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SubjectRe: [RFC PATCH -tip 0/5] kprobes: Abolish jprobe APIs
On Fri, 6 Oct 2017 13:49:59 +0900
Masami Hiramatsu <> wrote:

> Steve, could you write a documentation how to use ftrace callback?
> I think I should update the Documentation/kprobes.txt so that jprobe
> user can easily migrate on that.

I decided to do this now. Here's a first draft. What do you think?

-- Steve

Using ftrace to hook to functions

Copyright 2017 VMware Inc.
Author: Steven Rostedt <>
License: The GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
(dual licensed under the GPL v2)

Written for: 4.14


The ftrace infrastructure was originially created to attach hooks to the
beginning of functions in order to record and trace the flow of the kernel.
But hooks to the start of a function can have other use cases. Either
for live kernel patching, or for security monitoring. This document describes
how to use ftrace to implement your own function hooks.

The ftrace context

WARNING: The ability to add a callback to almost any function within the
kernel comes with risks. A callback can be called from any context
(normal, softirq, irq, and NMI). Callbacks can also be called just before
going to idle, during CPU bring up and takedown, or going to user space.
This requires extra care to what can be done inside a callback. A callback
can be called outside the protective scope of RCU.

The ftrace infrastructure has some protections agains recursions and RCU
but one must still be very careful how they use the callbacks.

The ftrace_ops structure

To register a function callback, a ftrace_ops is required. This structure
is used to tell ftrace what function should be called as the callback
as well as what protections the callback will perform and not require
ftrace to handle.

There are only two fields that are needed to be set when registering
an ftrace_ops with ftrace. The rest should be NULL.

struct ftrace_ops ops = {
.func = my_callback_func,
.private = any_private_data_structure,

Both .flags and .private are optional. Only .func is required.

To enable tracing call:


To disable tracing call:


The callback function

The prototype of the callback function is as follows (as of v4.14):

void callback_func(unsigned long ip, unsigned long parent_ip,
struct ftrace_ops *op, struct pt_regs *regs);

@ip - This is the instruction pointer of the function that is being traced.
(where the fentry or mcount is within the function)

@parent_ip - This is the instruction pointer of the function that called the
the function being traced (where the call of the function occurred).

@op - This is a pointer to ftrace_ops that was used to register the callback.
This can be used to pass data to the callback via the private pointer.

flags are set in the ftrace_ops structure, then this will be pointing
to the pt_regs structure like it would be if an breakpoint was placed
at the start of the function where ftrace was tracing. Otherwise it
either contains garbage, or NULL.

The ftrace FLAGS

The ftrace_ops flags are all defined and documented in include/linux/ftrace.h.
Some of the flags are used for internal infrastructure of ftrace, but the
ones that users should be aware of are the following:

(All of these are prefixed with FTRACE_OPS_FL_)

PER_CPU - When set, the callback can be enabled or disabled per cpu with the
following functions:

void ftrace_function_local_enable(struct ftrace_ops *ops);
void ftrace_function_local_disable(struct ftrace_ops *ops);

These two functions must be called with preemption disabled.

SAVE_REGS - If the callback requires reading or modifying the pt_regs
passed to the callback, then it must set this flag. Registering
a ftrace_ops with this flag set on an architecture that does not
support passing of pt_regs to the callback, will fail.

SAVE_REGS_IF_SUPPORTED - Similar to SAVE_REGS but the registering of a
ftrace_ops on an architecture that does not support passing of regs
will not fail with this flag set. But the callback must check if
regs is NULL or not to determine if the architecture supports it.

RECURSION_SAFE - By default, a wrapper is added around the callback to
make sure that recursion of the function does not occur. That is
if a function within the callback itself is also traced, ftrace
will prevent the callback from being called again. But this wrapper
adds some overhead, and if the callback is safe from recursion,
it can set this flag to disable the ftrace protection.

IPMODIFY - Requires SAVE_REGS set. If the callback is to "hijack" the
traced function (have another function called instead of the traced
function), it requires setting this flag. This is what live kernel
patches uses. Without this flag the pt_regs->ip can not be modified.
Note, only one ftrace_ops with IPMODIFY set may be registered to
any given function at a time.

RCU - If this is set, then the callback will only be called by functions
where RCU is "watching". This is required if the callback function
performs any rcu_read_lock() operation.

Filtering what functions to trace

If a callback is only to be called from specific functions, a filter must be
set up. The filters are added by name, or ip if it is known.

int ftrace_set_filter(struct ftrace_ops *ops, unsigned char *buf,
int len, int reset);

@ops - the ops to set the filter with
@buf - the string that holds the function filter text.
@len - the length of the string.
@reset - non zero to reset all filters before applying this filter.

Filters denote which functions should be enabled when tracing is enabled.
If @buf is NULL and reset is set, all functions will be enabled for tracing.

The @buf can also be a glob expression to enable all functions that
match a specific pattern.

To just trace the schedule function:

ret = ftrace_set_filter(&ops, "schedule", strlen("schedule"), 0);

To add more functions, call the ftrace_set_filter() more than once with the
@reset parameter set to zero. To remove the current filter and replace it
with new functions to trace, have @reset be non zero.

Sometimes more than one function has the same name. To trace just a specific
function in this case, ftrace_set_filter_ip() can be used.

ret = ftrace_set_filter_ip(&ops, ip, 0, 0);

Although the ip must be the address where the call to fentry or mcount is
located in the function.

If a glob is used to set the filter, to remove unwanted matches the
ftrace_set_notrace() can also be used.

int ftrace_set_notrace(struct ftrace_ops *ops, unsigned char *buf,
int len, int reset);

This takes the same parameters as ftrace_set_filter() but will add the
functions it finds to not be traced. This doesn't remove them from the
filter itself, but keeps them from being traced. If @reset is set,
the filter is cleaded but the functions that match @buf will still not
be traced (the callback will not be called on those functions).

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