Channel I/O: Types of devices

The last posts in this series tried to examine some basic principles of channel I/O. But what kinds of devices are actually available?

I’ll focus on the device types that are available to a guest running under QEMU.

The most important channel devices for QEMU guests (and often, the only ones present in a guest) are virtio-ccw devices. These have been used in the previous examples. Think of them as the channel I/O equivalent of virtio-pci devices: that is, a device that is discoverable in the guest and acts as a means to access the virtio device.

All virtio-ccw devices share the following characteristics:

  • Fully virtual (i.e., fully emulated). There is no “real hardware” virtio-ccw device.
  • A control unit type of 0x3832.
  • One virtual channel path, type 0x32.

New (well, to QEMU) and just recently added (will be in 2.10) are 3270 devices (the channel-attached variety). The classic green-screen console; some details about what works (and what yet doesn’t) and how to set this up may be found in the QEMU wiki.

3270 devices have the following characteristics:

  • Fully virtual (emulated). While you could passthrough 3270 devices while running under z/VM, this depends on the non-yet-merged vfio-ccw infrastructure (see below) and does not really make much sense.
  • A control unit type of 0x3270.
  • One virtual channel path, type 0x1a.

Still being worked on, but on a good track, is the vfio-ccw infrastructure. The kernel part has been merged for 4.12, the QEMU part will hopefully be merged soon. vfio-ccw brings the same functionality to channel devices that vfio-pci brought to pci devices: Give hardware devices to the guest to use. This is still quite experimental, and has only really been tested with one device type yet: ECKD DASD.

‘DASD’ basically refers to disks; this wikipedia article explains more. ‘ECKD’ refers to the data recording format; this wikipedia article probably explains more than you ever wanted to know. Linux accesses ECKD DASD as block devices with some minor oddities.

If you pass through an ECKD DASD, you can expect the following to show up in your guest:

  • A device that corresponds one-to-one to a device on the host, although it might have a different device number (depending on how it was configured).
  • A control unit and device type corresponding to ECKD DASD. A control unit type of 0x3990 and a device type of 0x3390 are the most likely.
  • One to eight channel paths, corresponding to real channel paths.

vfio-ccw opens the way to expose all kinds of channel devices to QEMU/KVM guests: FBA DASD, channel-attached tapes - basically everything that is supported by Linux on the host.