Auxiliary Bus

In some subsystems, the functionality of the core device (PCI/ACPI/other) is too complex for a single device to be managed by a monolithic driver (e.g. Sound Open Firmware), multiple devices might implement a common intersection of functionality (e.g. NICs + RDMA), or a driver may want to export an interface for another subsystem to drive (e.g. SIOV Physical Function export Virtual Function management). A split of the functinoality into child- devices representing sub-domains of functionality makes it possible to compartmentalize, layer, and distribute domain-specific concerns via a Linux device-driver model.

An example for this kind of requirement is the audio subsystem where a single IP is handling multiple entities such as HDMI, Soundwire, local devices such as mics/speakers etc. The split for the core’s functionality can be arbitrary or be defined by the DSP firmware topology and include hooks for test/debug. This allows for the audio core device to be minimal and focused on hardware-specific control and communication.

Each auxiliary_device represents a part of its parent functionality. The generic behavior can be extended and specialized as needed by encapsulating an auxiliary_device within other domain-specific structures and the use of .ops callbacks. Devices on the auxiliary bus do not share any structures and the use of a communication channel with the parent is domain-specific.

Note that ops are intended as a way to augment instance behavior within a class of auxiliary devices, it is not the mechanism for exporting common infrastructure from the parent. Consider EXPORT_SYMBOL_NS() to convey infrastructure from the parent module to the auxiliary module(s).

When Should the Auxiliary Bus Be Used

The auxiliary bus is to be used when a driver and one or more kernel modules, who share a common header file with the driver, need a mechanism to connect and provide access to a shared object allocated by the auxiliary_device’s registering driver. The registering driver for the auxiliary_device(s) and the kernel module(s) registering auxiliary_drivers can be from the same subsystem, or from multiple subsystems.

The emphasis here is on a common generic interface that keeps subsystem customization out of the bus infrastructure.

One example is a PCI network device that is RDMA-capable and exports a child device to be driven by an auxiliary_driver in the RDMA subsystem. The PCI driver allocates and registers an auxiliary_device for each physical function on the NIC. The RDMA driver registers an auxiliary_driver that claims each of these auxiliary_devices. This conveys data/ops published by the parent PCI device/driver to the RDMA auxiliary_driver.

Another use case is for the PCI device to be split out into multiple sub functions. For each sub function an auxiliary_device is created. A PCI sub function driver binds to such devices that creates its own one or more class devices. A PCI sub function auxiliary device is likely to be contained in a struct with additional attributes such as user defined sub function number and optional attributes such as resources and a link to the parent device. These attributes could be used by systemd/udev; and hence should be initialized before a driver binds to an auxiliary_device.

A key requirement for utilizing the auxiliary bus is that there is no dependency on a physical bus, device, register accesses or regmap support. These individual devices split from the core cannot live on the platform bus as they are not physical devices that are controlled by DT/ACPI. The same argument applies for not using MFD in this scenario as MFD relies on individual function devices being physical devices.

Auxiliary Device

An auxiliary_device represents a part of its parent device’s functionality. It is given a name that, combined with the registering drivers KBUILD_MODNAME, creates a match_name that is used for driver binding, and an id that combined with the match_name provide a unique name to register with the bus subsystem.

Registering an auxiliary_device is a two-step process. First call auxiliary_device_init(), which checks several aspects of the auxiliary_device struct and performs a device_initialize(). After this step completes, any error state must have a call to auxiliary_device_uninit() in its resolution path. The second step in registering an auxiliary_device is to perform a call to auxiliary_device_add(), which sets the name of the device and add the device to the bus.

Unregistering an auxiliary_device is also a two-step process to mirror the register process. First call auxiliary_device_delete(), then call auxiliary_device_uninit().

struct auxiliary_device {
        struct device dev;
        const char *name;
        u32 id;

If two auxiliary_devices both with a match_name “” are registered onto the bus, they must have unique id values (e.g. “x” and “y”) so that the registered devices names are “” and “”. If match_name + id are not unique, then the device_add fails and generates an error message.

The or must be populated with a non-NULL pointer to successfully register the auxiliary_device.

The must also be populated.

Auxiliary Device Memory Model and Lifespan

The registering driver is the entity that allocates memory for the auxiliary_device and register it on the auxiliary bus. It is important to note that, as opposed to the platform bus, the registering driver is wholly responsible for the management for the memory used for the driver object.

A parent object, defined in the shared header file, contains the auxiliary_device. It also contains a pointer to the shared object(s), which also is defined in the shared header. Both the parent object and the shared object(s) are allocated by the registering driver. This layout allows the auxiliary_driver’s registering module to perform a container_of() call to go from the pointer to the auxiliary_device, that is passed during the call to the auxiliary_driver’s probe function, up to the parent object, and then have access to the shared object(s).

The memory for the auxiliary_device is freed only in its release() callback flow as defined by its registering driver.

The memory for the shared object(s) must have a lifespan equal to, or greater than, the lifespan of the memory for the auxiliary_device. The auxiliary_driver should only consider that this shared object is valid as long as the auxiliary_device is still registered on the auxiliary bus. It is up to the registering driver to manage (e.g. free or keep available) the memory for the shared object beyond the life of the auxiliary_device.

The registering driver must unregister all auxiliary devices before its own driver.remove() is completed.

Auxiliary Drivers

Auxiliary drivers follow the standard driver model convention, where discovery/enumeration is handled by the core, and drivers provide probe() and remove() methods. They support power management and shutdown notifications using the standard conventions.

struct auxiliary_driver {
        int (*probe)(struct auxiliary_device *,
                     const struct auxiliary_device_id *id);
        void (*remove)(struct auxiliary_device *);
        void (*shutdown)(struct auxiliary_device *);
        int (*suspend)(struct auxiliary_device *, pm_message_t);
        int (*resume)(struct auxiliary_device *);
        struct device_driver driver;
        const struct auxiliary_device_id *id_table;

Auxiliary drivers register themselves with the bus by calling auxiliary_driver_register(). The id_table contains the match_names of auxiliary devices that a driver can bind with.

Example Usage

Auxiliary devices are created and registered by a subsystem-level core device that needs to break up its functionality into smaller fragments. One way to extend the scope of an auxiliary_device is to encapsulate it within a domain- pecific structure defined by the parent device. This structure contains the auxiliary_device and any associated shared data/callbacks needed to establish the connection with the parent.

An example is:

struct foo {
        struct auxiliary_device auxdev;
        void (*connect)(struct auxiliary_device *auxdev);
        void (*disconnect)(struct auxiliary_device *auxdev);
        void *data;

The parent device then registers the auxiliary_device by calling auxiliary_device_init(), and then auxiliary_device_add(), with the pointer to the auxdev member of the above structure. The parent provides a name for the auxiliary_device that, combined with the parent’s KBUILD_MODNAME, creates a match_name that is be used for matching and binding with a driver.

Whenever an auxiliary_driver is registered, based on the match_name, the auxiliary_driver’s probe() is invoked for the matching devices. The auxiliary_driver can also be encapsulated inside custom drivers that make the core device’s functionality extensible by adding additional domain-specific ops as follows:

struct my_ops {
        void (*send)(struct auxiliary_device *auxdev);
        void (*receive)(struct auxiliary_device *auxdev);

struct my_driver {
        struct auxiliary_driver auxiliary_drv;
        const struct my_ops ops;

An example of this type of usage is:

const struct auxiliary_device_id my_auxiliary_id_table[] = {
        { .name = "foo_mod.foo_dev" },
        { },

const struct my_ops my_custom_ops = {
        .send = my_tx,
        .receive = my_rx,

const struct my_driver my_drv = {
        .auxiliary_drv = {
                .name = "myauxiliarydrv",
                .id_table = my_auxiliary_id_table,
                .probe = my_probe,
                .remove = my_remove,
                .shutdown = my_shutdown,
        .ops = my_custom_ops,