diff options
authorStefan Rompf <>2006-05-09 15:15:35 -0700
committerDavid S. Miller <>2006-05-09 15:15:35 -0700
commit3a01c1ef75e1d84752ddef607c389bbde9c2576e (patch)
parent3cd73eedde34c5fd88d62d8523c4260970fdc6fb (diff)
[NET]: Add missing operstates documentation.
Signed-off-by: Stefan Rompf <> Signed-off-by: David S. Miller <>
1 files changed, 161 insertions, 0 deletions
diff --git a/Documentation/networking/operstates.txt b/Documentation/networking/operstates.txt
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+1. Introduction
+Linux distinguishes between administrative and operational state of an
+interface. Admininstrative state is the result of "ip link set dev
+<dev> up or down" and reflects whether the administrator wants to use
+the device for traffic.
+However, an interface is not usable just because the admin enabled it
+- ethernet requires to be plugged into the switch and, depending on
+a site's networking policy and configuration, an 802.1X authentication
+to be performed before user data can be transferred. Operational state
+shows the ability of an interface to transmit this user data.
+Thanks to 802.1X, userspace must be granted the possibility to
+influence operational state. To accommodate this, operational state is
+split into two parts: Two flags that can be set by the driver only, and
+a RFC2863 compatible state that is derived from these flags, a policy,
+and changeable from userspace under certain rules.
+2. Querying from userspace
+Both admin and operational state can be queried via the netlink
+operation RTM_GETLINK. It is also possible to subscribe to RTMGRP_LINK
+to be notified of updates. This is important for setting from userspace.
+These values contain interface state:
+ifinfomsg::if_flags & IFF_UP:
+ Interface is admin up
+ifinfomsg::if_flags & IFF_RUNNING:
+ Interface is in RFC2863 operational state UP or UNKNOWN. This is for
+ backward compatibility, routing daemons, dhcp clients can use this
+ flag to determine whether they should use the interface.
+ifinfomsg::if_flags & IFF_LOWER_UP:
+ Driver has signaled netif_carrier_on()
+ifinfomsg::if_flags & IFF_DORMANT:
+ Driver has signaled netif_dormant_on()
+These interface flags can also be queried without netlink using the
+contains RFC2863 state of the interface in numeric representation:
+ Interface is in unknown state, neither driver nor userspace has set
+ operational state. Interface must be considered for user data as
+ setting operational state has not been implemented in every driver.
+ Unused in current kernel (notpresent interfaces normally disappear),
+ just a numerical placeholder.
+ Interface is unable to transfer data on L1, f.e. ethernet is not
+ plugged or interface is ADMIN down.
+ Interfaces stacked on an interface that is IF_OPER_DOWN show this
+ state (f.e. VLAN).
+ Unused in current kernel.
+ Interface is L1 up, but waiting for an external event, f.e. for a
+ protocol to establish. (802.1X)
+IF_OPER_UP (6):
+ Interface is operational up and can be used.
+This TLV can also be queried via sysfs.
+contains link policy. This is needed for userspace interaction
+described below.
+This TLV can also be queried via sysfs.
+3. Kernel driver API
+Kernel drivers have access to two flags that map to IFF_LOWER_UP and
+IFF_DORMANT. These flags can be set from everywhere, even from
+interrupts. It is guaranteed that only the driver has write access,
+however, if different layers of the driver manipulate the same flag,
+the driver has to provide the synchronisation needed.
+The driver uses netif_carrier_on() to clear and netif_carrier_off() to
+set this flag. On netif_carrier_off(), the scheduler stops sending
+packets. The name 'carrier' and the inversion are historical, think of
+it as lower layer.
+netif_carrier_ok() can be used to query that bit.
+Set by the driver to express that the device cannot yet be used
+because some driver controlled protocol establishment has to
+complete. Corresponding functions are netif_dormant_on() to set the
+flag, netif_dormant_off() to clear it and netif_dormant() to query.
+On device allocation, networking core sets the flags equivalent to
+netif_carrier_ok() and !netif_dormant().
+Whenever the driver CHANGES one of these flags, a workqueue event is
+scheduled to translate the flag combination to IFLA_OPERSTATE as
+ IF_OPER_LOWERLAYERDOWN if the interface is stacked, IF_OPER_DOWN
+ otherwise. Kernel can recognise stacked interfaces because their
+ ifindex != iflink.
+netif_carrier_ok() && netif_dormant():
+netif_carrier_ok() && !netif_dormant():
+ IF_OPER_UP if userspace interaction is disabled. Otherwise
+ IF_OPER_DORMANT with the possibility for userspace to initiate the
+ IF_OPER_UP transition afterwards.
+4. Setting from userspace
+Applications have to use the netlink interface to influence the
+RFC2863 operational state of an interface. Setting IFLA_LINKMODE to 1
+via RTM_SETLINK instructs the kernel that an interface should go to
+IF_OPER_DORMANT instead of IF_OPER_UP when the combination
+netif_carrier_ok() && !netif_dormant() is set by the
+driver. Afterwards, the userspace application can set IFLA_OPERSTATE
+to IF_OPER_DORMANT or IF_OPER_UP as long as the driver does not set
+netif_carrier_off() or netif_dormant_on(). Changes made by userspace
+are multicasted on the netlink group RTMGRP_LINK.
+So basically a 802.1X supplicant interacts with the kernel like this:
+-subscribe to RTMGRP_LINK
+-query RTM_GETLINK once to get initial state
+-if initial flags are not (IFF_LOWER_UP && !IFF_DORMANT), wait until
+ netlink multicast signals this state
+-do 802.1X, eventually abort if flags go down again
+-send RTM_SETLINK to set operstate to IF_OPER_UP if authentication
+ succeeds, IF_OPER_DORMANT otherwise
+-see how operstate and IFF_RUNNING is echoed via netlink multicast
+-set interface back to IF_OPER_DORMANT if 802.1X reauthentication
+ fails
+-restart if kernel changes IFF_LOWER_UP or IFF_DORMANT flag
+if supplicant goes down, bring back IFLA_LINKMODE to 0 and
+IFLA_OPERSTATE to a sane value.
+A routing daemon or dhcp client just needs to care for IFF_RUNNING or
+waiting for operstate to go IF_OPER_UP/IF_OPER_UNKNOWN before
+considering the interface / querying a DHCP address.
+For technical questions and/or comments please e-mail to Stefan Rompf
+(stefan at