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0.1.0 Mar 9, 2023

#287 in Unix APIs

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Rust library for the BPF Type Format (BTF). The BPF Type Format is a metadata format encoding debugging information such as types, function prototypes, structure layouts, etc. and is often used, but not limited, to deal with eBPF programs.

This library was initially developed for a kernel packet tracking tool, retis, but is exported on its own as there are no specific ties with the mentioned tool and can be (re)used in all kinds of Rust projects.

btf-rs = "0.1"

The integration tests give good examples on how to use this library. We recommend reading the official BTF documentation as this library is offering a low-level API.


Parsing BTF

The main object this library offers is struct Btf, which represents a parsed BTF object. It offers helpers to resolve ids (u32), names (String) and types / chained types (enum Type).

struct Btf can be constructed using a BTF file or a split BTF one. BTF files hold self-contained information, while split BTF files are built upon a base BTF file and extend it. For example, in a standard Linux environment BTF files and split files can be found under /sys/kernel/btf, /sys/kernel/btf/vmlinux being the BTF file for the kernel and other files matching /sys/kernel/btf/<module-name> being BTF split files for its modules.

let base = Btf::from_file("/sys/kernel/btf/vmlinux").unwrap();

let ovs = Btf::from_split_file("/sys/kernel/btf/openvswitch", &base).unwrap();
let bbr = Btf::from_split_file("/sys/kernel/btf/tcp_bbr", &base).unwrap();

Btf-rs also supports constructing struct Btf using byte slices.

let base = Btf::from_bytes(&fs::read("/sys/kernel/btf/vmlinux").unwrap()).unwrap();

let ovs = Btf::from_split_bytes(&fs::read("/sys/kernel/btf/openvswitch").unwrap(), &base).unwrap();
let bbr = Btf::from_split_bytes(&fs::read("/sys/kernel/btf/bbr").unwrap(), &base).unwrap();

Resolving types

Types can be resolved using a struct Btf object. The following is an example of how a function can be inspected to retrieve information about its first parameter. Here the function kfree_skb_reason is taking a struct sk_buff * as its first argument.

let btf = Btf::from_file("/sys/kernel/btf/vmlinux").unwrap();

let func = match btf.resolve_type_by_name("kfree_skb_reason").unwrap() {
	Type::Func(func) => func,
	_ => panic!("Resolved type is not a function"),

let proto = match btf.resolve_chained_type(&func).unwrap() {
	Type::FuncProto(proto) => proto,
	_ => panic!("Resolved type is not a function proto"),

assert!(proto.parameters.len() > 1);

// The following prints "skb".
println!("{}", btf.resolve_name(&proto.parameters[0]).unwrap());

let ptr = match btf.resolve_chained_type(&proto.parameters[0]).unwrap() {
	Type::Ptr(ptr) => ptr,
	_ => panic!("Resolved type is not a pointer"),

let r#struct = match btf.resolve_chained_type(&ptr).unwrap() {
	Type::Struct(r#struct) => r#struct,
	_ => panic!("Resolved type is not a struct"),

// The following prints "sk_buff".
println!("{}", btf.resolve_name(&r#struct).unwrap());

Other information such as function scope and return value, structure size and members, etc. can be retrieved. For all those see the enum Type and its associated structures documentation.