{ Maíra Canal }

Rust for VGEM


Tags: #igalia #graphics

In the last blog post, I pointed out that I didn’t know exactly what it would be my next steps for the near future. Gladly, I had the amazing opportunity to start a new Igalia Coding Experience with a new project.

This time Melissa Wen pitched me with the idea to play around with Rust for Linux in order to rewrite the VGEM driver in Rust. The Rust for Linux project is growing fast with new bindings and abstractions being introduced in the downstream RfL kernel. Also, some basic functionalities were introduced in Linux 6.1. Therefore, it seems like a great timing to start exploring Rust in the DRM subsystem!

Why Rust?

As mentioned by the Rust website, using Rust means Performance, Reliability, and Productivity. Rust is a blazingly fast and memory-efficient language with its powerful ownership model. No more looking for use-after-free and memory leaks, as Rust guarantees memory safety and thread safety, eliminating a handful of bugs at compile-time.

Moreover, Rust provides a new way of programming. The language provides beautiful features such as traits, enums, and error handling, that can make us feel empowered by the language. We can use a lot of concepts from functional programming and mix them with concepts from OOP, for example.

Although I’m an absolute beginner in Rust, I can see the major advantages of the Rust programming language. From the start, it was a bit tough to enjoy the language, as I was fighting with the compiler most of the time. But now that I have a more firm foundation on Rust, it is possible to appreciate the beauty in Rust and I don’t see myself starting a new project in C++ for a long while.

Bringing Rust to the Linux Kernel is a ambitious idea, but it can lead to great changes. We can think about a world where no developers are looking for memory leaks and use-after-free bugs due to the safety that Rust can provide us.

Rust on DRM

Now, what about Rust for DRM? I mean, I’m not the first one to think about it. Asahi Lina is making a fantastic work on the Apple M1 GPU and things are moving quite fast there. She already had great safe abstractions for the DRM bindings and provides us the very basis for anyone who is willing to start a new DRM driver in Rust, which is my case.

That said, why not make use of Lina’s excellent bindings to build a new driver?

Rust for VGEM

VGEM (Virtual GEM Provider) is a minimal non-hardware backed GEM (Graphics Execution Manager) service. It is used with non-native 3D hardware for buffer sharing between the X server and DRI. It is a fairly simple driver with about 400 lines of code and it uses the DMA Fence API to handle attaching and signaling the fences.

So, to rewrite VGEM in Rust, some bindings are needed, e.g. bindings for platform device, for XArray, and for dealing with DMA fence and DMA reservations. Furthermore, many DRM abstractions are needed as well.

In this sense, a lot of the DRM abstractions are already developed by Lina and also she is developing abstractions for DMA fence. So, in this project, I’ll be focusing on the bindings that Lina and the RfL folks haven’t developed yet.

After developing the bindings, it is a matter of developing the driver, which it’ll be quite simple after all DMA abstractions are set, because most of the driver consists of fence manipulation.

Current Status

I have developed the main platform device registration of the driver. As VGEM is a virtual device, the standard probe initialization is not useful, as a virtual device cannot be probed by the pseudo-bus that holds the platform devices. So, as VGEM is not a usual hotplugged device, we need to use the legacy platform device initialization. This made me develop my first binding for legacy registration:

/// Add a platform-level device and its resources
pub fn register(name: &'static CStr, id: i32) -> Result<Self> {
	let pdev = from_kernel_err_ptr(unsafe {
		bindings::platform_device_register_simple(name.as_char_ptr(), id,
			core::ptr::null(), 0)

	Ok(Self {
		ptr: pdev,
		used_resource: 0,
		is_registered: true,

For sure, the registration must follow the unregistration of the device, so I implemented a Drop trait for the struct Device in order to guarantee the proper device removal without explicitly calling it.

impl Drop for Device {
	fn drop(&mut self) {
		if self.is_registered {
			// SAFETY: This path only runs if a previous call to `register`
			// completed successfully.
			unsafe { bindings::platform_device_unregister(self.ptr) };

After those, I also developed bindings for a couple of more functions and together with Lina’s bindings, I could initialize the platform device and register the DRM device under a DRM minor!

[   38.825684] vgem: vgem_init: platform_device with id -1
[   38.826505] [drm] Initialized vgem 1.0.0 20230201 for vgem on minor 0
[   38.858230] vgem: Opening...
[   38.862377] vgem: Closing...
[   41.543416] vgem: vgem_exit: drop

Next, I focused on the development of the two IOCTLs: drm_vgem_fence_attach and drm_vgem_fence_signal. The first is responsable for creating and attaching a fence to the VGEM handle, while the second signals and consumes a fence earlier attached to a VGEM handle.

In order to add a fence, bindings to DMA reservation are needed. So, I started by creating a safe abstraction for struct dma_resv.

/// A generic DMA Resv Object
/// # Invariants
/// ptr is a valid pointer to a dma_resv and we own a reference to it.
pub struct DmaResv {
    ptr: *mut bindings::dma_resv,

impl DmaResv {
    /// Add a fence to the dma_resv object
    pub fn add_fences(
        fence: &dyn RawDmaFence,
        num_fences: u32,
        usage: bindings::dma_resv_usage,
    ) -> Result {
        unsafe { bindings::dma_resv_lock(self.ptr, core::ptr::null_mut()) };

        let ret = self.reserve_fences(num_fences);
        match ret {
            Ok(_) => {
                // SAFETY: ptr is locked with dma_resv_lock(), and dma_resv_reserve_fences()
                // has been called.
                unsafe {
                    bindings::dma_resv_add_fence(self.ptr, fence.raw(), usage);
            Err(_) => {}
        unsafe { bindings::dma_resv_unlock(self.ptr) };


With that step, I could simply write the IOCTLs based on the new DmaResv abstraction and Lina’s fence abstractions.

To test the IOCTLs, I used some already available IGT tests: dmabuf_sync_file and vgem_basic. Those tests use VGEM as it base, so if the tests pass, it means that the IOCTLs are working properly. And, after some debugging and rework in the IOCTLs, I managed to get most of the tests to pass!

[root@fedora igt-gpu-tools]# ./build/tests/dmabuf_sync_file
IGT-Version: 1.27-gaa16e812 (x86_64) (Linux: 6.2.0-rc3-asahi-02441-g6c8eda039cfb-dirty x86_64)
Starting subtest: export-basic
Subtest export-basic: SUCCESS (0.000s)
Starting subtest: export-before-signal
Subtest export-before-signal: SUCCESS (0.000s)
Starting subtest: export-multiwait
Subtest export-multiwait: SUCCESS (0.000s)
Starting subtest: export-wait-after-attach
Subtest export-wait-after-attach: SUCCESS (0.000s)

You can check out the current progress of this project on this pull request.

Next Steps

Although most of the IGT tests are now passing, two tests aren’t working yet: vgem_slow, as I haven’t introduced the timeout yet, and vgem_basic@unload, as I still need to debug why the Drop trait from drm::drv::Registration is not being called.

After bypassing those two problems, I still need to rework some of my code, as, for example, I’m using a dummy IOCTL as IOCTL number 0x00, as the current macro kernel::declare_drm_ioctl doesn’t support any drivers for which the IOCTL doesn’t start in 0x00.

So, there is a lot of work yet to be done!