Prepared by Joe Stringer & Bill Mulligan on behalf of the BSC
This document is intended to help readers to understand the technical value provided to the eBPF community by the activities of the eBPF Foundation’s eBPF Steering Committee (BSC) for the year 2023. It provides an overview of community outreach and guidance activities, topics of discussion amongst the BSC, and influence within the foundation such as project admittance and sponsorship nominations.
Table of Contents
Who is the BSC?
The eBPF Steering Committee consists of eBPF community members who volunteer their time to facilitate communication and collaboration among Technical Projects that are part of the eBPF Foundation. The following eBPF community members are representatives of the community on the BSC as of the end of 2023:
- Alexei Starovoitov
- Andrii Nakryiko
- Brendan Gregg
- Daniel Borkmann
- Joe Stringer
- KP Singh
Changes in 2023
The BSC thanks Lorenz Bauer who served as a representative until February 2023. Lorenz changed employers and subsequently stepped down in accordance with the charter’s company association limit for representatives on the BSC. The BSC also thanks Dave Thaler who retired and stepped down from the BSC in November 2023.
Dave made a recommendation for Alan Jowett to succeed him as a representative on the BSC due to his extensive involvement in eBPF for Windows, uBPF, and BPF conformance testing. His nomination is pending ratification.
The scope of the BSC as part of the eBPF Foundation is primarily described in the charter in terms of the activities within the foundation, such as between Technical Projects and with the Governing Board. However, in order to expand the set of Technical Projects and to ensure that the eBPF Foundation can have a positive impact on the eBPF community as a whole, the BSC representatives undertake a lot of community engagement work that goes beyond the scope of the representative roles as defined in the charter. This work provides direct value to the community in terms of technical guidance and also informs the BSC representatives about where community needs are in order to facilitate the eBPF Foundation’s goals to “[…] spend funds in support of various open source, open data and/or open standards projects relating to eBPF technologies”.
The BSC has conducted the following activities during 2023:
- Established a process for standardizing eBPF through the IETF.
- Developed a technical roadmap for eBPF efforts in the short to medium term.
- Facilitated communication around eBPF best practices and future directions through participation in various community conferences, both within the eBPF community and in communities adjacent to eBPF.
- Reviewed and admitted two new projects to the eBPF Foundation.
- Provided guidance for the marketing committee, both in terms of general messaging and specifically for the eBPF documentary as part of a community awareness campaign.
- Reviewed the governance mechanisms for ensuring continued technical excellence within the eBPF Foundation.
Standardization of eBPF
The BSC believes that the power of eBPF is not limited to the Linux platform. In order to expand the reach of eBPF to additional operating systems and hardware platforms with the option for interoperable programs, the BSC has facilitated conversations on the standardization of eBPF. These discussions began in late 2022, with multiple options being explored including either establishing a standard within the eBPF Foundation or in conjunction with an external organization. By early 2023 the BSC narrowed down the set of possible forums for standardization down to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). The IETF is well-respected and has a long history of developing Internet standards in an open manner under the principle of general consensus.
BSC representatives were heavily involved in the drafting of a working group charter for the scope of BPF standardization within the IETF, as well as attending multiple IETF gatherings throughout the year. The BPF working group was established officially under the IETF in June 2023 and these standardization activities continue with continued involvement by BSC members.
The BSC is working to draft a technical roadmap for active development topics in the eBPF ecosystem, as a way to share about the activities under development by core eBPF community members, as well as a way for the community to learn about active efforts and jointly develop them further.
There are several technical conferences each year that focus primarily on eBPF, or which have a dedicated track for eBPF. In particular, BSC representatives played a significant role in organizing and/or participating at the following conferences in order to facilitate discussions for developers on the technical direction of eBPF:
- bpfconf (part of LSF/MM/BPF 2023, Vancouver)
- eBPF Summit 2023 (Online)
- eBPF workshop at SIGCOMM 2023 (New York)
- eBPF and Networking Summit (part of Linux Plumbers Conference 2023, Richmond)
- Chairing and planning all of LSF/MM/BPF 2024 (Salt Lake City)
BSC members also participated in the following conferences outside of dedicated eBPF tracks:
- FOSDEM 2023 (Brussels)
- SRECon 2023 (Singapore)
- IETF 116 (Yokohama), 117 (San Francisco), 118 (Prague)
- Kernel Recipes 2023 (Paris)
- netconf 2023 (Paris)
- Linux Security Summit EU 2023 (Bilbao)
- Kubecon/CloudNativeCon EU 2023 (Amsterdam), NA 2023 (Chicago)
bpfconf @ LSFMMBPF
bpfconf is an invitation-only technical workshop run by the Linux community in order to bring BPF core developers together, to discuss new ideas and to work out improvements to the BPF subsystem that will make their way into future mainline kernels and into the BPF compiler backends. During the 2023 bpfconf, BSC representatives presented on the vision of eBPF going forward, unprivileged BPF, extensions to the Linux networking subsystem for new eBPF-native network devices, how eBPF intersects with Confidential Computing, and eBPF standardization in the IETF. Notable discussion points at bpfconf focused on security and networking: tokens for authenticating user privileges over BPF programs and maps, signing & signature verification of BPF programs, and a variety of integrations between eBPF and the Linux networking stack.
eBPF Summit is a virtual event for all things within the Open Source eBPF ecosystem. This event for the eBPF community is aimed at new and existing members wishing to learn and grow and includes hands-on technologists building, using or interested in eBPF as a platform. During eBPF Summit 2023, BSC representatives presented on Fast by Friday: Why eBPF is Essential, Using eBPF to create native Windows drivers, and Building the Kernel of Tomorrow with eBPF.
At Linux Plumbers, BSC representatives were part of the technical committee for the eBPF & Networking track. The eBPF & Networking Track is brings together developers, maintainers, and other contributors from all around the globe to discuss improvements to the Linux kernel’s networking stack as well as BPF subsystem and their surrounding user space ecosystems such libraries, loaders, compiler backends, and other related system tooling. BSC representatives were actively involved in the discussions, acted as session chair, and presented on BPF programmable netdevices and BPF for Security and LSM updates. The BSC facilitated the eBPF Foundation sponsorship of Kumar Dwivedi to attend Linux Plumbers. Kumar presented on Exceptions in eBPF.
New Technical Projects
The BSC established a process for admitting new projects into the eBPF Foundation in accordance with the charter. The BSC voted to admit BPF Conformance into the eBPF foundation, and initiated the process to admit eBPF for Windows. The BSC continues to work with these projects to complete this process.
The BSC explored the scope of its activities with respect to the sister organization IOVisor which is also under the Linux Foundation (LF). Many of the projects under IOVisor heavily use eBPF, so the BSC looked into opportunities to combine efforts with these projects. With assistance from LF, the BSC established that it is possible for individual projects to migrate from IOVisor to the eBPF Foundation, subject to a formal request to the LF, sign-off by LF legal, the eBPF Foundation Governing Board and BSC, and completion of relevant project submission paperwork.
The BSC discussed the potential implications of admitting projects into the eBPF Foundation with respect to whether this is seen as a technical endorsement of the project. As part of this discussion, legal concerns were raised around how to ensure that BSC meetings involving projects are clearly considered in the public sphere, and the process required to confirm this with participants during a BSC meeting. The BSC continues to work with LF legal to prepare the relevant process. There currently are two additional projects that have prepared submission documentation, which are awaiting this process to be resolved before the BSC considers them.
The BSC continues to iterate on the processes for technical projects in order to appropriately communicate what it means for a Technical Project to be part of the eBPF Foundation, including the level of technical endorsement by the Foundation.
Marketing committee messaging
The marketing subcommittee of the eBPF Foundation worked this year towards establishing a set of guidelines around how the eBPF Foundation communicates the value of eBPF, including key focus areas to increase awareness. The BSC spent multiple sessions working with members of the marketing committee to provide guidance for the messaging of marketing produced by the Foundation. We expect this to accelerate the efforts of the marketing committee in future in alignment with the technical basis of eBPF as a revolutionary technology.
In conjunction with the eBPF Foundation marketing committee and Speakeasy Productions, the BSC facilitated creation of the documentary, eBPF: Unlocking the Kernel. Various BSC representatives made themselves available for interviews which serve as the basis for the film. The film documents how eBPF started from the Linux community, and how it has evolved over time. BSC representatives provided detailed review of pre-release cuts of the film to ensure the technical accuracy of the content. The film premiered at Kubecon / CloudNativeCon North America in Chicago, November 2023.
Significant time and effort was spent by the BSC in 2023 evaluating the role of the BSC both within the eBPF Foundation and in the broader eBPF community, and how we can ensure a continued high standard of technical guidance for Technical Projects through representation by a diversity of strong technical voices drawing from the eBPF community.
The BSC explored mechanisms for directing eBPF Foundation funds towards efforts that improve eBPF without necessarily being directly related to Technical Projects. One outcome of this was conference sponsorship. Looking forward, there are other Open Source projects that are ineligible for becoming projects under the Linux Foundation, which the BSC would like to be able to improve via funding from the eBPF Foundation.
In 2023, the BSC played a pivotal role in shaping the eBPF community’s landscape. Our diverse efforts, ranging from initiating eBPF standardization through the IETF to actively participating in conferences globally to developing a technical roadmap, underscore a commitment to fostering collaboration and technical excellence within the community.
Furthermore, the BSC’s governance reviews throughout the year reflect a proactive stance in upholding a high standard of technical guidance within the eBPF Foundation. Our continued exploration of funding mechanisms, such as conference sponsorship and project sponsorship to further the core eBPF infrastructure (e.g. eBPF in LLVM & Linux kernel), signifies a forward-thinking approach to supporting initiatives that contribute to the improvement of eBPF.
As we reflect on the accomplishments of the BSC in 2023, it becomes evident that these efforts have not only strengthened the eBPF Foundation but have also propelled the eBPF community toward sustained innovation, growth, and technological advancement. We look forward to continuing these efforts into 2024 and beyond.