DPDK IPv4 L3fwd


The dpdk-l3fwd sample application demonstrates the use of the hash, LPM and FIB based lookup methods provided in DPDK to implement packet forwarding using poll mode or event mode PMDs for packet I/O. The instructions provided in this guide do not cover all the features of this sample application. Users can refer to dpdk-l3fwd user guide to learn and experiment additional features.

Test Setup

This guide assumes the following setup:

+------------------+                              +-------------------+
|                  |                              |                   |
|  Traffic         |                         +----|       DUT         |
|  Generator       | Ethernet Connection(s)  | N  |                   |
|                  |<----------------------->| I  |                   |
|                  |                         | C  |                   |
|                  |                         +----|                   |
+------------------+                              +-------------------+

As shown, the Device Under Test (DUT) should have at least one NIC port connected to the traffic generator. The user can use any traffic generator.

Get NIC PCIe Address

Identify the PCIe addresses of the NIC ports attached to the traffic generator. Once the interface is known, then dpdk-devbind.py can identify the matching PCIe address:

cd $NW_DS_WORKSPACE/dataplane-stack
sudo components/dpdk/usertools/dpdk-devbind.py -s

The output may look like:

Network devices using kernel driver
0000:07:00.0 'RTL8111/8168/8411 PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet Controller 8168' if=enp7s0 drv=r8169 unused=vfio-pci *Active*
0001:01:00.0 'MT28800 Family [ConnectX-5 Ex] 1019' if=enP1p1s0f0 drv=mlx5_core unused=vfio-pci
0001:01:00.1 'MT28800 Family [ConnectX-5 Ex] 1019' if=enP1p1s0f1 drv=mlx5_core unused=vfio-pci

In this example output, if the interface enP1p1s0f0 is connected to the traffic generator, then the corresponding PCIe address is 0001:01:00.0.

Bind NIC to Proper Linux Driver

For NICs that support bifurcated drivers, like Mellanox NICs, please skip this step.

For other NICs to be used by DPDK, the NIC needs to be bound to the appropriate driver. In practice, the vfio-pci driver is sufficient. Before using vfio-pci, be sure to load the kernel module with modprobe vfio-pci. For more information, review DPDK’s Linux Drivers Guide.

To bind the NIC to the appropriate driver, run:

cd $NW_DS_WORKSPACE/dataplane-stack
sudo modprobe vfio-pci # ensure kernel module is loaded
sudo components/dpdk/usertools/dpdk-devbind.py -b vfio-pci <pcie_address>

For example, to bind PCIe address 0000:06:00.1 to vfio-pci:

sudo modprobe vfio-pci # ensure kernel module is loaded
sudo components/dpdk/usertools/dpdk-devbind.py -b vfio-pci 0000:06:00.1


To run DPDK L3fwd application:

cd $NW_DS_WORKSPACE/dataplane-stack
sudo components/dpdk/build/examples/dpdk-l3fwd [EAL Options] -- [L3fwd App Options]

Refer to DPDK documentation for supported EAL Options and L3fwd App Options.

For the configuration provided in setup.sh and a test setup with port 0 connected to the traffic generator, use the following command to run the application:

cd $NW_DS_WORKSPACE/dataplane-stack
sudo components/dpdk/build/examples/dpdk-l3fwd -n 4 -l 2 -a <pcie_address> -- -P -p 0x1 --config='(0,0,2)'

For example, to run dpdk-l3fwd using 0001:01:00.0:

cd $NW_DS_WORKSPACE/dataplane-stack
sudo components/dpdk/build/examples/dpdk-l3fwd -n 4 -l 2 -a 0001:01:00.0 -- -P -p 0x1 --config='(0,0,2)'


The typical output for the above command contains:

Initializing port 0 ... Creating queues: nb_rxq=1 nb_txq=1...
Address:98:03:9B:71:24:2E, Destination:02:00:00:00:00:00, Allocated mbuf pool on socket 0
LPM: Adding route / 24 (0) [0001:01:00.0]
LPM: Adding route 2001:200:: / 64 (0) [0001:01:00.0]

These logs show port 0 has MAC address 98:03:9B:71:24:2E with PCIe address 0001:01:00.0 on the DUT. An IPv4 route matching the subnet is added.

Configure the traffic generator to send packets to the NIC port, using the MAC and IP address displayed in the logs. In this example, use a destination MAC address of 98:03:9B:71:24:2E and a destination IP of Then, dpdk-l3fwd will forward those packets out on port 0.


Stop the dpdk-l3fwd process with Control-C or kill. Next, if the NIC had been bound to a different Linux driver, rebind it to its original driver. Find the original driver by running dpdk-devbind.py -s, and notice the unused= part of the PCIe address.

For example, sample output from dpdk-devbind.py -s may look like:

Network devices using DPDK-compatible driver
0000:07:00.0 'Ethernet Controller XL710 for 40GbE QSFP+ 1583' drv=vfio-pci unused=i40e

In this example, bind 0000:07:00.0 to the i40e Linux driver with the following command:

cd $NW_DS_WORKSPACE/dataplane-stack
sudo components/dpdk/usertools/dpdk-devbind.py -b i40e 0000:07:00.0

Suggested Experiments

The example provided above covers a very simple use case of the DPDK L3fwd application. Users are encouraged to experiment with various options provided by the application.

The users are also encouraged to try the following options to understand the performance and scalability possible with Arm platforms.

  • Number of RX/TX ring descriptors: This can affect the performance in multiple ways. For example, if the DUT is capable of storing the incoming packets in the system cache, the incoming packets can trash the system cache, reducing the overall performance. To understand how these affect the performance, experiment by changing the number of descriptors. Change RTE_TEST_RX_DESC_DEFAULT and RTE_TEST_TX_DESC_DEFAULT in file l3fwd.h and recompile DPDK.

  • --config: This parameter assigns the NIC RX queues to CPU cores. It is possible that a single queue might not be able to saturate a single CPU core. One can experiment by assigning multiple queues to a single core. For example, the option --config='(0,0,1),(0,1,1)' assigns port 0’s queues 0 and 1 to lcore 1. Ensure that Receive Side Scaling (RSS) distributes the packets equally to all the enabled queues by sending multiple flows of traffic.

  • CPU Scalability: Add more ports to DUT and run the application on more CPU cores to understand how the performance scales with the addition of CPU cores. Ensure that Receive Side Scaling (RSS) distributes the packets equally to all of the enabled queues by sending multiple flows of traffic.

  • Route Scalability: Add additional routes and multiple flows of traffic that exercise these routes. Additional routes can be added such that the accessed data size is more than the available L1, L2 or system cache size.

    To change forwarding rules, edit the global constants in:

    • main.c: edit ipv4_l3fwd_route_array or ipv6_l3fwd_route_array to adjust default routes for FIB or LPM lookups.

DPDK in this solution is built with all the sample applications enabled. The users can run other sample applications by following the instructions in DPDK’s Sample Applications User Guide.


  1. DPDK Linux Getting Started Guide on DPDK Drivers

  2. DPDK User Guide on dpdk-l3fwd

  3. DPDK’s dpdk-devbind.py documentation

  4. DPDK Poll Mode Drivers

  5. DPDK Event Mode