Kea 2.7.0
Hooks Maintenance Guide


This document is aimed at Kea maintainers responsible for the hooks system. It provides an overview of the classes that make up the hooks framework and notes important aspects of processing. More detailed information can be found in the source code.

It is assumed that the reader is familiar with the contents of the Hooks Developer's Guide and the Guide to Hooks for the Kea Component Developer.

Hooks Framework Objects

The relationships between the various objects in the hooks framework is shown below:

High-Level Class Diagram of the Hooks Framework

(To avoid clutter, the Server Hooks object, used to pass information about registered hooks to the components, is not shown on the diagram.)

The hooks framework objects can be split into user-side objects and server-side objects. The former are those objects used or referenced by user-written hooks libraries. The latter are those objects used in the hooks framework.

User-Side Objects

The user-side code is able to access two objects in the framework, the Callout Handle and the Library Handle. The Callout Handle is used to pass data between the Kea component and the loaded library; the Library Handle is used for registering callouts.

Callout Handle

The isc::hooks::CalloutHandle has two functions: passing arguments between the Kea component and the user-written library, and storing per-request context between library calls. In both cases the data is stored in a std::map structure, keyed by argument (or context item) name. The actual data is stored in a boost::any object, which allows any data type to be stored, although a penalty for this flexibility is the restriction (mentioned in the Hooks Developer's Guide) that the type of data retrieved must be identical (and not just compatible) with that stored.

The storage of context data is slightly complex because there is separate context for each user library. For this reason, the Callout Handle has multiple maps, one for each library loaded. The maps are stored in another map, the appropriate map being identified by the "current library index" (this index is explained further below). The reason for the second map (rather than a structure such as a vector) is to avoid creating individual context maps unless needed; given the key to the map (in this case the current library index) accessing an element in a map using the operator[] method returns the element in question if it exists, or creates a new one (and stores it in the map) if its doesn't.

Library Handle

Little more than a restricted interface to the Callout Manager, the isc::hooks::LibraryHandle allows a callout to register and deregister callouts. However, there are some quirks to callout registration which, although the processing involved is in the Callout Manager, are best described here.

Firstly, a callout can be deregistered by a function within a user library only if it was registered by a function within that library. That is to say, if library A registers the callout A_func() on hook "alpha" and library B registers B_func(), functions within library A are only able to remove A_func() (and functions in library B remove B_func()). The restriction - here to prevent one library interfering with the callouts of another - is enforced by means of the current library index. As described below, each entry in the vector of callouts associated with a hook is a pair object, comprising a pointer to the callout and the index of the library with which it is associated. A callout can only modify entries in that vector where the current library index matches the index element of the pair.

A second quirk is that when dynamically modifying the list of callouts, the change only takes effect when the current call out from the server completes. To clarify this, suppose that functions A_func(), B_func() and C_func() are registered on a hook, and the server executes a callout on the hook. Suppose also during this call, A_func() removes the callout C_func() and that B_func() adds D_func(). As changes only take effect when the current call out completes, the user callouts executed will be A_func(), B_func() then C_func(). When the server calls the hook callouts again, the functions executed will be A_func(), B_func() and D_func().

This restriction is down to implementation. When a set of callouts on a hook is being called, the Callout Manager iterates through a vector (the "callout vector") of (index, callout pointer) pairs. Since registration or deregistration of a callout on that hook would change the vector (and so potentially invalidate the iterators used to access the it), a copy of the vector is taken before the iteration starts. The Callout Manager iterates over this copy while any changes made by the callout registration functions affect the relevant callout vector. Such approach was chosen because of performance considerations.

Server-Side Objects

Those objects are not accessible by user libraries. Please do not attempt to use them if you are developing user callouts.

Server Hooks

The singleton isc::hooks::ServerHooks object is used to register hooks. It is little more than a wrapper around a map of (hook index, hook name), generating a unique number (the hook index) for each hook registered. It also handles the registration of the pre-defined context_create and context_destroy hooks.

In operation, the Hooks Manager provides a thin wrapper around it, so that the Kea component developer does not have to worry about another object.

Library Manager

An isc::hooks::LibraryManager is created by the Hooks Manager object for each shared library loaded. It controls the loading and unloading of the library and in essence represents the library in the hooks framework. It also handles the registration of the standard callouts (functions in the library with the same name as the hook name).

Of particular importance is the "library's index", a number associated with the library. This is passed to the LibraryManager at creation time and is used to tag the callout pointers. It is discussed further below.

As the LibraryManager provides all the methods needed to manage the shared library, it is the natural home for the static validateLibrary() method. The function called the parsing of the Kea configuration, when the "hooks-libraries" element is processed. It checks that shared library exists, that it can be opened, that it contains the version() function and that that function returns a valid value. It then closes the shared library and returns an appropriate indication as to the library status.

Library Manager Collection

The hooks framework can handle multiple libraries and as a result will create a Library Manager for each of them. The collection of LibraryManagers is managed by the isc::hooks::LibraryManagerCollection object which, in most cases has a method corresponding to a Library Manager method, e.g. it has a loadLibraries() that corresponds to the Library Manager's loadLibrary() call. As would be expected, methods on the LibraryManagerCollection iterate through all specified libraries, calling the corresponding LibraryManager method for each library.

One point of note is that LibraryManagerCollection operates on an "all or none" principle. When loadLibraries() is called, on exit either all libraries have been successfully opened or none of them have. There is no use-case in Kea where, after a user has specified the shared libraries they want to load, the system will operate with only some of them loaded.

The LibraryManagerCollection is the place where each library's index is set. Each library is assigned a number ranging from 1 through to the number of libraries being loaded. As mentioned in the previous section, this index is used to tag callout pointers, something that is discussed in the next section.

(Whilst on the subject of library index numbers, two additional numbers - 0 and INT_MAX - are also valid as "current library index". For flexibility, the Kea component is able to register its own functions as hook callouts. It does this by obtaining a suitable Library Handle from the Hooks Manager. A choice of two is available: one Library Handle (with an index of 0) can be used to register a callout on a hook to execute before any user-supplied callouts. The second (with an index of INT_MAX) is used to register a callout to run after user-specified callouts. Apart from the index number, the hooks framework does not treat these callouts any differently from user-supplied ones.)

Callout Manager

The isc::hooks::CalloutManager is the core of the framework insofar as the registration and calling of callouts is concerned.

It maintains a "hook vector" - a vector with one element for each registered hook. Each element in this vector is itself a vector (the callout vector), each element of which is a pair of (library index, callback pointer). When a callout is registered, the CalloutManager's current library index is used to supply the "library index" part of the pair. The library index is set explicitly by the Library Manager prior to calling the user library's load() function (and prior to registering the standard callbacks).

The situation is slightly more complex when a callout is executing. In order to execute a callout, the CalloutManager's callCallouts() method must be called. This iterates through the callout vector for a hook and for each element in the vector, uses the "library index" part of the pair to set the "current library index" before calling the callout function recorded in the second part of the pair. In most cases, the setting of the library index has no effect on the callout. However, if the callout wishes to dynamically register or deregister a callout, the Library Handle (see above) calls a method on the Callout Manager which in turn uses that information.

Hooks Manager

The isc::hooks::HooksManager is the main object insofar as the server is concerned. It controls the creation of the library-related objects and provides the framework in which they interact. It also provides a shell around objects such as Server Hooks so that all interaction with the hooks framework by the server is through the HooksManager object. Apart from this, it supplies no functionality to the hooks framework.

Other Issues

Memory Allocation

Unloading a shared library works by unmapping the part of the process's virtual address space in which the library lies. This may lead to problems if there are still references to that address space elsewhere in the process.

In many operating systems, heap storage allowed by a shared library will lie in the virtual address allocated to the library. This has implications in the hooks framework because:

  • Argument information stored in a Callout Handle by a callout in a library may lie in the library's address space.
  • Data modified in objects passed as arguments may lie in the address space. For example, it is common for a DHCP callout to add "options" to a packet: the memory allocated for those options will most likely lie in library address space.

The problem really arises because of the extensive use by Kea of boost smart pointers. When the pointer is destroyed, the pointed-to memory is deallocated. If the pointer points to address space that is unmapped because a library has been unloaded, the deletion causes a segmentation fault.

The hooks framework addresses the issue for the Callout Handle by keeping in that object a shared pointer to the object controlling library unloading (the Library Manager Collection). Although the libraries can be unloaded at any time, it is only when every Callout Handle that could possibly reference address space in the library have been deleted that the library will actually be unloaded and the address space unmapped.

The hooks framework cannot solve the second issue as the objects in question are under control of the Kea server incorporating the hooks. It is up to the server developer to ensure that all such objects have been destroyed before libraries are reloaded. In extreme cases this may mean the server suspending all processing of incoming requests until all currently executing requests have completed and data object destroyed, reloading the libraries, then resuming processing.

Since Kea 1.7.10 the unload() entry point is called as the first phase of unloading. This gives more chance to hooks writer to perform necessary cleanup actions so the second phase, memory unmapping can safely happen. The isc::hooks::unloadLibraries() function was updated too to return false when at least one active callout handle remained.

Hooks and Statically-Linked Kea

Kea has the configuration option to allow static linking. What this means is that it links against the static Kea libraries and not the sharable ones - although it links against the sharable system libraries like "libc" and "libstdc++" and well as the sharable libraries for third-party packages such as log4cplus and MySql.

Static linking poses a problem for dynamically-loaded hooks libraries as some of the code in them - in particular the hooks framework and the logging code - depend on global objects created within the Kea libraries. In the normal course of events (Kea linked against shared libraries), when Kea is run and the operating system loads a Kea shared library containing a global object, address space is assigned for it. When the hooks framework loads a user-library linked against the same Kea shared library, the operating system recognizes that the library is already loaded (and initialized) and uses its definition of the global object. Thus both the code in the Kea image and the code in the user-written shared library reference the same object.

If Kea is statically linked, the linker allocates address space in the Kea image for the global object and does not include any reference to the shared library containing it. When Kea now loads the user-written shared library - and so loads the Kea library code containing the global object - the operating system does not know that the object already exists. Instead, it allocates new address space. The version of Kea in memory therefore has two copies of the object: one referenced by code in the Kea image, and one referenced by code in the user-written hooks library. This causes problems - information put in one copy is not available to the other.

Particular problems were encountered with global objects the hooks library and in the logging library, so some code to alleviate the problem has been included.

The issue in the hooks library is the singleton isc::hooks::ServerHooks object, used by the user-written hooks library if it attempts to register or deregister callouts. The contents of the singleton - the names of the hook points and their index - are set by the relevant Kea server; this information is not available in the singleton created in the user's hooks library.

Within the code users by the user's hooks library, the ServerHooks object is used by isc::hooks::CalloutHandle and isc::hooks::CalloutManager objects. Both these objects are passed to the hooks library code when a callout is called: the former directly through the callout argument list, the latter indirectly as a pointer to it is stored in the CalloutHandle. This allows a solution to the problem: instead of accessing the singleton via ServerHooks::getServerHooks(), the constructors of these objects store a reference to the singleton ServerHooks when they are created and use that reference to access ServerHooks data. Since both CalloutHandle and CalloutManager are created in the statically-linked Kea server, use of the reference means that it is the singleton within the server - and not the one within the user's hooks library - that is referenced.

The solution of the logging problem is not so straightforward. Within Kea, there are two logging components, the Kea logging framework and the log4cplus libraries. Owing to static linking, there are two instances of the former; but as static linking uses shared libraries of third-party products, there is one instance of the latter. What further complicates matters is that initialization of the logging framework is in two parts: static initialization and run-time initialization.

The logging initialization comprises the following:

  1. Static initialization of the log4cplus global variables.
  2. Static initialization of messages in the various Kea libraries.
  3. Static initialization of logging framework.
  4. Run-time initialization of the logging framework.
  5. Run-time initialization of log4cplus

As both the Kea server and the user-written hooks libraries use the log4cplus shared library, item 1 - the static initialization of the log4cplus global variables is performed once.

The next two tasks - static initialization of the messages in the Kea libraries and the static initialization of the logging framework - are performed twice, once in the context of the Kea server and once in the context of the hooks library. For this reason, run-time initialization of the logging framework needs to be performed twice, once in the context of the Kea server and once in the context of the user-written hooks library. However, the standard logging framework initialization code also performs the last task, initialization of log4cplus, something that causes problems if executed more than once.

To get round this, the function isc::hooks::hooksStaticLinkInit() has been written. It executes the only part of the logging framework run-time initialization that actually pertains to the logging framework and not log4cplus, namely loading the message dictionary with the statically-initialized messages in the Kea libraries. This should be executed by any hooks library linking against a statically initialized Kea. (In fact, running it against a dynamically-linked Kea should have no effect, as the load operation discards any duplicate message entries.) The hooks library tests do this, the code being conditionally compiled within a test of the USE_STATIC_LINK macro, set by the configure script.

Not everything is completely rosy with logging and static linking. In particular, there appears to be an issue with the scenario where a user-written hooks library is run by a statically-linked Kea and then unloaded. As far as can be determined, on unload the system attempts to delete the same logger twice. This is alleviated by explicitly clearing the loggerptr_ variable in the isc::log::Logger destructor, but there is a suspicion that some memory might be lost in these circumstances. This is still under investigation.