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Linux Observability with BPF by Lorenzo Fontana, David Calavera

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Chapter 9. Real-World Use Cases

The most important question to ask yourself when implementing a new technology is: “What are the use cases for this out there?” That’s why we decided to interview the creators of some of the most exciting BPF projects out there to share their ideas.

Sysdig eBPF God Mode

Sysdig, the company that makes the eponymous open source Linux troubleshooting tool, started playing with eBPF in 2017 under kernel 4.11.

It has been historically using a kernel module to extract and do all the kernel-side work, but as the user base increased and when more and more companies started experimenting, the company acknowledged that it is a limitation for the majority of external actors, in many ways:

  • There’s an increasing number of users who can’t load kernel modules on their machines. Cloud-native platforms are becoming more and more restrictive against what runtime programs can do.

  • New contributors (and even old) don’t understand the architecture of a kernel module. That decreases the overall number of contributors and is a limiting factor for the growth of the project itself.

  • Kernel modules maintenance is difficult, not just because of writing the code, but also because of the effort needed to keep it safe and well organized.

For those motivations, Sysdig decided to try the approach of writing the same set of features it has in the module but using an eBPF program instead. Another benefit that automatically comes from adopting eBPF is the possibility for Sysdig ...

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