This document is intended to guide a new ODP user in answering common questions.

Further details about ODP may be found at the ODP home page.

1. What is ODP?

OpenDataPlane (ODP) is an open source API defined for networking data plane applications programming. The primary goal of ODP is to provide a common set of APIs for application portability across a diverse range of networking platforms (SoCs and servers) that offer various types of hardware acceleration. As an abstract API specification, ODP permits applications to run on and exploit the hardware offload capabilities of various platforms without requiring expertise in the nuances of any target platform.

At the same time, ODP is also a set of implementations of these APIs that are optimized for each platform that supports ODP. Implementations of ODP currently exist for a wide range of platforms spanning diverse instruction set architectures including ARM, MIPS, Power, x86, as well as proprietary SoC architectures, and include both general-purpose servers as well as specialized networking SoCs.

By decoupling the API definition from its implementation, ODP achieves two goals:

  • APIs can be defined to address data plane application needs rather than to expose specific platform capabilities. This leads to easy application portability across any platform that supports a conforming ODP implementation. The result is that applications written to the ODP APIs can run on any platform without developers needing expertise in the nuances of that platform

Figure 1. ODP Application view
  • At the same time, by keeping APIs abstract, ODP allows vendors full freedom to implement these APIs in a manner optimized to the capabilities of each platform. This means that platforms can compete for any socket:

Figure 2. ODP Implementation view

This freedom is further enhanced by ODP’s use of 3-clause BSD licensing. ODP APIs are fully open source and open contribution, however individual implementors of these APIs may choose to make their code open or closed source as business needs determine. As part of the main ODP distribution, several reference implementations of the ODP APIs are made available and these implementations are themselves open source and open contribution. These reference implementations are designed to offer a good starting point for those wishing to develop their own implementations of ODP tailored to their platform, or to gain experiencing developing ODP applications without needing anything other than a standard Linux platform. Also included as part of ODP is a validation test suite that permits applications and vendors to confirm that a given ODP implementation conforms to the ODP API specification, thus ensuring consistency and portability across various implementations of ODP.

2. What is not ODP?

The data plane is the part of a network that carries user traffic. The data plane, the control plane and the management plane are the three basic components of a telecommunications architecture. The control plane and management plane serve the data plane, which bears the traffic that the network exists to carry. ODP is only concerned with the data plane.

3. Who is behind ODP?

ODP is sponsored by the Linaro Networking Group (LNG) and its 13 member companies. These companies include network system vendors, silicon vendors, and software solution providers who are working to promote a truly cross platform solution for data plane applications that is portable across a wide range of network silicon yet can take full advantage of hardware acceleration and offload capabilities offered by these platforms.

4. What are the goals of ODP?

  • To support Software-defined networking (SDN) in which control is decoupled from the physical infrastructure, allowing network administrators to support a network fabric across multi-vendor equipment.

  • To support Network function virtualization (NFV) which is an initiative to visualize the network services that are now being carried out by proprietary hardware.

  • To enable a platform agnostic open source community to develop hardware accelerated software that is very portable.

5. What is the ODP project history and status?

The ODP project was launched in 2013. The first full-feature release of ODP occurred in March of 2015 and a production-ready release called Monarch will be finalizes in 2016

The history can be seen in the git stats for the the first implementation, the linux-generic reference [2].

6. Where does ODP fit in the solution space?

Figure 3. ODP in the solution space

Although ODP applications are independent of available network speeds, at present the benefits of ODP are best seen on networks operating at 10Gb/s and above. This allows ODP applications to transition seamlessly from software-based acceleration found on general purpose servers to hardware acceleration found on specialized networking SoCs. At present this spans the “sweet spot” of speeds from 10Gb/s to 100Gb/s. Beyond 100Gb/s ODP abstractions have not matured enough to completely describe full offload processing, although this is a long term goal.

7. What does a typical application packet flow look like?

An application written as a clean room implementation will differ in structure from one ported from a legacy application allowing it to benefit from more of the ODP capabilities, a typical structure for a new application is shown below:

packet flow
Figure 4. ODP packetflow

Using the scheduler and an event driven model, packets are distributed to available workers maximizing the capacity of the cores. Where possible, the function will be performed in hardware (red). Migrating to a device where more of the functionality is in hardware will result in greater throughput without rewriting the application. In addition, migration to a device with more cores will automatically spread the load achieving greater throughput.

In summary:

  • The classifier might be fixed-function or programmable (for flexibility as network protocols evolve)

  • The scheduler is similar to a traffic manager

  • Processing cores can be added and removed dynamically (elasticity)

  • The scheduler knows which core is associated with which queue at every moment, which enables hardware synchronization

  • Packets and other types of work (e.g. timers) are scheduled together

8. What does the ODP software stack look like?

Figure 5. ODP in the solution space

An application written to the ODP API will be linked to the ODP implementation for the platform on which it is executing. This implementation will have been optimized for that specific hardware; it will often call the native SDK via an inline call, which also allows the application to simultaneously take advantage of vendor extensions that have not yet been standardized.

9. What platforms does ODP support?

To date, ODP is running on seven different network platforms that span five different processing architectures (ARMv7, ARMv8, MIPS64, Power, and x86), offering both application portability and accelerated performance tailored to each platform. Other implementations are under development by both LNG member companies and other companies participating in the project.

10. What OS is typically used with ODP?

ODP applications usually run as Linux user space applications, but there are also a number of “bare metal” environments in use. A typical deployment will be using Linux as the control node on at least one CPU and then using the NO_HZ and isolation features of Linux to essentially run the application fast-path packet processing code as if it were using “bare metal” on the remaining cores.

11. Is ODP open?

ODP is a true open source, open contribution project that is distributed under a 3-clause BSD license, meaning that anyone is free to use, modify and distribute it for commercial or other purposes without restriction. ODP has a public mailing list (lng-odp@lists.linaro.org), and discussion on this list shows the wide base of participation in the ODP project. There are also a number of independent externally hosted ODP implementations [6].

12. What is odp-linux?

The ODP linux-generic implementation is a functional reference targeting simplicity over performance if there is marked difference. The higher-performance implementations of ODP come directly from the vendors. Linaro also maintains implementations for some other important platforms that do not yet have direct vendor support [3].

13. Does ODP really help portability?

Figure 6. ODP and portability

Yes. ODP abstracts hardware capabilities for data-plane processing so that applications may be written more portably Application developers may make use of important hardware capabilities such as crypto hardware acceleration without needing deep knowledge of the hardware or the vendor-specific SDK associated with it. This will make it much easier for them to write portable applications that work well across multiple hardware implementations.

14. Can ODP inter-operate with a native SDK?


15. Does ODP allow software extensions?

No. the ODP API does not allow for software extensions. However, ODP does not preclude calling a vendor’s SDK in parallel with ODP but the expectation is that over time any features that become common to multiple platforms will be supported in future versions of the portable ODP APIs.

16. Does ODP work with FPGAs?

There is no explicit initialization support for altering the image in an FPGA at boot time, but several major players have looked at ODP and we hope they will help define the support they require.

17. Does ODP work with NICs?

Yes. So far, ODP has been vigorously taken up by vendors who supply much more functionality in their hardware than a plain NIC can provide. One of those vendors package this capability as a NIC + ODP library. The ODP project also supports its own ODP-DPDK [1] implementation to help migrations from the lower level DPDK API to the ODPs abstraction.

But traditional NICs are supported odp-linux has PKTIO support for Netmap and DPDK.

18. Does ODP support polling mode?

ODP does not dictate a model, although the majority of current contributors see greater value in an event-driven model which which it is felt will scale better than a polling mode driver.

19. Does ODP add a lot of overhead vs. the native SDK?

No, ODP is just an API designed by the contributors. The implementation is developed by the hardware vendor to be optimal for their platform.

Even running OVS on odp-dpdk vs dpdk shows at worst case 1.7% overhead in basic tests.

20. What is the difference between ODP and DPDK?

ODP is an API, DPDK is a specific implementation of an API. ODP is an abstraction that is just at a high-enough level to allow platform abstraction without imposing strict models and overheads

21. Does ODP force the use of specific structures?

Figure 7. ODP and specific structures

ODP uses abstractions for the structures that are defined by the implementing vendor so that they map closely to the hardware and are very efficient. The application may then access this data though inline functions so that platform specific data is never exposed, for example odp_packet_len() [5] to determine a packet length.

22. Does ODP have legacy application support?

ODP can be used to implement hardware acceleration for interfaces for sockets, or polling mode drivers.

23. Does ODP provide everything needed for an application?

No. ODP is defining the lowest level abstractions for hardware acceleration and it is expected that layers of software using these primitives will be able to add deeper application support. In addition ODP does not try to add Operating System abstractions.

24. Where are ODP Data-plane Applications?

They are traditionally the software in routers, switches, gateways, set top boxes, Evolved Node B, etc. Increasingly they are data-center applications that can make use of the acceleration features available in servers, such as Open vSwitch, TRex, NGiNX.