Wireshark-dev: Re: [Wireshark-dev] Filebacked-tvbuffs : GSoC'13
From: Jeff Morriss <[email protected]>
Date: Thu, 18 Apr 2013 11:55:20 -0400
On 04/15/13 10:01, Ambarisha B wrote:
Hi dev,

I am a final year engineering student pursuing my bachelors in Computer
Science. I was going through the GSoC'13 ideas page and found
"Filebacked-tvbuffs" interesting, so I looked it up. Here's a (probably
not so) short summary of what I did and understood. I'm only a novice,
so if I've got something wrong, please, enlighten me.

I went through the (interesting) archived conversation linked on the
ideas page. I've realized most of the discussion was about "how to deal
with large captures, so that users don't have to break up the captures".
Swapping or if needed mmaped files would help. But since the goal of
this project is to cut down the memory usage, I guess we're looking at
non-mmaped files.

The project description says that data in packet-bytes view and
packet-details view is duplicate of that on the disk. I tried to look
this up in the code. So, originally the data is in a capture_file and
wtap_*() gets the data out of that and it is finally handed to
dissect_packet() which actually makes the tvbuff out of it and passes to
the sub-dissectors(dissect_frame etc).
Yes.  But the stuff in the packet-details view isn't what I consider to 
be the problem (normally): that stuff is only kept in memory as long as 
it's on your screen.  The real problem (which I thought 
file-backed-tvbuffs might solve) would be when dissectors have to make 
copies of tvbuffs in order to do, for example, reassembly.  Those copies 
are malloc()'d and it is believed that, in some situations, they account 
for a lot of Wireshark's memory usage.
(A good side project would be to add some tracking to Wireshark's memory 
allocations so we could be sure how much of a problem this is.  For 
example, a while ago someone pointed out that actually a huge amount of 
memory goes to storing frame_data's.)
Anyway, if reassembly could be done using composite + file-backed 
tvbuffs then a lot of that alloc'd memory could go away.
I think I now have an idea of how I would back up tvbuff by a hard disk.
We add another "type" of tvbuff which is backed up by a file, the same
way TVBUFF_SUBSET is backed by another tvbuff. Next we think about "how
to back it by a file?". Ofcourse, we can implement a neat cache in the
tvb layer itself, tuned for our accesses. But I have a couple of
thoughts on this. Do tell me, if I am missing something here.

If we are accessing all the data in the tvbuff in one shot, there
wouldn't be much use of a cache. Infact, it'll add housekeeping
overhead. On the other hand, if we're making small repeated accesses to
the data, a no-cache implementation would be pitifully slow. For this I
need to look at usage of tvbuffs in those two views more closely. Also,
now that there's this abstraction, the interface for accessing
filebacked-tvbuff has to be a little different than normal tvbuffs
(because the data access might require some housekeeping as opposed to
the direct access of tvb->real_data+offset).
I suspect there would have to be *some* amount of caching: for example 
we really wouldn't want to go off and read one byte off of the disk each 
time someone calls tvb_get_guint8().
I would expect that normally a tvbuff will have a lot of accesses in a 
very short period of time, then no accesses for quite a while, then 
another burst of accesses (corresponding to the frame or PDU in question 
being dissected when the file is read and then not accessed again until 
the user clicks or scrolls past the frame in question).
I thought I should talk to you guys first, because I could be going on a
wild-goose-chase with this. If there's something you want me to take a
look at or study, please do let me know. Also, if you can point me to a
little bug, so that I can get my hands dirty, that'll be great.
I doubt there's much in the way of a bug to look at; I think to get your 
hands dirty you'd have to start digging into how, for example, the 
tvbuffs and reassembly work and see if it can be put together.