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eBPF monitoring with Netdata

The Netdata Agent provides many eBPF programs to help you troubleshoot and debug how applications interact with the Linux kernel. The ebpf.plugin uses tracepoints, trampoline, and2 kprobes to collect a wide array of high value data about the host that would otherwise be impossible to capture.

❗ eBPF monitoring only works on Linux systems and with specific Linux kernels, including all kernels newer than 4.11.0, and all kernels on CentOS 7.6 or later. For kernels older than 4.11.0, improved support is in active development.

This document provides comprehensive details about the ebpf.plugin. For hands-on configuration and troubleshooting tips see our tutorial on troubleshooting apps with eBPF metrics.

An example of VFS charts, made possible by the eBPF collector plugin
An example of virtual file system (VFS) charts made possible by the eBPF collector plugin.

How Netdata collects data using probes and tracepoints

Netdata uses the following features from the Linux kernel to run eBPF programs:

  • Tracepoints are hooks to call specific functions. Tracepoints are more stable than kprobes and are preferred when both options are available.
  • Trampolines are bridges between kernel functions, and BPF programs. Netdata uses them by default whenever available.
  • Kprobes and return probes (kretprobe): Probes can insert virtually into any kernel instruction. When eBPF runs in entry mode, it attaches only kprobes for internal functions monitoring calls and some arguments every time a function is called. The user can also change configuration to use return mode, and this will allow users to monitor return from these functions and detect possible failures.

In each case, wherever a normal kprobe, kretprobe, or tracepoint would have run its hook function, an eBPF program is run instead, performing various collection logic before letting the kernel continue its normal control flow.

There are more methods to trigger eBPF programs, such as uprobes, but currently are not supported.

Configuring ebpf.plugin

The eBPF collector is installed and enabled by default on most new installations of the Agent. If your Agent is v1.22 or older, you may to enable the collector yourself.

Enable the eBPF collector

To enable or disable the entire eBPF collector:

  1. Navigate to the Netdata config directory.

    cd /etc/netdata
  2. Use the edit-config script to edit netdata.conf.

    ./edit-config netdata.conf
  3. Enable the collector by scrolling down to the [plugins] section. Uncomment the line ebpf (not ebpf_process) and set it to yes.

    [plugins]
    ebpf = yes

Configure the eBPF collector

You can configure the eBPF collector's behavior to fine-tune which metrics you receive and [optimize performance](#performance opimization).

To edit the ebpf.d.conf:

  1. Navigate to the Netdata config directory.

    cd /etc/netdata
  2. Use the edit-config script to edit ebpf.d.conf.

    ./edit-config ebpf.d.conf

    You can now edit the behavior of the eBPF collector. The following sections describe each configuration option in detail.

[global] configuration options

The [global] section defines settings for the whole eBPF collector.

eBPF load mode

The collector uses two different eBPF programs. These programs rely on the same functions inside the kernel, but they monitor, process, and display different kinds of information.

By default, this plugin uses the entry mode. Changing this mode can create significant overhead on your operating system, but also offer valuable information if you are developing or debugging software. The ebpf load mode option accepts the following values:

  • entry: This is the default mode. In this mode, the eBPF collector only monitors calls for the functions described in the sections above, and does not show charts related to errors.
  • return: In the return mode, the eBPF collector monitors the same kernel functions as entry, but also creates new charts for the return of these functions, such as errors. Monitoring function returns can help in debugging software, such as failing to close file descriptors or creating zombie processes.
  • update every: Number of seconds used for eBPF to send data for Netdata.
  • pid table size: Defines the maximum number of PIDs stored inside the application hash table.

Integration with apps.plugin

The eBPF collector also creates charts for each running application through an integration with the apps.plugin. This integration helps you understand how specific applications interact with the Linux kernel.

If you want to disable the integration with apps.plugin along with the above charts, change the setting apps to no.

[global]
apps = yes

When the integration is enabled, eBPF collector allocates memory for each process running. The total allocated memory has direct relationship with the kernel version. When the eBPF plugin is running on kernels newer than 4.15, it uses per-cpu maps to speed up the update of hash tables. This also implies storing data for the same PID for each processor it runs.

Integration with cgroups.plugin

The eBPF collector also creates charts for each cgroup through an integration with the cgroups.plugin. This integration helps you understand how a specific cgroup interacts with the Linux kernel.

The integration with cgroups.plugin is disabled by default to avoid creating overhead on your system. If you want to enable the integration with cgroups.plugin, change the cgroups setting to yes.

[global]
cgroups = yes

If you do not need to monitor specific metrics for your cgroups, you can enable cgroups inside ebpf.d.conf, and then disable the plugin for a specific thread by following the steps in the Configuration section.

Collect PID

When one of the previous integrations is enabled, ebpf.plugin will use Process Identifier (PID) to identify the process group for which it needs to plot data.

There are different ways to collect PID, and you can select the way ebpf.plugin collects data with the following values:

  • real parent: This is the default mode. Collection will aggregate data for the real parent, the thread that creates child threads.
  • parent: Parent and real parent are the same when a process starts, but this value can be changed during run time.
  • all: This option will store all PIDs that run on the host. Note, this method can be expensive for the host, because more memory needs to be allocated and parsed.

The threads that have integration with other collectors have an internal clean up wherein they attach either a trampoline or a kprobe to release_task internal function. To avoid overload on this function, ebpf.plugin will only enable these threads integrated with other collectors when the kernel is compiled with CONFIG_DEBUG_INFO_BTF, unless you enable them manually.

Integration Dashboard Elements

When an integration is enabled, your dashboard will also show the following cgroups and apps charts using low-level Linux metrics:

Note: The parenthetical accompanying each bulleted item provides the chart name.

  • mem
    • Number of processes killed due out of memory. (oomkills)
  • process
    • Number of processes created with do_fork. (process_create)
    • Number of threads created with do_fork or clone (2), depending on your system's kernel version. (thread_create)
    • Number of times that a process called do_exit. (task_exit)
    • Number of times that a process called release_task. (task_close)
    • Number of times that an error happened to create thread or process. (task_error)
  • swap
    • Number of calls to swap_readpage. (swap_read_call)
    • Number of calls to swap_writepage. (swap_write_call)
  • network
    • Number of outbound connections using TCP/IPv4. (outbound_conn_ipv4)
    • Number of outbound connections using TCP/IPv6. (outbound_conn_ipv6)
    • Number of bytes sent. (total_bandwidth_sent)
    • Number of bytes received. (total_bandwidth_recv)
    • Number of calls to tcp_sendmsg. (bandwidth_tcp_send)
    • Number of calls to tcp_cleanup_rbuf. (bandwidth_tcp_recv)
    • Number of calls to tcp_retransmit_skb. (bandwidth_tcp_retransmit)
    • Number of calls to udp_sendmsg. (bandwidth_udp_send)
    • Number of calls to udp_recvmsg. (bandwidth_udp_recv)
  • file access
    • Number of calls to open files. (file_open)
    • Number of calls to open files that returned errors. (open_error)
    • Number of files closed. (file_closed)
    • Number of calls to close files that returned errors. (file_error_closed)
  • vfs
    • Number of calls to vfs_unlink. (file_deleted)
    • Number of calls to vfs_write. (vfs_write_call)
    • Number of calls to write a file that returned errors. (vfs_write_error)
    • Number of calls to vfs_read. (vfs_read_call)
      • Number of calls to read a file that returned errors. (vfs_read_error)
    • Number of bytes written with vfs_write. (vfs_write_bytes)
    • Number of bytes read with vfs_read. (vfs_read_bytes)
    • Number of calls to vfs_fsync. (vfs_fsync)
    • Number of calls to sync file that returned errors. (vfs_fsync_error)
    • Number of calls to vfs_open. (vfs_open)
    • Number of calls to open file that returned errors. (vfs_open_error)
    • Number of calls to vfs_create. (vfs_create)
    • Number of calls to open file that returned errors. (vfs_create_error)
  • page cache
    • Ratio of pages accessed. (cachestat_ratio)
    • Number of modified pages ("dirty"). (cachestat_dirties)
    • Number of accessed pages. (cachestat_hits)
    • Number of pages brought from disk. (cachestat_misses)
  • directory cache
    • Ratio of files available in directory cache. (dc_hit_ratio)
    • Number of files accessed. (dc_reference)
    • Number of files accessed that were not in cache. (dc_not_cache)
    • Number of files not found. (dc_not_found)
  • ipc shm
    • Number of calls to shm_get. (shmget_call)
    • Number of calls to shm_at. (shmat_call)
    • Number of calls to shm_dt. (shmdt_call)
    • Number of calls to shm_ctl. (shmctl_call)

[ebpf programs] configuration options

The eBPF collector enables and runs the following eBPF programs by default:

  • fd : This eBPF program creates charts that show information about calls to open files.
  • mount: This eBPF program creates charts that show calls to syscalls mount(2) and umount(2).
  • shm: This eBPF program creates charts that show calls to syscalls shmget(2), shmat(2), shmdt(2) and shmctl(2).
  • sync: Monitor calls to syscalls sync(2), fsync(2), fdatasync(2), syncfs(2), msync(2), and sync_file_range(2).
  • network viewer: This eBPF program creates charts with information about TCP and UDP functions, including the bandwidth consumed by each.
  • vfs: This eBPF program creates charts that show information about VFS (Virtual File System) functions.
  • process: This eBPF program creates charts that show information about process life. When in return mode, it also creates charts showing errors when these operations are executed.
  • hardirq: This eBPF program creates charts that show information about time spent servicing individual hardware interrupt requests (hard IRQs).
  • softirq: This eBPF program creates charts that show information about time spent servicing individual software interrupt requests (soft IRQs).
  • oomkill: This eBPF program creates a chart that shows OOM kills for all applications recognized via the apps.plugin integration. Note that this program will show application charts regardless of whether apps integration is turned on or off.

You can also enable the following eBPF programs:

  • cachestat: Netdata's eBPF data collector creates charts about the memory page cache. When the integration with apps.plugin is enabled, this collector creates charts for the whole host and for each application.
  • dcstat : This eBPF program creates charts that show information about file access using directory cache. It appends kprobes for lookup_fast() and d_lookup() to identify if files are inside directory cache, outside and files are not found.
  • disk : This eBPF program creates charts that show information about disk latency independent of filesystem.
  • filesystem : This eBPF program creates charts that show information about some filesystem latency.
  • swap : This eBPF program creates charts that show information about swap access.
  • mdflush: This eBPF program creates charts that show information about multi-device software flushes.

Configuring eBPF threads

You can configure each thread of the eBPF data collector. This allows you to overwrite global options defined in /etc/netdata/ebpf.d.conf and configure specific options for each thread.

To configure an eBPF thread:

  1. Navigate to the Netdata config directory.

    cd /etc/netdata
  2. Use the edit-config script to edit a thread configuration file. The following configuration files are available:

    • network.conf: Configuration for the network thread. This config file overwrites the global options and also lets you specify which network the eBPF collector monitors.

    • process.conf: Configuration for the process thread.

    • cachestat.conf: Configuration for the cachestat thread(#filesystem-configuration).

    • dcstat.conf: Configuration for the dcstat thread.

    • disk.conf: Configuration for the disk thread.

    • fd.conf: Configuration for the file descriptor thread.

    • filesystem.conf: Configuration for the filesystem thread.

    • hardirq.conf: Configuration for the hardirq thread.

    • softirq.conf: Configuration for the softirq thread.

    • sync.conf: Configuration for the sync thread.

    • vfs.conf: Configuration for the vfs thread.

      ./edit-config FILE.conf

Network configuration

The network configuration has specific options to configure which network(s) the eBPF collector monitors. These options are divided in the following sections:

[network connections]

You can configure the information shown on outbound and inbound charts with the settings in this section.

[network connections]
maximum dimensions = 500
resolve hostname ips = no
ports = 1-1024 !145 !domain
hostnames = !example.com
ips = !127.0.0.1/8 10.0.0.0/8 172.16.0.0/12 192.168.0.0/16 fc00::/7

When you define a ports setting, Netdata will collect network metrics for that specific port. For example, if you write ports = 19999, Netdata will collect only connections for itself. The hostnames setting accepts simple patterns. The ports, and ips settings accept negation (!) to deny specific values or asterisk alone to define all values.

In the above example, Netdata will collect metrics for all ports between 1 and 443, with the exception of 53 (domain) and 145.

The following options are available:

  • ports: Define the destination ports for Netdata to monitor.
  • hostnames: The list of hostnames that can be resolved to an IP address.
  • ips: The IP or range of IPs that you want to monitor. You can use IPv4 or IPv6 addresses, use dashes to define a range of IPs, or use CIDR values. By default, only data for private IP addresses is collected, but this can be changed with the ips setting.

By default, Netdata displays up to 500 dimensions on network connection charts. If there are more possible dimensions, they will be bundled into the other dimension. You can increase the number of shown dimensions by changing the maximum dimensions setting.

The dimensions for the traffic charts are created using the destination IPs of the sockets by default. This can be changed setting resolve hostname ips = yes and restarting Netdata, after this Netdata will create dimensions using the hostnames every time that is possible to resolve IPs to their hostnames.

[service name]

Netdata uses the list of services in /etc/services to plot network connection charts. If this file does not contain the name for a particular service you use in your infrastructure, you will need to add it to the [service name] section.

For example, Netdata's default port (19999) is not listed in /etc/services. To associate that port with the Netdata service in network connection charts, and thus see the name of the service instead of its port, define it:

[service name]
19999 = Netdata

Sync configuration

The sync configuration has specific options to disable monitoring for syscalls. All syscalls are monitored by default.

[syscalls]
sync = yes
msync = yes
fsync = yes
fdatasync = yes
syncfs = yes
sync_file_range = yes

Filesystem configuration

The filesystem configuration has specific options to disable monitoring for filesystems; by default, all filesystems are monitored.

[filesystem]
btrfsdist = yes
ext4dist = yes
nfsdist = yes
xfsdist = yes
zfsdist = yes

The ebpf program nfsdist monitors only nfs mount points.

Troubleshooting

If the eBPF collector does not work, you can troubleshoot it by running the ebpf.plugin command and investigating its output.

cd /usr/libexec/netdata/plugins.d/
sudo su -s /bin/bash ./ebpf.plugin

You can also use grep to search the Agent's error.log for messages related to eBPF monitoring.

grep -i ebpf /var/log/netdata/error.log

Confirm kernel compatibility

The eBPF collector only works on Linux systems and with specific Linux kernels. We support all kernels more recent than 4.11.0, and all kernels on CentOS 7.6 or later.

You can run our helper script to determine whether your system can support eBPF monitoring. If it returns no output, your system is ready to compile and run the eBPF collector.

curl -sSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/netdata/kernel-collector/master/tools/check-kernel-config.sh | sudo bash

If you see a warning about a missing kernel configuration (KPROBES KPROBES_ON_FTRACE HAVE_KPROBES BPF BPF_SYSCALL BPF_JIT), you will need to recompile your kernel to support this configuration. The process of recompiling Linux kernels varies based on your distribution and version. Read the documentation for your system's distribution to learn more about the specific workflow for recompiling the kernel, ensuring that you set all the necessary

Mount debugfs and tracefs

The eBPF collector also requires both the tracefs and debugfs filesystems. Try mounting the tracefs and debugfs filesystems using the commands below:

sudo mount -t debugfs nodev /sys/kernel/debug
sudo mount -t tracefs nodev /sys/kernel/tracing

If they are already mounted, you will see an error. You can also configure your system's /etc/fstab configuration to mount these filesystems on startup. More information can be found in the ftrace documentation.

Charts

The eBPF collector creates charts on different menus, like System Overview, Memory, MD arrays, Disks, Filesystem, Mount Points, Networking Stack, systemd Services, and Applications.

The collector stores the actual value inside of its process, but charts only show the difference between the values collected in the previous and current seconds.

System overview

Not all charts within the System Overview menu are enabled by default. Charts that rely on kprobes are disabled by default because they add around 100ns overhead for each function call. This is a small number from a human's perspective, but the functions are called many times and create an impact on host. See the configuration section for details about how to enable them.

Processes

Internally, the Linux kernel treats both processes and threads as tasks. To create a thread, the kernel offers a few system calls: fork(2), vfork(2), and clone(2). To generate this chart, the eBPF collector uses the following tracepoints and kprobe:

  • sched/sched_process_fork: Tracepoint called after a call for fork (2), vfork (2) and clone (2).
  • sched/sched_process_exec: Tracepoint called after a exec-family syscall.
  • kprobe/kernel_clone: This is the main fork() routine since kernel 5.10.0 was released.
  • kprobe/_do_fork: Like kernel_clone, but this was the main function between kernels 4.2.0 and 5.9.16
  • kprobe/do_fork: This was the main function before kernel 4.2.0.

Process Exit

Ending a task requires two steps. The first is a call to the internal function do_exit, which notifies the operating system that the task is finishing its work. The second step is to release the kernel information with the internal function release_task. The difference between the two dimensions can help you discover zombie processes. To get the metrics, the collector uses:

  • sched/sched_process_exit: Tracepoint called after a task exits.
  • kprobe/release_task: This function is called when a process exits, as the kernel still needs to remove the process descriptor.

Task error

The functions responsible for ending tasks do not return values, so this chart contains information about failures on process and thread creation only.

Swap

Inside the swap submenu the eBPF plugin creates the chart swapcalls; this chart is displaying when processes are calling functions swap_readpage and swap_writepage, which are functions responsible for doing IO in swap memory. To collect the exact moment that an access to swap happens, the collector attaches kprobes for cited functions.

Soft IRQ

The following tracepoints are used to measure time usage for soft IRQs:

Hard IRQ

The following tracepoints are used to measure the latency of servicing a hardware interrupt request (hard IRQ).

  • irq/irq_handler_entry: Called immediately before the IRQ action handler.
  • irq/irq_handler_exit: Called immediately after the IRQ action handler returns.
  • irq_vectors: These are traces from irq_handler_entry and irq_handler_exit when an IRQ is handled. The following elements from vector are triggered:
    • irq_vectors/local_timer_entry
    • irq_vectors/local_timer_exit
    • irq_vectors/reschedule_entry
    • irq_vectors/reschedule_exit
    • irq_vectors/call_function_entry
    • irq_vectors/call_function_exit
    • irq_vectors/call_function_single_entry
    • irq_vectors/call_function_single_xit
    • irq_vectors/irq_work_entry
    • irq_vectors/irq_work_exit
    • irq_vectors/error_apic_entry
    • irq_vectors/error_apic_exit
    • irq_vectors/thermal_apic_entry
    • irq_vectors/thermal_apic_exit
    • irq_vectors/threshold_apic_entry
    • irq_vectors/threshold_apic_exit
    • irq_vectors/deferred_error_entry
    • irq_vectors/deferred_error_exit
    • irq_vectors/spurious_apic_entry
    • irq_vectors/spurious_apic_exit
    • irq_vectors/x86_platform_ipi_entry
    • irq_vectors/x86_platform_ipi_exit

IPC shared memory

To monitor shared memory system call counts, Netdata attaches tracing in the following functions:

  • shmget: Runs when shmget is called.
  • shmat: Runs when shmat is called.
  • shmdt: Runs when shmdt is called.
  • shmctl: Runs when shmctl is called.

Memory

In the memory submenu the eBPF plugin creates two submenus page cache and synchronization with the following organization:

  • Page Cache
    • Page cache ratio
    • Dirty pages
    • Page cache hits
    • Page cache misses
  • Synchronization
    • File sync
    • Memory map sync
    • File system sync
    • File range sync

Page cache hits

When the processor needs to read or write a location in main memory, it checks for a corresponding entry in the page cache. If the entry is there, a page cache hit has occurred and the read is from the cache.

A page cache hit is when the page cache is successfully accessed with a read operation. We do not count pages that were added relatively recently.

Dirty pages

A "dirty page" is a page in the page cache that was modified after being created. Since non-dirty pages in the page cache have identical copies in secondary storage (e.g. hard disk drive or solid-state drive), discarding and reusing their space is much quicker than paging out application memory, and is often preferred over flushing the dirty pages into secondary storage and reusing their space.

On cachestat_dirties Netdata demonstrates the number of pages that were modified. This chart shows the number of calls to the function mark_buffer_dirty.

Page cache ratio

When the processor needs to read or write in a specific memory address, it checks for a corresponding entry in the page cache. If the processor hits a page cache (page cache hit), it reads the entry from the cache. If there is no entry (page cache miss), the kernel allocates a new entry and copies data from the disk. Netdata calculates the percentage of accessed files that are cached on memory. The ratio is calculated counting the accessed cached pages (without counting dirty pages and pages added because of read misses) divided by total access without dirty pages.

______Number of accessed cached pages**__**
Number of total accessed pages - dirty pages - missed pages

The chart cachestat_ratio shows how processes are accessing page cache. In a normal scenario, we expect values around 100%, which means that the majority of the work on the machine is processed in memory. To calculate the ratio, Netdata attaches kprobes for kernel functions:

  • add_to_page_cache_lru: Page addition.
  • mark_page_accessed: Access to cache.
  • account_page_dirtied: Dirty (modified) pages.
  • mark_buffer_dirty: Writes to page cache.

Page cache misses

A page cache miss means that a page was not inside memory when the process tried to access it. This chart shows the result of the difference for calls between functions add_to_page_cache_lru and account_page_dirtied.

File sync

This chart shows calls to synchronization methods, fsync(2) and fdatasync(2), to transfer all modified page caches for the files on disk devices. These calls block until the disk reports that the transfer has been completed. They flush data for specific file descriptors.

Memory map sync

The chart shows calls to msync(2) syscalls. This syscall flushes changes to a file that was mapped into memory using mmap(2).

File system sync

This chart monitors calls demonstrating commits from filesystem caches to disk. Netdata attaches tracing for sync(2), and syncfs(2).

File range sync

This chart shows calls to sync_file_range(2) which synchronizes file segments with disk.

Note: This is the most dangerous syscall to synchronize data, according to its manual.

Multiple Device (MD) arrays

The eBPF plugin shows multi-device flushes happening in real time. This can be used to explain some spikes happening in disk latency charts.

By default, MD flush is disabled. To enable it, configure your /etc/netdata/ebpf.d.conf file as:

[global]
mdflush = yes

MD flush

To collect data related to Linux multi-device (MD) flushing, the following kprobe is used:

  • kprobe/md_flush_request: called whenever a request for flushing multi-device data is made.

Disk

The eBPF plugin also shows a chart in the Disk section when the disk thread is enabled.

Disk Latency

This will create the chart disk_latency_io for each disk on the host. The following tracepoints are used:

Disk Latency is the single most important metric to focus on when it comes to storage performance, under most circumstances. For hard drives, an average latency somewhere between 10 to 20 ms can be considered acceptable. For SSD (Solid State Drives), in most cases, workloads experience less than 1 ms latency numbers, but workloads should never reach higher than 3 ms. The dimensions refer to time intervals.

Filesystem

This group has charts demonstrating how applications interact with the Linux kernel to open and close file descriptors. It also brings latency charts for several different filesystems.

Latency Algorithm

We calculate the difference between the calling and return times, spanning disk I/O, file system operations (lock, I/O), run queue latency and all events related to the monitored action.

ext4

To measure the latency of executing some actions in an ext4 filesystem, the collector needs to attach kprobes and kretprobes for each of the following functions:

  • ext4_file_read_iter: Function used to measure read latency.
  • ext4_file_write_iter: Function used to measure write latency.
  • ext4_file_open: Function used to measure open latency.
  • ext4_sync_file: Function used to measure sync latency.

ZFS

To measure the latency of executing some actions in a zfs filesystem, the collector needs to attach kprobes and kretprobes for each of the following functions:

  • zpl_iter_read: Function used to measure read latency.
  • zpl_iter_write: Function used to measure write latency.
  • zpl_open: Function used to measure open latency.
  • zpl_fsync: Function used to measure sync latency.

XFS

To measure the latency of executing some actions in an xfs filesystem, the collector needs to attach kprobes and kretprobes for each of the following functions:

  • xfs_file_read_iter: Function used to measure read latency.
  • xfs_file_write_iter: Function used to measure write latency.
  • xfs_file_open: Function used to measure open latency.
  • xfs_file_fsync: Function used to measure sync latency.

NFS

To measure the latency of executing some actions in an nfs filesystem, the collector needs to attach kprobes and kretprobes for each of the following functions:

  • nfs_file_read: Function used to measure read latency.
  • nfs_file_write: Function used to measure write latency.
  • nfs_file_open: Functions used to measure open latency.
  • nfs4_file_open: Functions used to measure open latency for NFS v4.
  • nfs_getattr: Function used to measure sync latency.

btrfs

To measure the latency of executing some actions in a btrfs filesystem, the collector needs to attach kprobes and kretprobes for each of the following functions:

Note: We are listing two functions used to measure read latency, but we use either btrfs_file_read_iter or generic_file_read_iter, depending on kernel version.

  • btrfs_file_read_iter: Function used to measure read latency since kernel 5.10.0.
  • generic_file_read_iter: Like btrfs_file_read_iter, but this function was used before kernel 5.10.0.
  • btrfs_file_write_iter: Function used to write data.
  • btrfs_file_open: Function used to open files.
  • btrfs_sync_file: Function used to synchronize data to filesystem.

File descriptor

To give metrics related to open and close events, instead of attaching kprobes for each syscall used to do these events, the collector attaches kprobes for the common function used for syscalls:

  • do_sys_open: Internal function used to open files.
  • do_sys_openat2: Function called from do_sys_open since version 5.6.0.
  • close_fd: Function used to close file descriptor since kernel 5.11.0.
  • __close_fd: Function used to close files before version 5.11.0.

File error

This chart shows the number of times some software tried and failed to open or close a file descriptor.

VFS

The Linux Virtual File System (VFS) is an abstraction layer on top of a concrete filesystem like the ones listed in the parent section, e.g. ext4.

In this section we list the mechanism by which we gather VFS data, and what charts are consequently created.

VFS eBPF Hooks

To measure the latency and total quantity of executing some VFS-level functions, ebpf.plugin needs to attach kprobes and kretprobes for each of the following functions:

  • vfs_write: Function used monitoring the number of successful & failed filesystem write calls, as well as the total number of written bytes.
  • vfs_writev: Same function as vfs_write but for vector writes (i.e. a single write operation using a group of buffers rather than 1).
  • vfs_read: Function used for monitoring the number of successful & failed filesystem read calls, as well as the total number of read bytes.
  • vfs_readv Same function as vfs_read but for vector reads (i.e. a single read operation using a group of buffers rather than 1).
  • vfs_unlink: Function used for monitoring the number of successful & failed filesystem unlink calls.
  • vfs_fsync: Function used for monitoring the number of successful & failed filesystem fsync calls.
  • vfs_open: Function used for monitoring the number of successful & failed filesystem open calls.
  • vfs_create: Function used for monitoring the number of successful & failed filesystem create calls.
VFS Deleted objects

This chart monitors calls to vfs_unlink. This function is responsible for removing objects from the file system.

VFS IO

This chart shows the number of calls to the functions vfs_read and vfs_write.

VFS IO bytes

This chart also monitors vfs_read and vfs_write but, instead of the number of calls, it shows the total amount of bytes read and written with these functions.

The Agent displays the number of bytes written as negative because they are moving down to disk.

VFS IO errors

The Agent counts and shows the number of instances where a running program experiences a read or write error.

VFS Create

This chart shows the number of calls to vfs_create. This function is responsible for creating files.

VFS Synchronization

This chart shows the number of calls to vfs_fsync. This function is responsible for calling fsync(2) or fdatasync(2) on a file. You can see more details in the Synchronization section.

VFS Open

This chart shows the number of calls to vfs_open. This function is responsible for opening files.

Directory Cache

Metrics for directory cache are collected using kprobe for lookup_fast, because we are interested in the number of times this function is accessed. On the other hand, for d_lookup we are not only interested in the number of times it is accessed, but also in possible errors, so we need to attach a kretprobe. For this reason, the following is used:

  • lookup_fast: Called to look at data inside the directory cache.
  • d_lookup: Called when the desired file is not inside the directory cache.
Directory Cache Interpretation

When directory cache is showing 100% that means that every accessed file was present in the directory cache. If files are not present in the directory cache, they are either not present in the file system or the files were not accessed before.

Mount Points

The following tracing are used to collect mount & unmount call counts:

  • mount: mount filesystem on host.
  • umount: umount filesystem on host.

Networking Stack

Netdata monitors socket bandwidth attaching tracing for internal functions.

TCP outbound connections

This chart demonstrates calls to tcp_v4_connection and tcp_v6_connection that start connections for IPV4 and IPV6, respectively.

TCP inbound connections

This chart demonstrates TCP and UDP connections that the host receives. To collect this information, netdata attaches a tracing to inet_csk_accept.

TCP bandwidth functions

This chart demonstrates calls to functions tcp_sendmsg, tcp_cleanup_rbuf, and tcp_close; these functions are used to send & receive data and to close connections when TCP protocol is used.

TCP bandwidth

This chart demonstrates calls to functions:

  • tcp_sendmsg: Function responsible to send data for a specified destination.
  • tcp_cleanup_rbuf: We use this function instead of tcp_recvmsg, because the last one misses tcp_read_sock traffic and we would also need to add more tracing to get the socket and package size.
  • tcp_close: Function responsible to close connection.

TCP retransmit

This chart demonstrates calls to function tcp_retransmit that is responsible for executing TCP retransmission when the receiver did not return the packet during the expected time.

UDP functions

This chart demonstrates calls to functions udp_sendmsg and udp_recvmsg, which are responsible for sending & receiving data for connections when the UDP protocol is used.

UDP bandwidth

Like the previous chart, this one also monitors udp_sendmsg and udp_recvmsg, but instead of showing the number of calls, it monitors the number of bytes sent and received.

Apps

OOM Killing

These are tracepoints related to OOM killing processes.

  • oom/mark_victim: Monitors when an oomkill event happens.

Known issues

Performance opimization

eBPF monitoring is complex and produces a large volume of metrics. We've discovered scenarios where the eBPF plugin significantly increases kernel memory usage by several hundred MB.

If your node is experiencing high memory usage and there is no obvious culprit to be found in the apps.mem chart, consider testing for high kernel memory usage by disabling eBPF monitoring. Next, restart Netdata with sudo systemctl restart netdata to see if system memory usage (see the system.ram chart) has dropped significantly.

Beginning with v1.31, kernel memory usage is configurable via the pid table size setting in ebpf.conf.

SELinux

When SELinux is enabled, it may prevent ebpf.plugin from starting correctly. Check the Agent's error.log file for errors like the ones below:

2020-06-14 15:32:08: ebpf.plugin ERROR : EBPF PROCESS : Cannot load program: /usr/libexec/netdata/plugins.d/pnetdata_ebpf_process.3.10.0.o (errno 13, Permission denied)
2020-06-14 15:32:19: netdata ERROR : PLUGINSD[ebpf] : read failed: end of file (errno 9, Bad file descriptor)

You can also check for errors related to ebpf.plugin inside /var/log/audit/audit.log:

type=AVC msg=audit(1586260134.952:97): avc:  denied  { map_create } for  pid=1387 comm="ebpf.pl" scontext=system_u:system_r:unconfined_service_t:s0 tcontext=system_u:system_r:unconfined_service_t:s0 tclass=bpf permissive=0
type=SYSCALL msg=audit(1586260134.952:97): arch=c000003e syscall=321 success=no exit=-13 a0=0 a1=7ffe6b36f000 a2=70 a3=0 items=0 ppid=1135 pid=1387 auid=4294967295 uid=994 gid=990 euid=0 suid=0 fsuid=0 egid=990 sgid=990 fsgid=990 tty=(none) ses=4294967295 comm="ebpf_proc
ess.pl" exe="/usr/libexec/netdata/plugins.d/ebpf.plugin" subj=system_u:system_r:unconfined_service_t:s0 key=(null)

If you see similar errors, you will have to adjust SELinux's policies to enable the eBPF collector.

Creation of bpf policies

To enable ebpf.plugin to run on a distribution with SELinux enabled, it will be necessary to take the following actions.

First, stop the Netdata Agent.

# systemctl stop netdata

Next, create a policy with the audit.log file you examined earlier.

# grep ebpf.plugin /var/log/audit/audit.log | audit2allow -M netdata_ebpf

This will create two new files: netdata_ebpf.te and netdata_ebpf.mod.

Edit the netdata_ebpf.te file to change the options class and allow. You should have the following at the end of the netdata_ebpf.te file.

module netdata_ebpf 1.0;
require {
type unconfined_service_t;
class bpf { map_create map_read map_write prog_load prog_run };
}
#============= unconfined_service_t ==============
allow unconfined_service_t self:bpf { map_create map_read map_write prog_load prog_run };

Then compile your netdata_ebpf.te file with the following commands to create a binary that loads the new policies:

# checkmodule -M -m -o netdata_ebpf.mod netdata_ebpf.te
# semodule_package -o netdata_ebpf.pp -m netdata_ebpf.mod

Finally, you can load the new policy and start the Netdata agent again:

# semodule -i netdata_ebpf.pp
# systemctl start netdata

Linux kernel lockdown

Beginning with version 5.4, the Linux kernel has a feature called "lockdown," which may affect ebpf.plugin depending how the kernel was compiled. The following table shows how the lockdown module impacts ebpf.plugin based on the selected options:

Enforcing kernel lockdownEnable lockdown LSM early in initDefault lockdown modeCan ebpf.plugin run with this?
YESNONOYES
YESYesNoneYES
YESYesIntegrityYES
YESYesConfidentialityNO

If you or your distribution compiled the kernel with the last combination, your system cannot load shared libraries required to run ebpf.plugin.

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