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Bus-Independent Device Accesses


Linux provides an API which abstracts performing IO across all busses and devices, allowing device drivers to be written independently of bus type.

Known Bugs And Assumptions


Memory Mapped IO

Getting Access to the Device

The most widely supported form of IO is memory mapped IO. That is, a part of the CPU's address space is interpreted not as accesses to memory, but as accesses to a device. Some architectures define devices to be at a fixed address, but most have some method of discovering devices. The PCI bus walk is a good example of such a scheme. This document does not cover how to receive such an address, but assumes you are starting with one. Physical addresses are of type unsigned long.

This address should not be used directly. Instead, to get an address suitable for passing to the accessor functions described below, you should call ioremap. An address suitable for accessing the device will be returned to you.

After you've finished using the device (say, in your module's exit routine), call iounmap in order to return the address space to the kernel. Most architectures allocate new address space each time you call ioremap, and they can run out unless you call iounmap.

Accessing the device

The part of the interface most used by drivers is reading and writing memory-mapped registers on the device. Linux provides interfaces to read and write 8-bit, 16-bit, 32-bit and 64-bit quantities. Due to a historical accident, these are named byte, word, long and quad accesses. Both read and write accesses are supported; there is no prefetch support at this time.

The functions are named readb, readw, readl, readq, readb_relaxed, readw_relaxed, readl_relaxed, readq_relaxed, writeb, writew, writel and writeq.

Some devices (such as framebuffers) would like to use larger transfers than 8 bytes at a time. For these devices, the memcpy_toio, memcpy_fromio and memset_io functions are provided. Do not use memset or memcpy on IO addresses; they are not guaranteed to copy data in order.

The read and write functions are defined to be ordered. That is the compiler is not permitted to reorder the I/O sequence. When the ordering can be compiler optimised, you can use __readb and friends to indicate the relaxed ordering. Use this with care.

While the basic functions are defined to be synchronous with respect to each other and ordered with respect to each other the busses the devices sit on may themselves have asynchronicity. In particular many authors are burned by the fact that PCI bus writes are posted asynchronously. A driver author must issue a read from the same device to ensure that writes have occurred in the specific cases the author cares. This kind of property cannot be hidden from driver writers in the API. In some cases, the read used to flush the device may be expected to fail (if the card is resetting, for example). In that case, the read should be done from config space, which is guaranteed to soft-fail if the card doesn't respond.

The following is an example of flushing a write to a device when the driver would like to ensure the write's effects are visible prior to continuing execution.

static inline void
qla1280_disable_intrs(struct scsi_qla_host *ha)
	struct device_reg *reg;

	reg = ha->iobase;
	/* disable risc and host interrupts */
	WRT_REG_WORD(&reg->ictrl, 0);
	 * The following read will ensure that the above write
	 * has been received by the device before we return from this
	 * function.
	ha->flags.ints_enabled = 0;

In addition to write posting, on some large multiprocessing systems (e.g. SGI Challenge, Origin and Altix machines) posted writes won't be strongly ordered coming from different CPUs. Thus it's important to properly protect parts of your driver that do memory-mapped writes with locks and use the mmiowb to make sure they arrive in the order intended. Issuing a regular readX will also ensure write ordering, but should only be used when the driver has to be sure that the write has actually arrived at the device (not that it's simply ordered with respect to other writes), since a full readX is a relatively expensive operation.

Generally, one should use mmiowb prior to releasing a spinlock that protects regions using writeb or similar functions that aren't surrounded by readb calls, which will ensure ordering and flushing. The following pseudocode illustrates what might occur if write ordering isn't guaranteed via mmiowb or one of the readX functions.

CPU A:  spin_lock_irqsave(&dev_lock, flags)
CPU A:  ...
CPU A:  writel(newval, ring_ptr);
CPU A:  spin_unlock_irqrestore(&dev_lock, flags)
CPU B:  spin_lock_irqsave(&dev_lock, flags)
CPU B:  writel(newval2, ring_ptr);
CPU B:  ...
CPU B:  spin_unlock_irqrestore(&dev_lock, flags)

In the case above, newval2 could be written to ring_ptr before newval. Fixing it is easy though:

CPU A:  spin_lock_irqsave(&dev_lock, flags)
CPU A:  ...
CPU A:  writel(newval, ring_ptr);
CPU A:  mmiowb(); /* ensure no other writes beat us to the device */
CPU A:  spin_unlock_irqrestore(&dev_lock, flags)
CPU B:  spin_lock_irqsave(&dev_lock, flags)
CPU B:  writel(newval2, ring_ptr);
CPU B:  ...
CPU B:  mmiowb();
CPU B:  spin_unlock_irqrestore(&dev_lock, flags)

See tg3.c for a real world example of how to use mmiowb

PCI ordering rules also guarantee that PIO read responses arrive after any outstanding DMA writes from that bus, since for some devices the result of a readb call may signal to the driver that a DMA transaction is complete. In many cases, however, the driver may want to indicate that the next readb call has no relation to any previous DMA writes performed by the device. The driver can use readb_relaxed for these cases, although only some platforms will honor the relaxed semantics. Using the relaxed read functions will provide significant performance benefits on platforms that support it. The qla2xxx driver provides examples of how to use readX_relaxed. In many cases, a majority of the driver's readX calls can safely be converted to readX_relaxed calls, since only a few will indicate or depend on DMA completion.

Port Space Accesses

Port Space Explained

Another form of IO commonly supported is Port Space. This is a range of addresses separate to the normal memory address space. Access to these addresses is generally not as fast as accesses to the memory mapped addresses, and it also has a potentially smaller address space.

Unlike memory mapped IO, no preparation is required to access port space.

Accessing Port Space

Accesses to this space are provided through a set of functions which allow 8-bit, 16-bit and 32-bit accesses; also known as byte, word and long. These functions are inb, inw, inl, outb, outw and outl.

Some variants are provided for these functions. Some devices require that accesses to their ports are slowed down. This functionality is provided by appending a _p to the end of the function. There are also equivalents to memcpy. The ins and outs functions copy bytes, words or longs to the given port.

Public Functions Provided

  • /srv/checkouts/trunk/linux//arch/x86/include/asm/io_32.h - Document generation inconsistency

Oops :

  • pci_iomap - create a virtual mapping cookie for a PCI BAR


void __iomem * pci_iomap ( struct pci_dev * dev )


  • dev - PCI device that owns the BAR
  • bar - BAR number
  • maxlen - length of the memory to map


Using this function you will get a __iomem address to your device BAR. You can access it using ioread*() and iowrite*(). These functions hide the details if this is a MMIO or PIO address space and will just do what you expect from them in the correct way.

maxlen specifies the maximum length to map. If you want to get access to the complete BAR without checking for its length first, pass 0 here.

About This Book


  • Matthew Wilcox
  • Alan Cox

Copyright 2001

  • Matthew Wilcox

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