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Linux Observability with BPF by Lorenzo Fontana, David Calavera

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Chapter 3. BPF Maps

Message passing to invoke behavior in a program is a widely used technique in software engineering. A program can modify another program’s behavior by sending messages; this also allows the exchange of information between those programs. One of the most fascinating aspects about BPF, is that the code running on the kernel and the program that loaded said code can communicate with each other at runtime using message passing.

In this chapter we cover how BPF programs and user-space programs can talk to one another. We describe the different channels of communication between the kernel and user-space, and how they store information. We also show you use cases for those channels and how to make the data in those channels persistent between programs initialization.

BPF maps are key/value stores that reside in the kernel. They can be accessed by any BPF program that knows about them. Programs that run in user-space can also access these maps by using file descriptors. You can store any kind of data in a map, as long as you specify the data size correctly beforehand. The kernel treats keys and values as binary blobs, and it doesn’t care about what you keep in a map.

The BPF verifier includes several safeguards to ensure that the way you create and access maps is safe. We talk about these guarantees when we explain how to access data in these maps.

Creating BPF Maps

The most direct way to create a BPF map is by using the bpf syscall. When the first argument in the ...

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