USRP Hardware Driver and USRP Manual  Version: 3.15.0.HEAD-0-gaea0e2de
UHD and USRP Manual
DPDK, Data Plane Development Kit

DPDK Overview

Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK) is a set of libraries that allows network interface controller (NIC) drivers to use user space memory buffers to send and receive data over a network. These libraries underpin one of the network transport options in UHD.

In UHD, the DPDK-based transport will fork off I/O threads that implement the network services, and these I/O threads will service the NICs on cores provided in your configuration. The cores will be completely consumed by the I/O thread. Together with DPDK's polling-mode drivers, this virtually eliminates context switching in UHD's transport layer, which enables us to stream higher sample rates.

DPDK Setup

DPDK is currently only available on Linux platforms, requires an input-output memory management unit (IOMMU), and must be run on a multicore processor. The following subsections will talk through the steps required to setup DPDK on your computer.

DPDK Installation Instructions

As a new and developing technology, the DPDK APIs are unstable. UHD requires version 17.11.

On Ubuntu 18.04/18.10, Fedora 28/29, or Debian Stretch (via backports), DPDK is available in your distribution's repositories. For example, on Debian systems, it can be obtained with the following command:

sudo apt install dpdk dpdk-dev

Otherwise, you'll need to follow the build guide at . The software releases can be found at . Note that if you are building and installing DPDK from source, you will need to change its configuration to build shared libraries in order for UHD to link successfully. After running make config or make defconfig, open the build/.config file in an editor and find the following line:


Change the n to a y to enable the building of shared libraries, then type make to start the build.

System Configuration

The official documentation regarding system configuration can be found at

First, you'll need to enable the IOMMU and set up some hugepages. DPDK will completely take over all available hugepages, so don't allocate all your memory to them- the rest of UHD and the application need memory too.

For example, on a system with 16 GB of RAM, a generous appropriation of 512x 2 MiB pages was more than sufficient, and you likely won't need that much.

For best results, hugepages should be enabled at boot. For example, using an Intel IOMMU with Ubuntu 18.04 IOMMU drivers, the following line was needed in our Grub config.

iommu=pt intel_iommu=on hugepages=2048

The setup of the IOMMU and hugepages is system-specific, so consult the kernel documentation for more info. After you reboot, you should see /sys/kernel/iommu_groups populated.

Next, many of the NIC drivers are implemented atop vfio-pci, so you'll need to load that driver with the following command:

modprobe vfio-pci

For NICs that require vfio-pci (like Intel's X520), you'll want to use the script to the vfio-pci driver. See for more details.

With the hugepages, IOMMU, and drivers set up, the system is ready for DPDK to use.

NIC Configuration

Configuration of the NIC can be controlled via device arguments via the usual methods, but the UHD configuration file is the recommended location.

In order to run, you'll need to set the permissions for your user to take over the vfio-pci devices, the hugepages, and the scheduler's settings for the threads (at a minimum). You may consider running you applications as root, at least while becoming familiar with DPDK. If you use a per-user config file, make sure it's in the correct location.

The config file will have 2 different components. First are the global DPDK options:

;When present in device args, use_dpdk indicates you want DPDK to take over the UDP transports
;The value here represents a config, so you could have another section labeled use_dpdk=myconf
;instead and swap between them
;dpdk-mtu is the NIC's MTU setting
;This is separate from MPM's maximum packet size--tops out at 4000
;dpdk-driver is the -d flag for the DPDK EAL. If DPDK doesn't pick up the driver for your NIC
;automatically, you may need this argument to point it to the folder where it can find the drivers
;Note that DPDK will attempt to load _everything_ in that folder as a driver, so you may want to
;create a separate folder with symlinks to the librte_pmd_* and librte_mempool_* libraries.
;dpdk-corelist is the -l flag for the DPDK EAL. See more at the link
;dpdk-num-mbufs is the total number of packet buffers allocated
;to each direction's packet buffer pool
;This will be multiplied by the number of NICs, but NICs on the same
;CPU socket share a pool
;dpdk-mbuf-cache-size is the number of buffers to cache for a CPU
;The cache reduces the interaction with the global pool

The other sections fall under per-NIC arguments. The key for NICs is the MAC address, and it must be in a particular format. Hex digits must all be lower case, and octets must be separated by colons. Here is an example:

;dpdk-io-cpu selects the CPU that this NIC's driver will run on
;Multiple NICs may occupy one CPU, but the I/O thread will completely
;consume that CPU. Also, 0 is reserved for the master thread (i.e.
;the initial UHD thread that calls init() for DPDK). Attempting to
;use it as an I/O thread will only result in hanging.
dpdk-io-cpu = 1
;dpdk-ipv4 specifies the IPv4 address, and both the address and
;subnet mask are required (and in this format!). DPDK uses the
;netmask to create a basic routing table. Routing to other networks
;(i.e. via gateways) is not permitted.
dpdk-ipv4 =

dpdk-io-cpu = 1
dpdk-ipv4 =

Using DPDK in UHD

Once DPDK is installed and configured on your system, it can be used with UHD. The following steps will describe how to stream using DPDK. DPDK is currently only available on the following devices:

Enabling DPDK with UHD Device Args

Add the following to your device args in order to indicate that a DPDK-based UDP transport shall be used instead of the kernel's UDP stack.


Device discovery via DPDK is not currently implemented, so the device args mgmt_addr, addr, and second_addr (if applicable) must all be specified at runtime. There is no mechanism for MPM's TCP/IP control traffic to flow over a link that is occupied by DPDK, so mgmt_addr must point to a link that is not used for CHDR, such as N310's RJ45 port.

Thread Priorities with DPDK

When using DPDK, threads that call rx_streamer::recv() or tx_streamer::send() need to have an elevated priority for best results. This can be accomplished by using the uhd::set_thread_priority_safe() API call.