple (and the inpcb doesn't get a hash entry for UDP - I'll explain why below.)

For an outgoing socket, all the information about the eventual destination CPU isn't necessarily available. If the application knows the source/destination IP and source/destination port then it (or the kernel) can calculate the RSS hash that the hardware would calculate upon frame reception and use that to populate the inpcb. However this isn't typically known - frequently the source IP and port won't be explicitly defined and it'll be up to the kernel to choose them for the application. So, during socket creation, the destination CPU can't be known.

So to make it simple (and to make it simple for me to ensure the driver and protocol stack parts are working right) my focus has been on incoming sockets and incoming packets, rather than trying to handle outgoing sockets. I can handle outbound sockets easily enough - I just need to do a software hash calculation once all of the required information is available (ie, the source IP and port is selected) and populate the inpcb with that particular value. But I decided to not have to try and debug that at the same time as I debugged the driver side and the protocol stack side, so it's a "later" task.

For TCP, traffic for a given connection will use the same source/destination IP and source/destination port values. So for a given socket, it'll always hash to the same value. However, for UDP, it's quite possible to get UDP traffic from a variety of different source IP/ports and respond from a variety of different source/IP ports. This means that the RSS hash value that we can store in the inpcb isn't at all guaranteed to be the same for all subsequent socket writes.

Ok, so given all of that above information, how exactly is this supposed to work?

Well, the slightly more interesting and pressing problem is how to break out incoming requests/packets to multiple receive threads. In traditional UNIX socket setups, there are a couple of common design patterns for farming off incoming requests to multiple worker threads:

  • There's one thread that just does accept() (for TCP) or recv() (for UDP) and it then farms off new connections to userland worker threads; or
  • There are multiple userland worker threads which all wait on a single socket for accept() or recv() - and hope that the OS will only wake up one thread to hand work to.
It turns out that the OS may wake up one thread at a time for accept() or recv() but then userland threads will sit in a loop trying to accept connections / packets - and then you tend to find they get called a lot only to find another worker thread that was running stole the workload. Oops.

I decided this wasn't really acceptable for the RSS work. I needed a way to redirect traffic to a thread that's also pinned to the same CPU as the receive RSS bucket. I decided the cheapest way would be to allow multiple PCB entries for the same socket details (eg, multiple TCP sockets listening on *:80). Since the PCBGROUPS code in this instance has one PCB hash per RSS bucket, all I had to do was to teach the stack that wildcard listen PCB entries (eg, *:80) could also exist in each PCB hash bucket and to use those in preference to the global PCB hash.

The idea behind this decision is pretty simple - Robert Watson already did all this great work in setting up and debugging PCBGROUPS and then made the RSS work leverage that. All I'd have to do is to have one userland thread in each RSS bucket and have the listen socket for that thread be in the RSS bucket. Then any incoming packet would first check the PCBGROUP that matched the RSS bucket indicated by the RSS hash from the hardware - and it'd find the "right" PCB entry in the "right" PCBGROUP PCB has table for the "right" RSS bucket.

That's what I did for both TCP and UDP.

So the programming model is thus:

  • First, query the RSS sysctl (net.inet.rss) for the RSS configuration - this gives the number of RSS buckets and the RSS bucket -> CPU mapping.
  • Then create one worker thread per RSS bucket..
  • .. and pin each thread to the indicated CPU.
  • Next, each worker thread creates one listen socket..
  • .. sets the IP_BINDANY or IP6_BINDANY option to indicate that there'll be multiple RSS entries bound to the given listen details (eg, binding to *:80);
  • .. then IP_RSS_LISTEN_BUCKET to set which RSS bucket the incoming socket should live in;
  • Then for UDP - call bind()
  • Or for TCP - call bind(), then call listen()
Each worker thread will then receive TCP connections / UDP frames that are local to that CPU. Writing data out the TCP socket will also stay local to that CPU. Writing UDP frames out doesn't - and I'm about to cover that.

Yes, it's annoying because now you're not just able to choose an IO model that's convenient for your application / coding style. Oops.

Ok, so what's up with UDP?

The problem with UDP is that outbound responses may be to an arbitrary destination setup and thus may actually be considered "local" to another CPU. Most common services don't do this - they'll send the UDP response to the same remote IP and port that it was sent from.

My plan for UDP (and TCP in some instances, see below!) is four-fold:

  • When receiving UDP frames, optionally mark them with RSS hash and flowid information.
  • When transmitting UDP frames, allow userspace to inform the kernel about a pre-calculated RSS hash / flow information.
  • For the fully-connected setup (ie, where a single socket is connect() ed to a given UDP remote IP:port and frame exchange only occurs between the fixed IP and port details) - cache the RSS flow information in the inpcb;
  • .. and for all other situations (if it's not connected, if there's no hint from userland, if it's going to a destination that isn't in the inpcb) - just do a software hash calculation on the outgoing details.
I mostly have the the first two UDP options implemented (ie, where userland caches the information to re-use when transmitting the response) and I'll commit them to FreeBSD soon. The other two options are the "correct" way to do the default methods but it'll take some time to get right.

Ok, so does it work?

I don't have graphs. Mostly because I'm slack. I'll do up some before I present this - likely at BSDCan 2015.

My testing has been done with Intel 1G and 10G NICs on desktop Ivy Bridge 4-core hardware. So yes, server class hardware will behave better.

For incoming TCP workloads (eg a webserver) then yes, there's no lock contention between CPUs in the NIC driver or network stack any longer. The main lock contention between CPUs is the VM and allocator paths. If you're doing disk IO then that'll also show up.

For incoming UDP workloads, I've seen it scale linearly on 10G NICs (ixgbe(4)) from one to four cores. This is with no-defragmentation, 510 byte sized datagrams.

Ie, 1 core reception (ie, all flows to one core) was ~ 250,000 pps into userland with just straight UDP reception and no flow/hash information via recvmsg(); 135,000 pps into userland with UDP reception and flow/hash information via recvmsg().

4 core reception was ~ 1.1 million pps into userland, roughly ~ 255,000 pps per core. There's no contention between CPU cores at all.

Unfortunately what I was sending was markedly different. The driver quite happily received 1.1 million frames on one queue and up to 2.1 million when all four queues were busy. So there's definitely room for improvement.

Now, there is lock contention - it's just not between CPU cores. Now that I'm getting past the between-core contention, we see the within-core contention.

For TCP HTTP request reception and bulk response transmission, most of the contention I'm currently seeing is between the driver transmit paths. So, the following occurs:

  • TCP stack writes some data out;
  • NIC if_transmit() method is called;
  • It tries to grab the queue lock and succeeds;
It then appends the frame to the buf_ring and schedules a transmit out the NIC. This bit is fine.

But then whilst the transmit lock is held, because the driver is taking frames from the buf_ring to push into the NIC TX DMA queue
  • The NIC queue interrupt fires, scheduling the software interrupt thread;
  • This pre-empts the existing running transmit thread;
  • The NIC code tries to grab the transmit lock to handle completed transmissions;
  • .. and it fails, because the code it preempted holds the transmit lock already.
So there's some context switching and thrashing going on there which needs to be addressed.

Ok, what about UDP? It turns out there's some lock contention with the socket receive buffer.

The soreceive_dgram() routine grabs the socket receive buffer (SOCKBUF_LOCK()) to see if there's anything to return. If not, and if it can sleep, it'll call sbwait() that will release the lock and msleep() waiting for the protocol stack to indicate that something has been received. However, since we're receiving packets at such a very high rate, it seems that the receive protocol path contends with the socket buffer lock that is held by the userland code trying to receive a datagram. It pre-empts the user thread, tries to grab the lock and fails - and then goes to sleep until the userland code finishes with the lock. soreceive_dgram() doesn't hold the lock for very long - but I do see upwards of a million context switches a second.

To wrap up - I'm pleased with how things are going. I've found and fixed some issues with the igb(4) and ixgbe(4) drivers that were partly my fault and the traffic is now quite happily and correctly being processed in parallel. There are issues with scaling within a core that are now being exposed and I'm glad to say I'm going to ignore them for now and focus on wrapping up what I've started.

There's a bunch more to talk about and I'm going to do it in follow-up posts.
  • what I'm going to do about UDP transmit in more detail;
  • what about creating outbound connections and how applications can be structured to handle this;
  • handling IP fragments and rehashing packets to be mostly in-order - and what happens when we can't guarantee ordering with the hardware hashing UDP frames to a 4-tuple;
  • CPU hash rebalancing - what if a specific bucket gets too much CPU load for some reason;
  • randomly creating a toeplitz RSS hash key at bootup and how that should be verified;
  • multi-socket CPU and IO domain awareness;
  • .. and whatever else I'm going to stumble across whilst I'm slowly fleshing this stuff out.
I hope to get the UDP transmit side of things completed in the next couple of weeks so I can teach memcached about TCP and UDP RSS. After that, who knows!

Hacking on Receive Side Scaling (RSS) on FreeBSD

RSS is a Microsoft invention that tries to keep a given TCP or UDP flow (and I think IP, but I haven't yet tried that) on a given CPU core. The idea is to try and keep both flow-local data and flow-local locking on a single CPU core, increasing the chances that data is hot in the CPU core cache and reducing the chance of lock overhead.

You can find the RSS overview and programming details here:

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/hardware/ff567236(v=vs.85).aspx

RSS and supporting technology has been making its way into FreeBSD for quite some time but it's not in any real shape that application developers can take advantage of.

Firstly, there's "PCBGROUPS", which looks to group PCB (protocol control block) data for a connection local to a CPU. Instead of there being one global PCB table for the system (well, VIMAGE for FreeBSD - each virtual image instance has its own PCB table) with one lock protecting it, there's now multiple PCB tables, one per "thing". Here, the thing is whatever the kernel developer thinks is worth grouping them by.

http://www.ece.rice.edu/~willmann/pubs/paranet_usenix.pdf

Now, until the RSS work went in, this code was in FreeBSD but sat unused. A kernel developer could provide the hooks needed to map TCP (and maybe UDP later) flows to a "thing" and have that map to a PCB group table - but it required some glue to stamp incoming connections and outgoing packets with some identifier (which we call a "flowid" in FreeBSD) with something that can map to said "thing". Then whenever a PCB lookup was needed, it would first try the lookup in the table mapped to by the mapping between the "flowid" and "thing" - if it was successful, it wouldn't have to use the global PCB table to do the lookup.

This is only good for established connections - creating and destroying a connection still requires manipulating that global PCB table and the single PCB table lock. I'm going to ignore fixing that for now, as that is a bigger issue.

Then Robert Watson added the RSS work done under contract to Juniper Networks, Inc. RSS provides one kind of mapping between the flowid from the NIC and which CPU to run work on. So that part worked great - but there wasn't any way for the application user to take advantage of it. Additionally, there's no driver awareness of it yet - I'll discuss this shortly.

So I grabbed a bunch of this work whilst at Netflix and tried to make sense of it. It turns out that if you can keep the work local to a CPU, a lot of the lock contention in the networking stack melts away. Here's what's going on:

  • The receive thread(s) in the NIC driver processing packets are typically doing direct dispatch to the network stack - so they're running the receive side of the TCP stack;
  • .. and the receive side of the network stack includes ACKs, which triggers the transmit side of the network stack;
  • There's typically some deferred thread(s) in the NIC driver transmitting packets to each NIC queue;
  • There's also application threads trying to queue data to the TCP socket, which also can dig into the socket and TCP stack state, which involves grabbing locks;
  • And there's also timers firing to update state, and doing this involves grabbing locks.
Without RSS and without lining everything up on CPU cores, all the above can run on different cores. Whenever any of them try running at the same time, lock contention can occur and that particular task can stop. If the lock contention blocks the transmit or receive NIC threads, then not only is that connection affected - the whole NIC processing is affected.

There's still lock contention in the network stack - especially if you're doing a lot of new, short connections. The good folk at Verisign are working on that particular corner of the problem so I'm happy to defer to them.

So, I ended up doing a bunch of little pieces to get this lined up right:
  • The per-CPU timer callwheels can now be optionally pinned to their CPU cores, so timer events running on CPU X actually do run on CPU X (yes, that was amusing to find..);
  • There's support in the TCP stack for per-CPU timers, but it's not enabled by default;
  • ... and it also didn't query RSS, netisr or anything to figure out how to map a flowid to a given CPU to run a timer on;
  • Then to make matters worse, incoming TCP sessions didn't have a flowid assigned to the PCB until after the first data packet was read - which meant that the initial timer work would all assume CPU 0 and any queries on that particular PCB would return flowid=0 - so it would not find it in the right PCBGROUP.
So those are fixed in FreeBSD-HEAD. The per-CPU TCP timer and pinned-CPU timers aren't enabled by default - I'll only flip that on when I'm confident that the RSS stuff is working.

So that lets all the RSS stuff correctly work. But there wasn't a nice way to query the per-connection flowid or RSS information. So I then extended netstat to have 'R' as a flag - it returns the flowid and the flowid type. I'll add RSS information once I have a nice way to extract it out in bulk. It's still a good diagnostic tool to ensure that the IPv4/IPv6 hashing is working correctly.

Then I had to teach a driver about RSS so I could actually test it all out. I have some igb(4) hardware at home, so I did the minimal work required to teach it about the RSS key and assigning things to the correct CPUs. It's still incomplete but it's good enough to get off the ground. I'll go into more details about the driver requirements in a follow-up blogpost.

Finally, how are application developers supposed to use it? I'll cover that particular bit in another follow-up blog post as there's quite a lot to cover there.

Florent Thoumie » FreeBSD 2010-03-23 12:18:18

Alright, I know, we’re well into 2010 already, but after a couple months I’m finally settled in my new home and my computers are in good enough shape that I can actually start doing some work.

So here goes:

  • Bugtracker change, my choice is on Bugzilla but after Gnats, anything would be an improvement. Bugzilla also offers RSS feeds for bug queries.

  • Wiki change, it’s a bit the same as for the Bugtracker, except not everybody uses the wiki. Moinmoin was a good choice at the time, but really now it’s time to change. My personal choice is Dokuwiki because it’s simple to use, well maintained and has a plethora of plugins available. There are scripts on the web to do the conversion, the only thing that’s in the way is the change in the syntax (which isn’t really an issue since Dokuwiki ships with a WYSIWYG editor). Dokuwiki also provides RSS feeds. After the change, a revamp of the index has to be done, there’s far too much stuff on the frontpage and it’s not organized so well.

  • RSS support for CVSWeb and/or ViewVC. ViewVC supports CVS repositories, so I’m not quite sure why we still have both. RSS support apparently requires MySQL support, so I don’t see it happening. Still, having to use FreshPorts/FreshSource for RSS feeds is a bit backwards, let’s eliminate the need for the middle man!

  • VCS change. Just kidding, I’m not gonna go there.

That’s right, no code involved here, which makes everything a low priority task obviously. You also probably noticed that while RSS support isn’t the main reason for all these items, it goes a long way towards having everything FreeBSD-related in a single place (be it an IRC channel, Google Reader or your favourite RSS aggregator) and thus saving some time searching for information or catching up with latest development.

Planet FreeBSD and Feedburner

Following Murray’s suggestion to use feedburner to track Planet FreeBSD subscribers, I’ve created feeds and added badges to Planet FreeBSD frontpages. So far it still shows 0 subscribers but I’ve done the necessary tweaking to point the rss/atom feeds to the new one. I hope the readers will be smart enough to notice the rss to atom change. We’ll see how it works out.

I’ve also removed the rss10/opml/foaf feeds as they seem to be mostly requested by crawlers. If you’re using it and can give a reasonable reason why you can’t use atom, drop me an email.

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Follow FreeBSD on Twitter and send tweets from FreeBSD command line

It just came to my attention that Eric Anderson setup a FreeBSD feed on twitter. There you can find updates from the FreeBSD website, from the blogs aggregated at FreeBSD Planet, and other FreeBSD related RSS feeds published as 140 character tweets with tinyurl links to the full posts. I've been using twitter for a while now for two quite separate purposes. Primarily, I enjoy following people like Tim O'Reilly to get an endless stream of interesting tech links, ideas, and thoughts throughout the day. The updates are 140 characters or less and I only click through to those that I have time for so I find it less of a time sink than logging into my feedreader (Google Reader) and really digging into the news I'm interested in. I also find it quite useful for arranging social engagements. I use it as an SMS broadcast medium to make plans and arrange to meetup with friends for dinner, drinks, movies, or whatever after work. For the latter purpose Twitter works best in conjunction with a GPS-enabled smartphone and something like Loopt.Following Eric's lead I setup a couple of more specific FreeBSD related twitter accounts using Twitter Feed to automatically publish the updates from RSS. The first account freebsdannounce consists of all the RSS feeds from the main www.freebsd.org website (most of which I added almost exactly one year ago). The second account freebsdblogs consists of the FreeBSD Planet combined RSS feed. If you want everything subscribe to Eric's main FreeBSD feed, but if you want only a subset of that content subscribe to one of my two more specific feeds.Finally, I couldn't find a way to make simple updates to twitter from the base FreeBSD system command line so I created a patch for very basic HTTP POST support for fetch. Apply this patch, rebuild and reinstall libfetch(3) and fetch(1) and then you can update twitter from the command line (or send a simple POST request to other web services) with :
$ fetch -x status='Experimenting with Twitter API.' http://twitter.com/statuses/update.xml
fetch(1) will then prompt you for the HTTP authentication credentials of your twitter account.I'm not sure how useful other people find HTTP POST support in fetch. If you would find this useful let me know and maybe I'll clean up the patch above and send it out for review.

Follow FreeBSD on Twitter and send tweets from FreeBSD command line

It just came to my attention that Eric Anderson setup a FreeBSD feed on twitter. There you can find updates from the FreeBSD website, from the blogs aggregated at FreeBSD Planet, and other FreeBSD related RSS feeds published as 140 character tweets with tinyurl links to the full posts. I've been using twitter for a while now for two quite separate purposes. Primarily, I enjoy following people like Tim O'Reilly to get an endless stream of interesting tech links, ideas, and thoughts throughout the day. The updates are 140 characters or less and I only click through to those that I have time for so I find it less of a time sink than logging into my feedreader (Google Reader) and really digging into the news I'm interested in. I also find it quite useful for arranging social engagements. I use it as an SMS broadcast medium to make plans and arrange to meetup with friends for dinner, drinks, movies, or whatever after work. For the latter purpose Twitter works best in conjunction with a GPS-enabled smartphone and something like Loopt.

Following Eric's lead I setup a couple of more specific FreeBSD related twitter accounts using Twitter Feed to automatically publish the updates from RSS. The first account freebsdannounce consists of all the RSS feeds from the main www.freebsd.org website (most of which I added almost exactly one year ago). The second account freebsdblogs consists of the FreeBSD Planet combined RSS feed. If you want everything subscribe to Eric's main FreeBSD feed, but if you want only a subset of that content subscribe to one of my two more specific feeds.

Finally, I couldn't find a way to make simple updates to twitter from the base FreeBSD system command line so I created a patch for very basic HTTP POST support for fetch. Apply this patch, rebuild and reinstall libfetch(3) and fetch(1) and then you can update twitter from the command line (or send a simple POST request to other web services) with :

$ fetch -x status='Experimenting with Twitter API.' http://twitter.com/statuses/update.xml

fetch(1) will then prompt you for the HTTP authentication credentials of your twitter account.

I'm not sure how useful other people find HTTP POST support in fetch. If you would find this useful let me know and maybe I'll clean up the patch above and send it out for review.