Kernel Features 🀞 🎁 πŸ™ #

This is a list of kernel features that would be useful to have. The items on the list are strictly ideas. It is especially important to not take the items on this list as being implementation requests. Some of the ideas on this list are rather rough and unrefined. They serve as entry points for exploring the associated problem space.

When implementing ideas on this list or ideas inspired by this list please point that out explicitly and clearly in the associated patches and Cc Christian Brauner <brauner (at) kernel (dot) org.

  • Ability to mount sub-directories of regular file systems instead of the top-level directory. i.e. for a file system /dev/sda1 which contains a sub-directory /foobar mount /foobar without having to mount its parent directory first. Consider something like this:

    mount -t ext4 /dev/sda1 somedir/ -o subdir=/foobar

    (This is of course already possible via some mount namespacing shenanigans, but this requires namespacing to be available, and is not precisely obvious to implement. Explicit kernel support at mount time would be much preferable.)

    Use-Case: systemd-homed currently mounts a sub-directory of the per-user LUKS volume as the user’s home directory (and not the root directory of the per-user LUKS volume’s file system!), and in order to implement this invisibly from the host side requires a complex mount namespace exercise.

  • inotify() events for BSD file locks. BSD file locks (i.e. flock(), as opposed to POSIX F_SETLK and friends are inode-focussed, hence would be great if one could get asynchronous notification when they are released via inotify.

    Use-Case: udevd probes block devices whenever they pop up to create /dev/disk/by-label/* and similar symlinks. Formatting tools can temporarily block this behaviour by taking a BSD file lock on the block device (as per, in order to make sure udevd doesn’t probe file systems/partition tables that are only partially initialized. Currently, udevd uses inotify IN_CLOSE_WRITE notifications to detect whenever applications close a block device after writing to it, and automatically reprobes the device. This works reasonably OK given that block devices are usually closed at the same time as their BSD file lock is released, and vice versa. However, this is not fully correct: what udevd actually should be watching is the locks being released, not the devices being closed.

  • SCM_CGROUP or a similar auxiliary socket message, that allows receivers to figure out which cgroup a sender is part of.

    Use-Case: systemd-journald picks up cgroup information from logging clients, in order to augment log records and allow filtering via this meta-information. In particular it derives service identity from that (so that requests such as “Show me all log messages of service X!” can be answered). This is currently racy, since it uses field for this, which it then used to load /proc/$PID/cgroup. In particular for programs that log and immediately exit, the cgroup information frequently cannot be acquired anymore by systemd-journald.

  • Ability to link an O_TMPFILE file into a directory while replacing an existing file. (Currently there’s only the ability to link it in, if the file name doesn’t exist yet.)

    Use-Case: there are many programs (e.g. systemd-hostnamed when updating /etc/hostname) that atomically want to update a file, so that either the old or the new version is in place, but never a partially updated one. The canonical way to do this is by creating a temporary file with the new contents, and then renaming it to the filename of the file to update, thus atomically replacing it. Currently, the temporary file for this must be created with a random name, O_TMPFILE cannot be used, since for these files atomic-replace is not supported, currently.

  • O_REGULAR (inspired by the existing O_DIRECTORY flag for open()), which opens a file only if it is of type S_IFREG.

    Use-Case: this would be very useful to write secure programs that want to avoid being tricked into opening device nodes with special semantics while thinking they operate on regular files. This is particularly relevant as many device nodes (or even FIFOs) come with blocking I/O (or even blocking open()!) by default, which is not expected from regular files backed by “fast” disk I/O. Consider implementation of a naive web browser which is pointed to file://dev/zero, not expecting an endless amount of data to read.

  • unlinkat3(dir_fd, name, inode_fd): taking one file descriptor for the directory to remove a file in, and another one referring to the inode of the filename to remove. This call should only succeed if the specified filename still refers to the specified inode.

    Use-Case: code that operates on a well-know path that might be shared by multiple programs that jointly manage it might want to safely remove a filename under the guarantee it still refers to the expected inode. As a specific example, consider lock files, that should be cleaned up only if they still refer to the assumed owner’s instance, but leave the file in place if another process already took over the filename.

  • Ability to determine if a mount point belongs to the current user namespace, in order to check if there’s a chance a process can safely unmount it (as that only works for mounts owned by the same user namespaces β€” or one further down the tree, but not any up the tree). A simple, additional field in /proc/self/mountinfo container the owning user namespace ID would probably already suffice.

    Use-Case: the systemd system and service manager tries to unmount all established mounts on shutdown. Inside of container environments where specific mounts are established by the container manager (and not the payload itself) this will ultimately fail if user namespaces are enabled. In order to clean up the shutdown logic it would be very good to be able to determine whether a specific mount could even possibly be unmounted or whether it’s not worth the effort to include the unmount in the system shutdown transaction.

  • A way to mark mounts that receive mount propagation events from elsewhere so that these propagated mounts are established read-only implicitly. Right now, if a mount receives a mount propagation event it will have the exact same MS_RDONLY, MS_NODEV, … flags as it has where it originated. It would be very useful if an MS_RDONLY could be ORed into the mount flags automatically whenever propagated elsewhere.

    Use-Case: various mount namespace based sandboxes (e.g. systemd’s ProtectSystem= option) mark large parts of the host file hierarchy read-only via mounting it MS_RDONLY|MS_BIND|MS_REMOUNT, but generally intend to leave the file hierarchy besides that the way it is, and that includes they typically still want to be able to receive mount events to directories such as /mnt/ and /media/ in these sandboxed environments. Right now, any such propagation then happens in writable mode, even if the file hierarchy otherwise is almost entirely read-only. To close this gap it would be great if such propagated mounts could implicitly gain MS_RDONLY as they are propagated.

  • Ability to turn off SCM_RIGHTS reception for AF_UNIX sockets. Right now reception of file descriptors is always on when a process makes the mistake of invoking recvmsg() on such a socket. This is problematic since SCM_RIGHTS installs file descriptors in the recipient process’ file descriptor table. Getting rid of these file descriptors is not necessarily easy, as they could refer to “slow-to-close” files (think: dirty file descriptor referring to a file on an unresponsive NFS server, or some device file descriptor), that might cause the recipient to block for a longer time when it tries to them. Programs reading from an AF_UNIX socket currently have three options:

    1. Never use recvmsg(), and stick to read(), recv() and similar which do not install file descriptors in the recipients file descriptor table.

    2. Ignore the problem, and simply close() the received file descriptors it didn’t expect, thus possibly locking up for a longer time.

    3. Fork off a thread that invokes close(), which mitigates the risk of blocking, but still means a sender can cause resource exhaustion in a recipient by flooding it with file descriptors, as for each of them a thread needs to be spawned and a file descriptor is taken while it is in the process of being closed.

    (Another option of course is to never talk AF_UNIX to peers that are not trusted to not send unexpected file descriptors.)

    A simple knob that allows turning off SCM_RIGHTS right reception would be useful to close this weakness, and would allow recvmsg() to be called without risking file descriptors to be installed in the file descriptor table, and thus risking a blocking close() or a form of potential resource exhaustion.

    Use-Case: any program that uses AF_UNIX sockets and uses (or would like to use) recvmsg() on it (which is useful to acquire other metadata). Example: logging daemons that want to collect timestamp or SCM_CREDS auxiliary data, or the D-Bus message broker and suchlike.

  • Another alternative to this could be if some form of filtering could be enforced on the file descriptors suitable for en-queuing on the AF_UNIX socket. i.e. allow filtering by superblock type or similar, so that policies such as “only memfds are OK to be received” may be expressed. (BPF?).

    Use-Case: a above.

  • A reliable (non-heuristic) way to detect from userspace if the current process is running in a PID namespace that is not the main PID namespace. PID namespaces are probably the primary type of namespace that identify a container environment. While many heuristics exist to determine generically whether one is executed inside a container, it would be good to have a correct, well-defined way to determine this.

    Use-Case: tools such as systemd-detect-virt exist to determine container execution, but typically resolve to checking for specific implementations. It would be much nicer and universally applicable if such a check could be done generically. It would probably suffice to provide an ioctl() call on the pidns file descriptor that reveals this kind of information in some form.

  • A way to exclude pidfd watched processes from waitid(P_ALL, …).

    Use-Case: various programs use waitid(P_ALL, …) to collect exit information of exited child processes. In particular PID 1 and processes using PR_SET_CHILD_SUBREAPER use this as they may collect unexpected children that have been reparented from dying sub-processes, and that need to be reaped in order to clean up the PID space. Currently, these programs cannot easily mix waiting for specific sub-processes via pidfd with waiting for the other unexpected children via waitid(P_ALL, …) since the latter also reaps (and thus invalidates) the pidfd-tracked children. Specifically, the systemd service manager would like to use pidfds to remove PID recycling security issues, but currently cannot as it also needs to generically wait for such unexpected children.

  • Mount notifications that do not require continuous re-scanning of /proc/self/mountinfo. Currently, if a program wants to track mounts established on the system it can receive poll()able events via a file descriptor to /proc/self/mountinfo. When receiving them it needs to rescan the file from the top and compare it with the previous scan. This is both slow and racy. It’s slow on systems with a large number of mounts as the cost for re-scanning the table has to be paid for every change to the mount table. It’s racy because quickly added and removed mounts might not be noticed.

    Use-Case: systemd tracks the mount table to integrate the mounts into it own dependency management.

  • An asynchronous or forced close(), that guarantees that userspace doesn’t have to risk blocking for longer periods of time when trying to get rid of unwanted file descriptors, possibly received via recvmsg() + SCM_RIGHTS (see above). Currently, close() of various file descriptors (for example those referring to slow storage, e.g. non-responding NFS servers and such) might take arbitrary amounts of time, potentially into the minute range and more. This makes it risky accepting file descriptors on publicly accessible AF_UNIX sockets, the way like IPC brokers (e.g. D-Bus) do it: if a rogue client keeps sending file descriptors that because unexpected must be closed immediately it might cause the receiving process to effectively crawl, when it is busy closing them all. A special form of close() that simply detaches a file descriptor from the file descriptor table without blocking on IO in any form would be great to close this issue.

    Use-Case: any program that receives file descriptors via AF_UNIX from untrusted clients would benefit from this. e.g. D-Bus brokers.

  • CLOCK_MONOTONIC network timestamps. Currently network timestamps are exclusively in CLOCK_REALTIME, even though for many (most?) a monotonic clock would be much preferable, as calculations become easier when one doesn’t have to think about clock jumps and similar.

    Use-Case: systemd-journald collects implicit timestamps via AF_UNIX time-stamping, in CLOCK_REALTIME, even though for its internal logic only monotonic timestamps are used, as log records are searched via bisection in ordered tables, that require strictly increasing timestamps. In particular during boot (where CLOCK_REALTIME is often not available, stable or subject to corrections) it would be good to have reliable, monotonic timestamps on all log records.

  • Truly immutable loopback block devices. Right now setting up a loopback block device in read-only mode, backed by a read-only file (stored on a regular read/write file system), and then mounting it with ext4 also in MS_RDONLYmode will result in changes to the file, quite unexpectedly 🀯. Ideally, if a loopback block device is set up in read-only mode this should guarantee that the backing file remains unmodified by it.

    Use-Case: disk image build tools that want to reproducibly and verifiable build images must be able to rely that mounting them in read-only mode does not alter the images in any way. In particular when working in computer forensics one must be able to rely that file systems that are analyzed remain unmodified by the analysis.

  • A time-out for the flock() syscall. Faking the time-out in userspace is nasty: most code does it with alarm() (or equivalent APIs), but that’s racy since on a heavily loaded system the timeout might trigger before the flock() call is entered, in particular if short time-outs shall be used. More accurate is to do the locking in a short-lived child processed, but that’s difficult already in C, and almost impossible in languages that do not allow fork() without execve().

    Use-Case: as mentioned above systemd-udev allows synchronizing block device probing via flock(). Often userspace wants to wait for that, but without risking to hang forever.

  • Extend mount_setattr() to allow changing mount properties ignoring any failures.

    Use-Case: workloads that know that there are mounts in a mount tree whose attributes cannot be changed by the caller don’t want mount_settattr() to fail on the first mount it failed to convert. Give them a flag to request changes ignoring failures.

  • Add upgrade masks to openat2(). Extend struct open_how to allow restrict re-opening of file descriptors.

    Use-Case: block services or containers from re-opening/upgrading an O_PATH file descriptor through e.g. /proc/<pid>/fd/<nr as O_WRONLY.

  • Make quotas work with user namespaces. The quota codepaths in the kernel currently broken and inconsistent and most interesting operations are guarded behind capable(CAP_SYS_ADMIN), i.e., require CAP_SYS_ADMIN in the initial user namespace. We should rework these codepaths to work with user namespaces and then see whether we can make them work with idmapped mounts.

    Use-Case: using quotas correctly in containers.

  • Add a new MOUNT_SETATTR_LOCKED flag to mount_setattr(..., ..., MOUNT_SETATTR_LOCKED, ..., ...). The MOUNT_SETATTR_LOCKED flag allow a ns_capable(mntns->user_ns, CAP_SYS_ADMIN) caller to lock all mount properties. The mount properties cannot be changed anymore.

    Use-Case: allowing processes to lock mount properties even for privileged processes. Locking mount properties would currently involve having to have the mount namespace of the container be owned by an ancestor user namespace. But this doesn’t just lock a single mount or mount subtree it locks all mounts in the mount namespace, i.e., the mount table cannot be altered.

  • Add a new OPEN_TREE_CLEAR flag to open_tree(). This flag can only be used in conjunction with OPEN_TREE_CLONE. When specified it will clear all mount properties from that mount including the mount’s idmapping. Requires the caller to be ns_capable(mntns->user_ns). If idmapped mounts are encountered the caller must be ns_capable(sb->user_ns, CAP_SYS_ADMIN) in the filesystems user namespace.

    Locked mount properties cannot be changed. A mount’s idmapping becomes locked if it propagates across user namespaces.

    This is useful to get a new, clear mount and also allows the caller to create a new detached mount with an idmapping attached to the mount. Iow, the caller may idmap the mount afterwards.

    Use-Case: A user may already use an idmapped mount for their home directory. And once a mount has been idmapped the idmapping cannot be changed anymore. This allows for simple semantics and allows to avoid lifetime complexity in order to account for scenarios where concurrent readers or writers might still use a given user namespace while it is about to be changed. But this poses a problem when the user wants to attach an idmapping to a mount that is already idmapped. The new flag allows to solve this problem. A sufficiently privileged user such as a container manager can create a user namespace for the container which expresses the desired ownership. Then they can create a new detached mount without any prior mount properties via OPEN_TREE_CLEAR and then attach the idmapping to this mount.

  • Enforce that the user namespace about to be attached to a mount must have an idmapping written.

    Use-Case: Tighten the semantics.

  • Add an extension to setns() to allow attaching to all namespaces of a process SETNS_PIDFD_ALL different from the caller’s namespaces. Currently specifying e.g., CLONE_NEWUSER fails if the caller is in the same user namespace as the target process. This is very inconvenient.

    Use-Case: Make it trivial to attach to all namespaces of a process without having to figure out whether the caller is already in the same namespace or not.

  • (kAPI) Add security hook to mount_setattr().

    Use-Case: Allow LSMs to make decisions about what mount properties to allow and what to deny.

  • A per-cgroup knob for coredump sizes. Currently coredump size control is strictly per process, and primarily under control of the processes themselves. It would be good if we had a per-cgroup knob instead, that is under control of the service manager.

    Use-Case: coredumps can be heavy to generate. For different usecases it would be good to be able to opt-in or opt-out dynamically from coredumps for specific services, at runtime without restarting them.

  • A way to race-freely create an (non-file) inode and immediately open it. For regular files we have open(O_CREAT) for creating a new file inode, and returning a pinning fd to it. This is missing for other inode types, such as directories, device nodes, FIFOs. The lack of such functionality means that when populating a directory tree there’s always a race involved: the inodes first need to be created, and then opened to adjust their permissions/ownership/labels/timestamps/acls/xattrs/…, but in the time window between the creation and the opening they might be replaced by something else. Addressing this race without proper APIs is possible (by immediately fstat()ing what was opened, to verify that it has the right inode type), but difficult to get right. Hence, mkdirat_fd() that creates a directory and returns an O_DIRECTORY fd to it would be great. As would be mknodeat_fd() that creates a device node, FIFO or (dead) socket and returns an O_PATH fd to it. And of course symlinkat_fd() that creates a symlink and returns an O_PATH fd to it.

    Use-Case: any program that creates/unpacks not just files, but directories, device nodes, fifos, and wants to ensure that they safely get the right attributes applied, even if other code might simultaneously have access to the same directory tree.

  • The io_uring subsystem is open to adding classic existing synchronous system calls (e.g. setns() or mount() or other) to io_uring. They also said they would support adding new functionality into io_uring that is not exposed through system calls yet.

  • Explore the idea of mapping different uids/gids to the same uids/gids, i.e. 65534:1000:1 50000:1000:1. This will only work if the mount is read-only as the kernel wouldn’t know what uid/gid would need to be put to disk otherwise (65534? 50000? the first one that is mapped?).

    Use-Case: Delegate multiple {g,u}ids to the same user. Merging ownership similar to how overlayfs merges files. Bindfs ( allows this concept too.

  • blobfs for Linux. i.e. a minimalistic file system, that can store authenticated (Verity) data files, that can be written once, and not be modified after that, and provide stable handles (i.e. is content-addressable) to them.

    Use-Case: This would deliver just about enough to place trusted OS resources (binaries, kernels, initrds, fs trees, other resources) in them, without having to trust the medium and IO underneath. Should be simple enough to even implement in a boot loader and similar, without making things vulnerable to rogue file system image attacks. The OS and its payloads (apps, containers, …) could then be composed from these resources, through means like overlayfs, namespacing and more.

  • Namespace-able loop and block devices, usable inside user namespaces.

    Use-Case: Allow mounting images inside nspawn containers, and using RootImage= and friends in the systemd user manager.

  • Support detached mounts with pivot_root()

    The new rootfs must currently refer to an attached mount. This restriction seems unnecessary. We should allow the new rootfs to refer to a detached mount.

    This will allow a service- or container manager to create a new rootfs as a detached, private mount that isn’t exposed anywhere in the filesystem and then pivot_root() into it.

    Since pivot_root() only takes path arguments the new rootfs would need to be passed via /proc/<pid>/fd/<nr>. In the long run we should add a new pivot_root() syscall operating on file descriptors instead of paths.

  • Device cgroup guard to allow mknod() in non-initial userns

    If a container manager restricts its unprivileged (user namespaced) children by a device cgroup, it is not necessary to deny mknod() anymore. Thus, user space applications may map devices on different locations in the file system by using mknod() inside the container.

    Use-Case: A use case for this, which is applied by users of GyroidOS, is to run virsh for VMs inside an unprivileged container. virsh or libvirt creates device nodes, e.g., /var/run/libvirt/qemu/ which currently fails in a non-initial userns, even if a cgroup device white list with the corresponding major, minor of /dev/null exists. Thus, in this case the usual bind mounts or pre populated device nodes under /dev are not sufficient.

    An initial group internal RFC exists in ( See commit message for more implementation specific details.

  • Add AT_EMPTY_PATH support for unlinkat().

    Use-Case: When dealing with files/directories, allow passing around only a file descriptor without having to keep the path around to be able to unlink the file/directory.

  • Race-free mount of block devices

    Introduce a new struct to fsconfig() as an alternative to the source property. The struct contains at least a pointer to a path, possibly a device minor and major, and a diskseq number. The VFS can expose a helper that filesystems can call and use the diskseq number to verify that the block device they are intending to mount is indeed the one they want to mount.

    Use-Case: Race-free mounting of block devices.

  • Add ability to reopen a struct block_device. This would allow using blkdev_get_by_path()/blkdev_get_{part,whole}() to claim a device with BLK_OPEN_READ and later on reopen with BLK_OPEN_READ | BLK_OPEN_WRITE. This in turn would opening block devices at fsconfig(FS_CONFIG_SET_*) time and then at fill_super() time we would be able to reopen in case the !(fc->sb_flags & SB_RDONLY). Overall this has the effect that we’re able to open devices early giving the user early errors when they set mount options rather than very late when the superblock is created.

  • When activating a dm-verity volume allow specifying keyring to validate root hash signature against.

    Usecase: In systemd, we’d like to authenticate Portable Service images, system extension images, configuration images, container images with different keys, as they typically originate from different sources and it should not be possible to generate a system extension with a key pair that is supposed to be good for container images only.

  • Make statx() on a pidfd return additional recognizable identifiers in .stx_btime.

    πŸ™‡ cb12fd8e0dabb9a1c8aef55a6a41e2c255fcdf4b pidfd: add pidfs πŸ™‡

    It would be fantastic if issuing statx() on any pidfd would return the start time of the process in .stx_btime even after the process died.

    These fields should in particular be queriable after the process already exited and has been reaped, i.e. after its PID has already been recycled.

    Usecase: In systemd we maintain lists of processes in a hash table. Right now, the key is the PID, but this is less than ideal because of PID recycling. By being able to use the .stx_btime and/or .stx_ino fields instead would be perfect to safely identify, track and compare process even after they ceased to exist.

  • An API to determine the parent process ID (ppid) of a pidfd would be good.

    This information is relevant to code dealing with pidfds, since if the ppid of a pidfd matches the process own pid it can call waitid() on the process, if it doesn’t it cannot and such a call would fail. It would be very useful if this could be determined easily before even calling that syscall.

    Usecase: systemd manages a multitude of processes, most of which are its own children, but many which are not. It would be great if we could easily determine whether it is worth waiting for SIGCHLD/waitid() on them or whether waiting for POLLIN on them is the only way to get exit notification.

  • There should be a way to control the process’ comm field if started via fexecve().

    Right now, when fexecve()/execveat() is used, the comm field (i.e. /proc/self/comm) contains a name derived of the numeric fd, which breaks ps -C … and various other tools. In particular when the fd was opened with O_CLOEXEC, the number of the fd in the old process is completely meaningless.

    The goal is add a way to tell fexecve()/execveat() what Name to use.

    Since comm is under user control anyway (via PR_SET_NAME), it should be safe to also make it somehow configurable at fexecve() time.


    Usecase: In systemd we generally would prefer using fexecve() to safely and race-freely invoke processes, but the fact that comm is useless after invoking a process that way makes the call unfortunately hard to use for systemd.

  • The LSM module API should have the ability to do path-based (not just inode-based) ACL management.

    Usecase: This would be useful in BPF-LSM modules such as systemd’s mntfsd which allows unprivileged file system mounts in some cases, and which would like to restrict ACL handling based on the superblock involved.

  • overlayfs should permit immutable layers, i.e. layers whose non-directory inodes may not be overriden in an upper writable layer.

    Usecase: This would be useful when implementing /etc/ as a stack of overlayfs layers, each shipping configuration for a different facet of the system, with a writable layer on the top for local modifications. In such a scenario it would be useful to allow the user to change any configuration it likes, except of the files and other inodes shipped in the lower layers.

  • overlayfs should have an ioctl()-based API (or similar) for querying information of the backing file systems/block devices

    Usecase: In systemd in various areas we automatically find the block device backing the root file system and other file systems (Example: systemd-gpt-auto-generator or bootctl wull try to find auxiliary file systems of the OS image by looking in the GPT partition table the root file system is located in). While this logic is good enough to find the backing block devices of some more complex storage such as dm-crypt, dm-verity or btrfs, once overlayfs is used as backing for the root file system this logic does not work anymore. It would be great if there was an API to simply query overlayfs for the superblock information (i.e. .st_dev) of the backing layers.

  • An auto-grow feature in btrfs would be excellent.

    If such a mode is enabled, btrfs would automatically grow a file system up to the size of its backing block devices. Example: btrfs is created with 200M in size on a block device 2G in size. Once the file system is filled up fully, btrfs would automatically grow the file system as need in the increments it needs, up to the 2G that the backing block device is in size.

    Usecase: This would allow creating minimal, compact file systems: just create them small on a sparse block device, and copy files into it, as needed, create subvolumes and whatever else is desired. As long as only files are created and written (but not modified) the resulting fs should be automatically minimal in size. This would specifically be useful in systemd-homed, which maintains per-user btrfs file systems backed by block devices. Currently, homed grows the file systems manually on login and then shrinks them again on logout, but this is less than ideal, since btrfs places files all over the backing store, and thus the shrinking will generate a lot of nonsensical IO that could be reduced if the file system was always kept minimal in size anyway.

  • Add process by PIDFD to a cgroup

    At the moment the canonical way to add a process to a cgroup is by echoing its PID into the cgroup.procs attribute in the target cgroupfs directory of the cgroup. This is safe as long as the process doing so just forked off the process it wants to migrate and hence can control that it hasn’t been reaped yet, and hence guarantees the PID is valid. This is racy however if “foreign” processes shall be moved into the cgroup.

    Usecase: In systemd, all user sessions are wrapped in scope units which are backed by a cgroup. The session processes moved into the scope unit are typically “foreign” processes, i.e. not children of the service manager, hence doing the movement is subject to races in case the process dies and its PID is quickly recycled. (This assumes systemd can acquire a pidfd of the foreign process without races, for example via SCM_PIDFD and SO_PEERPIDFD or similar.)

  • Ability to put user xattrs on S_IFSOCK socket inodes

    Currently, the kernel only allows extended attributes in the user.* namespace to be attached to directory and regular file inodes. It would be tremendously useful to allow them to be associated with socket inodes, too.

    Usecase: There are two syslog RFCs in use today: RFC3164 and RFC5424. glibc’s syslog() API generates events close to the former, but there are programs which would like to generate the latter instead (as it supports structured logging). The two formats are not backwards compatible: a client sending RFC5424 messages to a server only understanding RFC3164 will cause an ugly mess. On Linux there’s only a single /dev/log AF_UNIX/SOCK_DGRAM socket backing syslog(), which is used in a one-way, fire-and-forget style. This means that feature negotation is not really possible within the protocol. Various tools bind mount the socket inode into chroot() and container environments, hence it would be fantastic to associate supported feature information directly with the inode (and thus outside of the protocol) to make it easy for clients to determine which features are spoken on a socket, in a way that survives bind mounts. Implementation idea would be that syslog daemons implementing RFC5425 could simply set an xattr user.rfc5424 to 1 (or something like that) on the socket inode, and clearly inform clients in a natural and simple way that they’d be happy to parse the newer format. Also see: – This idea could also be extended to other sockets and other protocols: by setting some extended attribute on a socket inodes, services could advertise which protocols they support on them. For example D-Bus sockets could carry user.dbus set to 1, and Varlink sockets user.varlink set to 1 and so on.

  • Extend pidfd_open() to allow opening the thread-group leader based on the PID of an individual thread. Currently we do support:

    (1) pidfd_open(1234, 0) on a thread-group leader PID (2] pidfd_open(1234, PIDFD_THREAD) on a thread

    Add an option to go from individual thread to thread-group leader.

    Use-Case: Allow for a race free way to go from individual thread to thread-group leader pidfd.

  • Add a namespace ioctl to translate a PID between PID namespaces.

    Use-Case: This makes it possible to e.g., figure out what a given PID in a PID namespace corresponds to in the caller’s PID namespace. For example, to figure out what the PID of PID 1 inside of a given PID namespace is.

Finished Items #

  • ability to unmount obstructed mounts. (this means: you have a stack of mounts on the very same inode, and you want to remove a mount in the middle. right now, you can only remove the topmost mount.)

    πŸ™‡ instead of the ability to unmount obstructured mounts we gained the ability to mount beneath an existing mount, with mostly equivalent outcome. `6ac392815628f317fcfdca1a39df00b9cc4ebc8b (“fs: allow to mount beneath top mount”) πŸ™‡

    use-case: this is useful for replacing mounts atomically, for example for upgrading versioned disk images: first an old version of the image is mounted. then a new version is mounted over the existing mount point, and then the lower mount point is removed. One such software would be systemd-sysext.

  • SCM_PIDFD or similar auxiliary socket message, that is a modern version of the SCM_CREDS message’s .pid field, and provides a pidfd file descriptor to the originating peer process.

    πŸ™‡ 5e2ff6704a275be00 ("scm: add SO_PASSPIDFD and SCM_PIDFD)") πŸ™‡

    Use-Case: security infrastructure (such as PolicyKit) can safely reference clients this way without fearing PID recycling. systemd-journald can acquire peer metadata this way in a less racy fashion, in particular safe against PID recycling.

  • IP_UNICAST_IF should be taken into account for routing decisions at UDP connect() time (currently it isn’t, only SO_BINDTOINDEX is, but that does so much more than just that, and one often doesn’t want that)

    πŸ™‡ 0e4d354762cefd3e16b4cff8988ff276e45effc4 ("net-next: Fix IP_UNICAST_IF option behavior for connected sockets") πŸ™‡

    Use-Case: DNS resolvers that associate DNS configuration with specific network interfaces (example: systemd-resolved) typically want to preferably route DNS traffic to the per-interface DNS server via that interface, but not make further restrictions on the origins or received replies, and all that without privileges. IP_UNICAST_IF fulfills this role fine for TCP, but for UDP it is not taken into account for the connect() routing decision.

  • Implement a mount-specific companion to statx() that puts at least the following information into struct mount_info:

    πŸ™‡ 46eae99ef73302f9fb3dddcd67c374b3dffe8fd6 (“add statmount(2) syscall”)`` πŸ™‡

    • mount flags: MOUNT_ATTR_RDONLY, …
    • time flags: MOUNT_ATTR_RELATIME, … Could probably be combined with mount flags.
    • propagation setting: MS_SHARED), …
    • peer group
    • mnt id of the mount
    • mnt id of the mount’s parent
    • owning userns

    There’s a bit more advanced stuff systemd would really want but which I think is misplaced in a mountinfo system call including:

    • list of primary and auxiliary block device major/minor
    • diskseq value of those device nodes (This is a new block device feature we added that allows preventing device recycling issues when e.g. removing usb devices very quickly and is needed for udev.)
    • uuid/fsid
    • feature flags (O_TMPFILE, RENAME_EXCHANGE supported etc.)

    Use-Case: low-level userspace tools have to interact with advanced mount information constantly. This is currently costly and brittel because they have to go and parse /proc/<pid>/mountinfo.

  • (kAPI) Add security hook to create_user_ns().

    πŸ™‡ 7cd4c5c2101c ("security, lsm: Introduce security_create_user_ns()") πŸ™‡

    Use-Case: Allow LSMs to monitor user namespace creation.

  • Support idmapped mounts for tmpfs

    πŸ™‡ 7a80e5b8c6fa ("shmem: support idmapped mounts for tmpfs") πŸ™‡

    Use-Case: Runtimes such as Kubernetes use a lot of tmpfs mounts of individual files or directories to expose information to containers/pods. Instead of having to change ownership permanently allow them to use an idmapped mount instead.

    @rata and @giuseppe brought this suggestion forward. For Kubernetes it is sufficient to support idmapped mounts of tmpfs instances mounted in the initial user namespace. However, in the future idmapped mounts of tmpfs instances mounted in user namespaces should be supported. Other container runtimes want to make use of this. The kernel is able to support this since at least 5.17.

    Things to remember are that tmpfs mounts can serve as lower- or upper layers in overlayfs and care needs to be taken that this remains safe if idmapped mounts of tmpfs instances mounted in user namespaces are supported.

  • Make statx() on a pidfd return additional recognizable identifiers in .stx_ino.

    πŸ™‡ cb12fd8e0dabb9a1c8aef55a6a41e2c255fcdf4b pidfd: add pidfs πŸ™‡

    It would be fantastic if issuing statx() on any pidfd would return some reasonably stable 64bit identifier for the process in .stx_ino. This would be perfect to identify processes pinned by a pidfd, and compare them.

  • Namespace binfmt_misc filesystem.

    πŸ™‡ 21ca59b365c0 ("binfmt_misc: enable sandboxed mounts") πŸ™‡

    Use-Case: Allow containers and sandboxes to register their own binfmt handlers.

  • Support idmapped mounts for overlayfs

    πŸ™‡ bc70682a497c ("ovl: support idmapped layers") πŸ™‡

    Use-Case: Allow containers to use overlayfs with idmapped mounts.