AF_XDP is an address family that is optimized for high performance packet processing.

This document assumes that the reader is familiar with BPF and XDP. If not, the Cilium project has an excellent reference guide at

Using the XDP_REDIRECT action from an XDP program, the program can redirect ingress frames to other XDP enabled netdevs, using the bpf_redirect_map() function. AF_XDP sockets enable the possibility for XDP programs to redirect frames to a memory buffer in a user-space application.

An AF_XDP socket (XSK) is created with the normal socket() syscall. Associated with each XSK are two rings: the RX ring and the TX ring. A socket can receive packets on the RX ring and it can send packets on the TX ring. These rings are registered and sized with the setsockopts XDP_RX_RING and XDP_TX_RING, respectively. It is mandatory to have at least one of these rings for each socket. An RX or TX descriptor ring points to a data buffer in a memory area called a UMEM. RX and TX can share the same UMEM so that a packet does not have to be copied between RX and TX. Moreover, if a packet needs to be kept for a while due to a possible retransmit, the descriptor that points to that packet can be changed to point to another and reused right away. This again avoids copying data.

The UMEM consists of a number of equally sized chunks. A descriptor in one of the rings references a frame by referencing its addr. The addr is simply an offset within the entire UMEM region. The user space allocates memory for this UMEM using whatever means it feels is most appropriate (malloc, mmap, huge pages, etc). This memory area is then registered with the kernel using the new setsockopt XDP_UMEM_REG. The UMEM also has two rings: the FILL ring and the COMPLETION ring. The fill ring is used by the application to send down addr for the kernel to fill in with RX packet data. References to these frames will then appear in the RX ring once each packet has been received. The completion ring, on the other hand, contains frame addr that the kernel has transmitted completely and can now be used again by user space, for either TX or RX. Thus, the frame addrs appearing in the completion ring are addrs that were previously transmitted using the TX ring. In summary, the RX and FILL rings are used for the RX path and the TX and COMPLETION rings are used for the TX path.

The socket is then finally bound with a bind() call to a device and a specific queue id on that device, and it is not until bind is completed that traffic starts to flow.

The UMEM can be shared between processes, if desired. If a process wants to do this, it simply skips the registration of the UMEM and its corresponding two rings, sets the XDP_SHARED_UMEM flag in the bind call and submits the XSK of the process it would like to share UMEM with as well as its own newly created XSK socket. The new process will then receive frame addr references in its own RX ring that point to this shared UMEM. Note that since the ring structures are single-consumer / single-producer (for performance reasons), the new process has to create its own socket with associated RX and TX rings, since it cannot share this with the other process. This is also the reason that there is only one set of FILL and COMPLETION rings per UMEM. It is the responsibility of a single process to handle the UMEM.

How is then packets distributed from an XDP program to the XSKs? There is a BPF map called XSKMAP (or BPF_MAP_TYPE_XSKMAP in full). The user-space application can place an XSK at an arbitrary place in this map. The XDP program can then redirect a packet to a specific index in this map and at this point XDP validates that the XSK in that map was indeed bound to that device and ring number. If not, the packet is dropped. If the map is empty at that index, the packet is also dropped. This also means that it is currently mandatory to have an XDP program loaded (and one XSK in the XSKMAP) to be able to get any traffic to user space through the XSK.

AF_XDP can operate in two different modes: XDP_SKB and XDP_DRV. If the driver does not have support for XDP, or XDP_SKB is explicitly chosen when loading the XDP program, XDP_SKB mode is employed that uses SKBs together with the generic XDP support and copies out the data to user space. A fallback mode that works for any network device. On the other hand, if the driver has support for XDP, it will be used by the AF_XDP code to provide better performance, but there is still a copy of the data into user space.


In order to use an AF_XDP socket, a number of associated objects need to be setup.

Jonathan Corbet has also written an excellent article on LWN, “Accelerating networking with AF_XDP”. It can be found at


UMEM is a region of virtual contiguous memory, divided into equal-sized frames. An UMEM is associated to a netdev and a specific queue id of that netdev. It is created and configured (chunk size, headroom, start address and size) by using the XDP_UMEM_REG setsockopt system call. A UMEM is bound to a netdev and queue id, via the bind() system call.

An AF_XDP is socket linked to a single UMEM, but one UMEM can have multiple AF_XDP sockets. To share an UMEM created via one socket A, the next socket B can do this by setting the XDP_SHARED_UMEM flag in struct sockaddr_xdp member sxdp_flags, and passing the file descriptor of A to struct sockaddr_xdp member sxdp_shared_umem_fd.

The UMEM has two single-producer/single-consumer rings, that are used to transfer ownership of UMEM frames between the kernel and the user-space application.


There are a four different kind of rings: Fill, Completion, RX and TX. All rings are single-producer/single-consumer, so the user-space application need explicit synchronization of multiple processes/threads are reading/writing to them.

The UMEM uses two rings: Fill and Completion. Each socket associated with the UMEM must have an RX queue, TX queue or both. Say, that there is a setup with four sockets (all doing TX and RX). Then there will be one Fill ring, one Completion ring, four TX rings and four RX rings.

The rings are head(producer)/tail(consumer) based rings. A producer writes the data ring at the index pointed out by struct xdp_ring producer member, and increasing the producer index. A consumer reads the data ring at the index pointed out by struct xdp_ring consumer member, and increasing the consumer index.

The rings are configured and created via the _RING setsockopt system calls and mmapped to user-space using the appropriate offset to mmap() (XDP_PGOFF_RX_RING, XDP_PGOFF_TX_RING, XDP_UMEM_PGOFF_FILL_RING and XDP_UMEM_PGOFF_COMPLETION_RING).

The size of the rings need to be of size power of two.

UMEM Fill Ring

The Fill ring is used to transfer ownership of UMEM frames from user-space to kernel-space. The UMEM addrs are passed in the ring. As an example, if the UMEM is 64k and each chunk is 4k, then the UMEM has 16 chunks and can pass addrs between 0 and 64k.

Frames passed to the kernel are used for the ingress path (RX rings).

The user application produces UMEM addrs to this ring. Note that the kernel will mask the incoming addr. E.g. for a chunk size of 2k, the log2(2048) LSB of the addr will be masked off, meaning that 2048, 2050 and 3000 refers to the same chunk.

UMEM Completetion Ring

The Completion Ring is used transfer ownership of UMEM frames from kernel-space to user-space. Just like the Fill ring, UMEM indicies are used.

Frames passed from the kernel to user-space are frames that has been sent (TX ring) and can be used by user-space again.

The user application consumes UMEM addrs from this ring.

RX Ring

The RX ring is the receiving side of a socket. Each entry in the ring is a struct xdp_desc descriptor. The descriptor contains UMEM offset (addr) and the length of the data (len).

If no frames have been passed to kernel via the Fill ring, no descriptors will (or can) appear on the RX ring.

The user application consumes struct xdp_desc descriptors from this ring.

TX Ring

The TX ring is used to send frames. The struct xdp_desc descriptor is filled (index, length and offset) and passed into the ring.

To start the transfer a sendmsg() system call is required. This might be relaxed in the future.

The user application produces struct xdp_desc descriptors to this ring.


On XDP side there is a BPF map type BPF_MAP_TYPE_XSKMAP (XSKMAP) that is used in conjunction with bpf_redirect_map() to pass the ingress frame to a socket.

The user application inserts the socket into the map, via the bpf() system call.

Note that if an XDP program tries to redirect to a socket that does not match the queue configuration and netdev, the frame will be dropped. E.g. an AF_XDP socket is bound to netdev eth0 and queue 17. Only the XDP program executing for eth0 and queue 17 will successfully pass data to the socket. Please refer to the sample application (samples/bpf/) in for an example.


In order to use AF_XDP sockets there are two parts needed. The user-space application and the XDP program. For a complete setup and usage example, please refer to the sample application. The user-space side is xdpsock_user.c and the XDP side xdpsock_kern.c.

Naive ring dequeue and enqueue could look like this:

// struct xdp_rxtx_ring {
//  __u32 *producer;
//  __u32 *consumer;
//  struct xdp_desc *desc;
// };

// struct xdp_umem_ring {
//  __u32 *producer;
//  __u32 *consumer;
//  __u64 *desc;
// };

// typedef struct xdp_rxtx_ring RING;
// typedef struct xdp_umem_ring RING;

// typedef struct xdp_desc RING_TYPE;
// typedef __u64 RING_TYPE;

int dequeue_one(RING *ring, RING_TYPE *item)
    __u32 entries = *ring->producer - *ring->consumer;

    if (entries == 0)
        return -1;

    // read-barrier!

    *item = ring->desc[*ring->consumer & (RING_SIZE - 1)];
    return 0;

int enqueue_one(RING *ring, const RING_TYPE *item)
    u32 free_entries = RING_SIZE - (*ring->producer - *ring->consumer);

    if (free_entries == 0)
        return -1;

    ring->desc[*ring->producer & (RING_SIZE - 1)] = *item;

    // write-barrier!

    return 0;

For a more optimized version, please refer to the sample application.

Sample application

There is a xdpsock benchmarking/test application included that demonstrates how to use AF_XDP sockets with both private and shared UMEMs. Say that you would like your UDP traffic from port 4242 to end up in queue 16, that we will enable AF_XDP on. Here, we use ethtool for this:

ethtool -N p3p2 rx-flow-hash udp4 fn
ethtool -N p3p2 flow-type udp4 src-port 4242 dst-port 4242 \
    action 16

Running the rxdrop benchmark in XDP_DRV mode can then be done using:

samples/bpf/xdpsock -i p3p2 -q 16 -r -N

For XDP_SKB mode, use the switch “-S” instead of “-N” and all options can be displayed with “-h”, as usual.


  • Björn Töpel (AF_XDP core)
  • Magnus Karlsson (AF_XDP core)
  • Alexander Duyck
  • Alexei Starovoitov
  • Daniel Borkmann
  • Jesper Dangaard Brouer
  • John Fastabend
  • Jonathan Corbet (LWN coverage)
  • Michael S. Tsirkin
  • Qi Z Zhang
  • Willem de Bruijn