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How Linux kernel handles the send system call

This is a brief introduction about how Linux kernel handles the send system call.

This study is based on kernel version 3.7.2, which is the latest stable kernel when writing this study.

How system call is defined

In the latest kernel, the system call is defined using the SYSCALL_DEFINEx macro, in which x is the number of arguments. For example, in order to find the definition of asmlinkage long sys_sendto(int, void __user *, size_t, unsigned, struct sockaddr __user *, int);, you need to grep for SYSCALL_DEFINE6 because it has 6 arguments.

The definition of the system call send can be found at net/socket.c.

How is the send system call handled

Definition of send system call

Here's the code of the send system call

 *  Send a datagram down a socket.
SYSCALL_DEFINE4(send, int, fd, void __user *, buff, size_t, len,
        unsigned int, flags)
    return sys_sendto(fd, buff, len, flags, NULL, 0);

From the code we know that the send system call is just a simple wrapper function around another system call sendto.

Definition of sendto system call

The definition of sendto system call is available in the same file, net/socket.c.

 *  Send a datagram to a given address. We move the address into kernel
 *  space and check the user space data area is readable before invoking
 *  the protocol.
SYSCALL_DEFINE6(sendto, int, fd, void __user *, buff, size_t, len,
        unsigned int, flags, struct sockaddr __user *, addr,
        int, addr_len)

Here's the definition of each argument from man 2 sendto:

  • int fd: the file descriptor of the socket, which is used to send the data to
  • void __user * buff: the content which will be send by this system call
  • size_t len: the length of the buff
  • unsigned int flags: the bitwise OR of some predefined constants
  • struct sockaddr __user * addr: the destination address. The send system call will set it to NULL
  • int addr_len: the length of the addr struct, which send system call will set it to zero

Here's the description about sendto's behaviour:

  1. use sockfd_lookup_light to find the corresponding socket descriptor and return it

    This function will try to valid if the provided integer fd is a valid file descriptor, then return the sockeet if it's valid, otherwise return NULL.

  2. The message to be send will be assembled, then sock_sendmsg will be called to send the message, whose return value will be returned by sendto then returned to send callee.

Definition of sock_sendmsg call

Below is the description of the sock_sendmsg function call

  1. call init_sync_kiocb, which just inited a new kiocb struct. kiocb is used as callback if the current system call is asynchronous.

  2. call __sock_sendmsg, which is a wrapper around security_socket_sendmsg and __sock_sendmsg_nosec.

    The kernel will try to call security_socket_sendmsg to check the permission before transmitting, and then call __sock_sendmsg_nosec to send it.

    Function __sock_sendmsg_nosec will call sock->ops->sendmsg to send the message

    The socket->ops is a proto_ops, which is a protocol-specific struct.

Definition of proto_ops struct and its sendmsg function

This is a protocol-specific. Depending on the socket type (IPv6/IPv4, UDP/TCP/RAW), there's different implementation of this struct.

For most socket types (at least for IPv4+TCP, IPv4+UDP, IPv4+RAW), the inet_sendmsg function will be called to sendmsg.

In function inet_sendmsg, if the current socket is not binded, kernel will call inet_autobind to bind the socket to a local IP/port.

In inet_sendmsg, it will call socket->sk_prot->sendmsg. We finally reach the transport layer -> internet layer interface.

Internet Layer functions

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