USRP Hardware Driver and USRP Manual  Version: 4.3.0.0-1-g4d6b7263f
UHD and USRP Manual
Device streaming

Introduction to Streaming

The concept of streaming refers to the transportation of samples or other data between host and device. A streamer is an object that facilitates such streaming. An RX streamer (uhd::rx_streamer) allows the user to receive data from the device. A TX streamer (uhd::tx_streamer) allows the user to transmit data to the device.

For RX streaming, the following actions need to be taken:

  • A streamer needs to be created (e.g., using multi_usrp::get_rx_stream() or rfnoc_graph::get_rx_stream(), depending on what API is being used). Upon creation of the streamer, typically all connections between the host and the device are configured (e.g., how to send UDP data packets).
    • When using the RFNoC API, it is necessary to manually connect the streamer to the desired endpoint.
    • When using the multi_usrp API, the RX streamer is automatically connected to the radio/DSP chain.
    • When creating an RX streamer, a uhd::stream_args_t object must be passed in to configure the data types used on the link layer and in the host software, as well as any other configurations that are required.
  • To initiate streaming, typically a stream command needs to be issued to the device to indicate that the host application is ready to receive samples. The uhd::rx_streamer::issue_stream_cmd() API call can typically be used for this.
  • As soon as streaming starts, the uhd::rx_streamer::recv() call needs to be called regularly to accept the incoming data. If recv() is not called often enough, the device can overrun and stop streaming.

In Python, the steps could look like this:

import uhd
import numpy as np
usrp = uhd.usrp.MultiUSRP("type=x300")
stream_args = uhd.usrp.StreamArgs("fc32", "sc16")
stream_args.args = "spp=200" # Note this setting is not valid for all USRPs
rx_streamer = usrp.get_rx_stream(stream_args)
rx_metadata = uhd.types.RXMetadata()
recv_buffer = np.zeros(rx_streamer.get_max_num_samps(), dtype=np.complex64)
stream_cmd = uhd.types.StreamCMD(uhd.types.StreamMode.start_cont)
stream_cmd.stream_now = True
rx_streamer.issue_stream_cmd(stream_cmd)
while run_condition:
samps = rx_streamer.recv(recv_buffer, rx_metadata)
stream_cmd = uhd.types.StreamCMD(uhd.types.StreamMode.stop_cont)
rx_streamer.issue_stream_cmd(stream_cmd)

For TX streaming, the following actions need to be taken:

  • A streamer needs to be created (e.g., using multi_usrp::get_tx_stream() or rfnoc_graph::get_tx_stream(), depending on what API is being used). Upon creation of the streamer, typically all connections between the host and the device are configured (e.g., how to send UDP data packets).
    • When using the RFNoC API, it is necessary to manually connect the streamer to the desired endpoint.
    • When using the multi_usrp API, the TX streamer is automatically connected to the radio/DSP chain.
    • When creating an TX streamer, a uhd::stream_args_t object must be passed in to configure the data types used on the link layer and in the host software, as well as any other configurations that are required.
  • To initiate streaming, use the uhd::tx_streamer::send() API call to pass data to UHD for transmission to the device.
  • It is up to the host application to call send() often enough to keep up with the device. If the device runs out of data from the host, it will underrun.

In Python, the steps could look like this:

import uhd
import numpy as np
usrp = uhd.usrp.MultiUSRP("type=x300")
stream_args = uhd.usrp.StreamArgs("fc32", "sc16")
stream_args.args = "spp=200" # Note this setting is not valid for all USRPs
tx_streamer = usrp.get_tx_stream(stream_args)
tx_metadata = uhd.types.TXMetadata()
tx_buffer = np.zeros(1000000, dtype=np.complex64)
while True:
samps = tx_streamer.send(tx_buffer, tx_metadata)

For more details on configuring streamers, cf. Streaming Arguments (Stream Args).

For more details on overruns/underruns, cf. Overflow/Underflow Notes.

Link Layer Encapsulation

Between the host and the device, data (such as I/Q samples) are packetized and encapsulated. Refer to Radio Transport Protocols for more details on the protocols used.

The length of an IF data packet can be limited by several factors:

  • MTU of the link layer: network card, network switch
  • Buffering on the host: frame size in a ring buffer
  • Buffering on the device: size of BRAM FIFOs

Data Types

There are two important data types to consider when streaming. They are referred to as arguments in the uhd::stream_args_t object:

  • The data type of the samples used on the host for processing (cpu argument)
  • The data type of the samples sent through the link-layer (otw argument)

The host/CPU data type

The host data type refers to the format of samples used in the host for baseband processing. Typically, the data type is complex baseband such as normalized complex-float32 or complex-int16.

The link-layer data type

The link-layer or "over-the-wire" data type refers to the format of the samples sent through the link. Typically, this data type is complex-int16. However, to increase throughput over the link-layer, at the expense of precision, complex-int8 may be used.

Conversion

The user may request arbitrary combinations of host and link data types; however, not all combinations are supported. The user may register custom data type formats and conversion routines. See convert.hpp and Converters for further documentation.

Remote streaming

Ethernet-based devices allow sending data to an alternative destination instead of back to the controlling UHD session.

RFNoC Devices (X410, N3xx Series, E320)

Starting with UHD 4.3, these devices allow streaming data to alternative locations from their QSFP/SFP connectors (streaming data to alternative locations from the RJ45 connector is not possible).

To enable remote streaming, create a regular RX streamer. This will work as a proxy for UHD, and an object that will accept stream commands.

Consider the following example: A UHD host controller is running on a computer with IP address 192.168.40.1. It is opening a session with a USRP with IP address 192.168.40.2. It configures the USRP, sets the desired frequency and gain, and any other settings that might be required. Then, it initiates a data stream from the USRP to another computer with IP address 192.168.40.5.

┌─────────────┐ ┌──────────────┐
│ │ │ │
│ <───────────┤ UHD Host │
│ USRP │ │ 192.168.40.1 │
│ 192.168.40.2│ └──────────────┘
│ ├─────┐
└─────────────┘ │ ┌──────────────┐
│ │ │
│ │ Remote │
└─────> Streaming │
│ Destination │
│ 192.168.40.5 │
│ │
└──────────────┘

The sequence of events to enable this feature is illustrated with the following Python snippet:

import uhd
import numpy as np
usrp = uhd.usrp.MultiUSRP("type=x4xx")
stream_args = uhd.usrp.StreamArgs("fc32", "sc16")
# Here, we program the remote computer's IP address and a destination UDP port:
stream_args.args = "dest_addr=192.168.40.5,dest_port=1234"
rx_streamer = usrp.get_rx_stream(stream_args)
rx_metadata = uhd.types.RXMetadata()
stream_cmd = uhd.types.StreamCMD(uhd.types.StreamMode.start_cont)
stream_cmd.stream_now = True
rx_streamer.issue_stream_cmd(stream_cmd)
# Calling recv() now will do nothing and return a timeout, because samples have
# been diverted to the remote destination:
recv_buffer = np.zeros(rx_streamer.get_max_num_samps(), dtype=np.complex64)
samps = rx_streamer.recv(recv_buffer, rx_metadata)
assert samps == 0
# However, we can still use the streamer to stop the stream:
stream_cmd = uhd.types.StreamCMD(uhd.types.StreamMode.stop_cont)
rx_streamer.issue_stream_cmd(stream_cmd)

The ability to call recv() without a fatal error condition allows using this API with some preexisting applications.

The streamer objects accepts the following arguments:

  • dest_addr, dest_port: The remote destination IP address and port. Both must be provided.
  • dest_mac_addr: If provided, this value is used as a MAC address. Must be in AA:BB:CC:DD:EE:FF format. If not provided, the device uses ARP to identify the MAC address based on the IP address. When given, there are no further checks that the IP address matches the MAC address.
  • adapter: The adapter that is used to stream data out of. The adapter names match the interface names as listed on the command line (e.g., sfp0, sfp1). This allows connecting to one interface and streaming out of another. It also allows running UHD on the device itself (for MPM devices, i.e. X410, E320, N3xx series) and streaming to a remote destination at a high rate.
  • stream_mode: This key allows two options: raw_payload (the default) and full_packet. When full_packet is selected, the full CHDR packet is streamed and the remote destination needs to dissect or remove the header. With raw_payload, only the data is sent as a UDP packet (e.g., only IQ samples). See Radio Transport Protocols for more details on CHDR.
  • enable_fc: Either "0" (default) or "1". Set to "1" to enable flow control. In that case, stream_mode must also be set to full_packet in order to be able to handle flow control responses. See the following section for more information.

Flow Control

By default, the USRP will stream data to the remote streaming destination at whatever data rate it is set to, and there are no checks to ensure the destination can keep up. This is different from streaming to UHD, where flow control is used to match rates between device and host computer.

If flow control is desired, then using enable_fc=1 as a stream argument will enable flow control. However, the remote destination must now unpack the data packets and send flow control responses to the USRP in order for it to keep streaming. Refer to the RFNoC specification for how to format flow control response packets.

USRP N200/N210/USRP2

The N200 Series of USRPs supports alternative stream destinations starting with UHD 3.5.

The sequence to activate remote destination streaming is identical to that in Section RFNoC Devices (X410, N3xx Series, E320), with the following differences:

  • Only the addr and port arguments are supported.
  • Data is always sent in the device's VITA49 format (see Radio Transport Protocols).
  • Flow control management is always required.