DPDK Physical Ports

The netdev datapath allows attaching of DPDK-backed physical interfaces in order to provide high-performance ingress/egress from the host.


To use any DPDK-backed interface, you must ensure your bridge is configured correctly. For more information, refer to DPDK Bridges.

Changed in version 2.7.0: Before Open vSwitch 2.7.0, it was necessary to prefix port names with a dpdk prefix. Starting with 2.7.0, this is no longer necessary.

Quick Example

This example demonstrates how to bind two dpdk ports, bound to physical interfaces identified by hardware IDs 0000:01:00.0 and 0000:01:00.1, to an existing bridge called br0:

$ ovs-vsctl add-port br0 dpdk-p0 \
   -- set Interface dpdk-p0 type=dpdk options:dpdk-devargs=0000:01:00.0
$ ovs-vsctl add-port br0 dpdk-p1 \
   -- set Interface dpdk-p1 type=dpdk options:dpdk-devargs=0000:01:00.1

For the above example to work, the two physical interfaces must be bound to the DPDK poll-mode drivers in userspace rather than the traditional kernel drivers. See the binding NIC drivers <dpdk-binding-nics> section for details.

Binding NIC Drivers

DPDK operates entirely in userspace and, as a result, requires use of its own poll-mode drivers in user space for physical interfaces and a passthrough-style driver for the devices in kernel space.

There are two different tools for binding drivers: driverctl which is a generic tool for persistently configuring alternative device drivers, and dpdk-devbind which is a DPDK-specific tool and whose changes do not persist across reboots. In addition, there are two options available for this kernel space driver - VFIO (Virtual Function I/O) and UIO (Userspace I/O) - along with a number of drivers for each option. We will demonstrate examples of both tools and will use the vfio-pci driver, which is the more secure, robust driver of those available. More information can be found in the DPDK drivers documentation.

To list devices using driverctl, run:

$ driverctl -v list-devices | grep -i net
0000:07:00.0 igb (I350 Gigabit Network Connection (Ethernet Server Adapter I350-T2))
0000:07:00.1 igb (I350 Gigabit Network Connection (Ethernet Server Adapter I350-T2))

You can then bind one or more of these devices using the same tool:

$ driverctl set-override 0000:07:00.0 vfio-pci

Alternatively, to list devices using dpdk-devbind, run:

$ dpdk-devbind --status
Network devices using DPDK-compatible driver

Network devices using kernel driver
0000:07:00.0 'I350 Gigabit Network Connection 1521' if=enp7s0f0 drv=igb unused=igb_uio
0000:07:00.1 'I350 Gigabit Network Connection 1521' if=enp7s0f1 drv=igb unused=igb_uio

Other Network devices

Once again, you can then bind one or more of these devices using the same tool:

$ dpdk-devbind --bind=vfio-pci 0000:07:00.0

Changed in version 2.6.0: Open vSwitch 2.6.0 added support for DPDK 16.07, which in turn renamed the former dpdk_nic_bind tool to dpdk-devbind.

For more information, refer to the DPDK drivers documentation.


Poll Mode Driver (PMD) threads are the threads that do the heavy lifting for userspace switching. Correct configuration of PMD threads and the Rx queues they utilize is a requirement in order to deliver the high-performance possible with DPDK acceleration. It is possible to configure multiple Rx queues for dpdk ports, thus ensuring this is not a bottleneck for performance. For information on configuring PMD threads, refer to PMD Threads.

Traffic Rx Steering


This feature is experimental.

Some control protocols are used to maintain link status between forwarding engines. In SDN environments, these packets share the same physical network with the user data traffic.

When the system is not sized properly, the PMD threads may not be able to process all incoming traffic from the configured Rx queues. When a signaling packet of such protocols is dropped, it can cause link flapping, worsening the situation.

Some physical NICs can be programmed to put these protocols in a dedicated hardware Rx queue using the rte_flow API.


This feature is not compatible with all NICs. Refer to the DPDK compatibility matrix and vendor documentation for more details.

Rx steering must be enabled for specific protocols per port. The rx-steering option takes one of the following values:


Do regular RSS on all configured Rx queues. This is the default behaviour.


Do regular RSS on all configured Rx queues. An extra Rx queue is configured for LACP packets (ether type 0x8809).


$ ovs-vsctl add-port br0 dpdk-p0 -- set Interface dpdk-p0 type=dpdk \
     options:dpdk-devargs=0000:01:00.0 options:n_rxq=2 \


If multiple Rx queues are already configured, regular hash-based RSS (Receive Side Scaling) queue balancing is done on all but the extra Rx queue.


You can check if Rx steering is supported on a port with the following command:

$ ovs-vsctl get interface dpdk-p0 status
{..., rss_queues="0-1", rx_steering_queue="2"}

This will also show in ovs-vswitchd.log:

INFO|dpdk-p0: rx-steering: redirecting lacp traffic to queue 2
INFO|dpdk-p0: rx-steering: applying rss on queues 0-1

If the hardware does not support redirecting the specified protocols to a dedicated queue, it will be explicit:

$ ovs-vsctl get interface dpdk-p0 status
{..., rx-steering=unsupported}

More details can often be found in ovs-vswitchd.log:

WARN|dpdk-p0: rx-steering: failed to add lacp flow: Unsupported pattern

To disable Rx steering on a port, use the following command:

$ ovs-vsctl remove Interface dpdk-p0 options rx-steering

You can see that it has been disabled in ovs-vswitchd.log:

INFO|dpdk-p0: rx-steering: default rss


This feature is mutually exclusive with other-config:hw-offload as it may conflict with the offloaded flows. If both are enabled, rx-steering will fall back to default rss mode.

Flow Control

Flow control can be enabled only on DPDK physical ports. To enable flow control support at Tx side while adding a port, run:

$ ovs-vsctl add-port br0 dpdk-p0 -- set Interface dpdk-p0 type=dpdk \
    options:dpdk-devargs=0000:01:00.0 options:tx-flow-ctrl=true

Similarly, to enable Rx flow control, run:

$ ovs-vsctl add-port br0 dpdk-p0 -- set Interface dpdk-p0 type=dpdk \
    options:dpdk-devargs=0000:01:00.0 options:rx-flow-ctrl=true

To enable flow control auto-negotiation, run:

$ ovs-vsctl add-port br0 dpdk-p0 -- set Interface dpdk-p0 type=dpdk \
    options:dpdk-devargs=0000:01:00.0 options:flow-ctrl-autoneg=true

To turn on the Tx flow control at run time for an existing port, run:

$ ovs-vsctl set Interface dpdk-p0 options:tx-flow-ctrl=true

The flow control parameters can be turned off by setting false to the respective parameter. To disable the flow control at Tx side, run:

$ ovs-vsctl set Interface dpdk-p0 options:tx-flow-ctrl=false

Rx Checksum Offload

By default, DPDK physical ports are enabled with Rx checksum offload.

Rx checksum offload can offer performance improvement only for tunneling traffic in OVS-DPDK because the checksum validation of tunnel packets is offloaded to the NIC. Also enabling Rx checksum may slightly reduce the performance of non-tunnel traffic, specifically for smaller size packet.


OVS supports port hotplugging, allowing the use of physical ports that were not bound to DPDK when ovs-vswitchd was started.


This feature is not compatible with all NICs. Refer to vendor documentation for more information.


Ports must be bound to DPDK. Refer to Binding NIC Drivers for more information.

To hotplug a port, simply add it like any other port:

$ ovs-vsctl add-port br0 dpdkx -- set Interface dpdkx type=dpdk \

Ports can be detached using the del-port command:

$ ovs-vsctl del-port dpdkx

This should both delete the port and detach the device. If successful, you should see an INFO log. For example:

INFO|Device '0000:04:00.1' has been detached

If the log is not seen then the port can be detached like so:

$ ovs-appctl netdev-dpdk/detach 0000:01:00.0


Detaching should not be done if a device is known to be non-detachable, as this may cause the device to behave improperly when added back with add-port. The Chelsio Terminator adapters which use the cxgbe driver seem to be an example of this behavior; check the driver documentation if this is suspected.

Hotplugging with IGB_UIO


As of DPDK v20.11 IGB_UIO has been deprecated and is no longer built as part of the default DPDK library. Below is intended for those who wish to use IGB_UIO outside of the standard DPDK build from v20.11 onwards.

As of DPDK v19.11, default igb_uio hotplugging behavior changed from previous DPDK versions.

From DPDK v19.11 onwards, if no device is bound to igb_uio when OVS is launched then the IOVA mode may be set to virtual addressing for DPDK. This is incompatible for hotplugging with igb_uio.

To hotplug a port with igb_uio in this case, DPDK must be configured to use physical addressing for IOVA mode. For more information regarding IOVA modes in DPDK please refer to the DPDK IOVA Mode Detection.

To configure OVS DPDK to use physical addressing for IOVA:

$ ovs-vsctl --no-wait set Open_vSwitch . \


Changing IOVA mode requires restarting the ovs-vswitchd application.


DPDK representors enable configuring a phy port to a guest (VM) machine.

OVS resides in the hypervisor which has one or more physical interfaces also known as the physical functions (PFs). If a PF supports SR-IOV it can be used to enable communication with the VMs via Virtual Functions (VFs). The VFs are virtual PCIe devices created from the physical Ethernet controller.

DPDK models a physical interface as a rte device on top of which an eth device is created. DPDK (version 18.xx) introduced the representors eth devices. A representor device represents the VF eth device (VM side) on the hypervisor side and operates on top of a PF. Representors are multi devices created on top of one PF.

For more information, refer to the DPDK documentation.

Prior to port representors there was a one-to-one relationship between the PF and the eth device. With port representors the relationship becomes one PF to many eth devices. In case of two representors ports, when one of the ports is closed - the PCI bus cannot be detached until the second representor port is closed as well.

When configuring a PF-based port, OVS traditionally assigns the device PCI address in devargs. For an existing bridge called br0 and PCI address 0000:08:00.0 an add-port command is written as:

$ ovs-vsctl add-port br0 dpdk-pf -- set Interface dpdk-pf type=dpdk \

When configuring a VF-based port, DPDK uses an extended devargs syntax which has the following format:

BDBF,representor=<representor identifier>

This syntax shows that a representor is an enumerated eth device (with a representor identifier) which uses the PF PCI address. The following commands add representors of VF 3 and 5 using PCI device address 0000:08:00.0:

$ ovs-vsctl add-port br0 dpdk-rep3 -- set Interface dpdk-rep3 type=dpdk \

$ ovs-vsctl add-port br0 dpdk-rep5 -- set Interface dpdk-rep5 type=dpdk \


Representors ports are configured prior to OVS invocation and independently of it, or by other means as well. Please consult a NIC vendor instructions on how to establish representors.

Intel NICs ixgbe and i40e

In the following example we create one representor on PF address 0000:05:00.0. Once the NIC is bounded to a DPDK compatible PMD the representor is created:

# echo 1 > /sys/bus/pci/devices/0000\:05\:00.0/max_vfs

Mellanox NICs ConnectX-4, ConnectX-5 and ConnectX-6

In the following example we create two representors on PF address 0000:05:00.0 and net device name enp3s0f0.

  • Ensure SR-IOV is enabled on the system.

Enable IOMMU in Linux by adding intel_iommu=on to kernel parameters, for example, using GRUB (see /etc/grub/grub.conf).

  • Verify the PF PCI address prior to representors creation:

    # lspci | grep Mellanox
    05:00.0 Ethernet controller: Mellanox Technologies MT27700 Family [ConnectX-4]
    05:00.1 Ethernet controller: Mellanox Technologies MT27700 Family [ConnectX-4]
  • Create the two VFs on the compute node:

    # echo 2 > /sys/class/net/enp3s0f0/device/sriov_numvfs

Verify the VFs creation:

# lspci | grep Mellanox
05:00.0 Ethernet controller: Mellanox Technologies MT27700 Family [ConnectX-4]
05:00.1 Ethernet controller: Mellanox Technologies MT27700 Family [ConnectX-4]
05:00.2 Ethernet controller: Mellanox Technologies MT27700 Family [ConnectX-4 Virtual Function]
05:00.3 Ethernet controller: Mellanox Technologies MT27700 Family [ConnectX-4 Virtual Function]
  • Unbind the relevant VFs 0000:05:00.2..0000:05:00.3:

    # echo 0000:05:00.2 > /sys/bus/pci/drivers/mlx5_core/unbind
    # echo 0000:05:00.3 > /sys/bus/pci/drivers/mlx5_core/unbind
  • Change e-switch mode.

The Mellanox NIC has an e-switch on it. Change the e-switch mode from legacy to switchdev using the PF PCI address:

# sudo devlink dev eswitch set pci/0000:05:00.0 mode switchdev

This will create the VF representors network devices in the host OS.

  • After setting the PF to switchdev mode bind back the relevant VFs:

    # echo 0000:05:00.2 > /sys/bus/pci/drivers/mlx5_core/bind
    # echo 0000:05:00.3 > /sys/bus/pci/drivers/mlx5_core/bind
  • Restart Open vSwitch

To verify representors correct configuration, execute:

$ ovs-vsctl show

and make sure no errors are indicated.

Port representors are an example of multi devices. There are NICs which support multi devices by other methods than representors for which a generic devargs syntax is used. The generic syntax is based on the device mac address:

class=eth,mac=<MAC address>

For example, the following command adds a port to a bridge called br0 using an eth device whose mac address is 00:11:22:33:44:55:

$ ovs-vsctl add-port br0 dpdk-mac -- set Interface dpdk-mac type=dpdk \

Representor specific configuration

In some topologies, a VF must be configured before being assigned to a guest (VM) machine. This configuration is done through VF-specific fields in the options column of the Interface table.


Some DPDK port use bifurcated drivers, which means that a kernel netdevice remains when Open vSwitch is stopped.

In such case, any configuration applied to a VF would remain set on the kernel netdevice, and be inherited from it when Open vSwitch is restarted, even if the options described in this section are unset from Open vSwitch.

  • Configure the VF MAC address:

    $ ovs-vsctl set Interface dpdk-rep0 options:dpdk-vf-mac=00:11:22:33:44:55

The requested MAC address is assigned to the port and is listed as part of its options:

$ ovs-appctl dpctl/show
  port 3: dpdk-rep0 (dpdk: ..., dpdk-vf-mac=00:11:22:33:44:55, ...)

$ ovs-vsctl show
        Port dpdk-rep0
            Interface dpdk-rep0
                type: dpdk
                options: {dpdk-devargs="<representor devargs>", dpdk-vf-mac="00:11:22:33:44:55"}

$ ovs-vsctl get Interface dpdk-rep0 status
{dpdk-vf-mac="00:11:22:33:44:55", ...}

$ ovs-vsctl list Interface dpdk-rep0 | grep 'mac_in_use\|options'
mac_in_use          : "00:11:22:33:44:55"
options             : {dpdk-devargs="<representor devargs>", dpdk-vf-mac="00:11:22:33:44:55"}

The value listed as dpdk-vf-mac is only a request from the user and is possibly not yet applied.

When the requested configuration is successfully applied to the port, this MAC address is then also shown in the column mac_in_use of the Interface table. On failure however, mac_in_use will keep its previous value, which will thus differ from dpdk-vf-mac.

Jumbo Frames

DPDK physical ports can be configured to use Jumbo Frames. For more information, refer to Jumbo Frames.