Re: using DMA-API on ARM

From: Arend van Spriel
Date: Fri Dec 05 2014 - 07:43:11 EST

On 05-12-14 10:45, Russell King - ARM Linux wrote:
On Fri, Dec 05, 2014 at 10:22:22AM +0100, Arend van Spriel wrote:
For our brcm80211 development we are working on getting brcmfmac driver
up and running on a Broadcom ARM-based platform. The wireless device is
a PCIe device, which is hooked up to the system behind a PCIe host
bridge, and we transfer information between host and device using a
descriptor ring buffer allocated using dma_alloc_coherent(). We mostly
tested on x86 and seen no issue. However, on this ARM platform
(single-core A9) we detect occasionally that the descriptor content is
invalid. When this occurs we do a dma_sync_single_for_cpu() and this is
retried a number of times if the problem persists. Actually, found out
that someone made a mistake by using virt_to_dma(va) to get the
dma_handle parameter. So probably we only provided a delay in the retry
loop. After fixing that a single call to dma_sync_single_for_cpu() is
sufficient. The DMA-API-HOWTO clearly states that:

the hardware should guarantee that the device and the CPU can access the
data in parallel and will see updates made by each other without any
explicit software flushing.

So it seems incorrect that we would need to do a dma_sync for this
memory. That we do need it seems like this memory can end up in
cache(?), or whatever happens, in some rare condition. Is there anyway
to investigate this situation either through DMA-API or some low-level
ARM specific functions.

It's been a long while since I looked at the code, and the code for
dma_alloc_coherent() has completely changed since then with the
addition of CMA. I'm afraid that anything I would say about it would
not be accurate without research into the possible paths through that
code - it's no longer just a simple allocator.

I know. On this particular platform we are not using CMA.

What you say is correct however: the memory should not have any cache
lines associated with it, if it does, there's a bug somewhere.

Also, the memory will be weakly ordered, which means that writes to such
memory can be reordered. If ordering matters, barriers should be used.
rmb() and wmb() can be used for this.

Ok. You already had a peek in our code checking the memory barriers, which does not have the dma_sync_single_for_cpu() "workaround" yet. So here some more background. The problem is in DMA_FROM_DEVICE direction. Because of the possible reordering issue we first tried using rmb() in the retry loop but that did not solve it. Another experiment was to ignore the failed ring descriptor entry and proceed. So we get interrupt from device and access the ring descriptor entry. This should contain expected value X, however we get X-1 back. When proceeding everything works find until hitting the same ring descriptor entry again reading X-1 when X+1 would be valid. This lead us to the assumption that somehow this entry ended up in cache lines. The issue goes away using the dma_sync_single_for_cpu() with DMA_FROM_DEVICE in direction parameter. We are not longer using virt_to_dma() so that is no longer an issue. So is there any function interface to verify cache status.


(Added Marek for comment on dma_alloc_coherent(), Will for comment on
barrier stuff.)

To unsubscribe from this list: send the line "unsubscribe linux-kernel" in
the body of a message to majordomo@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
More majordomo info at
Please read the FAQ at