IRQ handling

Requesting an out-of-band IRQ

Dovetail introduces the new interrupt type flag IRQF_OOB, denoting an out-of-band handler to the generic interrupt API routines:

  • setup_irq() for early registration of special interrupts
  • request_irq() for device interrupts
  • __request_percpu_irq() for per-CPU interrupts

An IRQ action handler bearing this flag runs on the out-of-band stage, regardless of the current interrupt state of the in-band stage. If no out-of-band stage is present, the flag will be ignored, with the interrupt handler running on the in-band stage as usual.

Conversely, out-of-band handlers are dismissed using the usual calls, such as:

  • free_irq() for device interrupts
  • free_percpu_irq() for per-CPU interrupts

Out-of-band IRQ handling has the following constraints:

  • If the IRQ is shared, with multiple action handlers registered for the same event, all other handlers on the same interrupt channel must bear the IRQF_OOB flag too, or the request will fail.

If meeting real-time requirements is your goal, sharing an IRQ line among multiple devices operating from different execution stages (in-band vs out-of-band) can only be a bad idea design-wise. You should resort to this in desperate hardware situations only.

  • Obviously, out-of-band handlers cannot be threaded (IRQF_NO_THREAD is implicit, IRQF_ONESHOT is ignored).

Installing an out-of-band handler for a device interrupt

#include <linux/interrupt.h>

static irqreturn_t oob_interrupt_handler(int irq, void *dev_id)
	return IRQ_HANDLED;

init __init driver_init_routine(void)
	int ret;

	ret = request_irq(DEVICE_IRQ, oob_interrupt_handler,
			  IRQF_OOB, "Out-of-band device IRQ",
	if (ret)
		goto fail;

	return 0;
	/* Unwind upon error. */

Telling the companion kernel about entering, leaving the IRQ context

Your companion core will most likely want to be notified each time a new interrupt context is entered, typically in order to block any further task rescheduling on its end. Conversely, this core will also want to be notified when such context is exited, so that it can start its rescheduling procedure, applying any change to the scheduler state which occurred during the execution of the interrupt handler(s), such as waking up a thread which was waiting for the incoming event.

To provide such support, Dovetail calls irq_enter_pipeline() on entry to the pipeline when it receives an IRQ from the hardware, then irq_exit_pipeline() right before it leaves the interrupt frame. It defines empty placeholders for these hooks as follows, which are picked in absence of a companion core in the kernel tree:


/* SPDX-License-Identifier: GPL-2.0 */

/* Placeholders for pre- and post-IRQ handling. */

static inline void irq_enter_pipeline(void) { }

static inline void irq_exit_pipeline(void) { }

#endif /* !_DOVETAIL_IRQ_H */

As an illustration, the EVL core overrides the placeholders by interposing the following file which comes earlier in the inclusion order of C headers, providing its own set of hooks as follows:


/* SPDX-License-Identifier: GPL-2.0 */

#include <evl/irq.h>

static inline void irq_enter_pipeline(void)

static inline void irq_exit_pipeline(void)

#endif /* !_ASM_GENERIC_EVL_IRQ_H */

Eventually, the EVL core implements the evl_enter_irq() and evl_exit_irq() routines in a final support header like this:


 * SPDX-License-Identifier: GPL-2.0
 * Copyright (C) 2017 Philippe Gerum  <>

#ifndef _EVL_IRQ_H
#define _EVL_IRQ_H

#include <evl/sched.h>

/* hard irqs off. */
static inline void evl_enter_irq(void)
	struct evl_rq *rq = this_evl_rq();

	rq->local_flags |= RQ_IRQ;

/* hard irqs off. */
static inline void evl_exit_irq(void)
	struct evl_rq *this_rq = this_evl_rq();

	this_rq->local_flags &= ~RQ_IRQ;

	 * CAUTION: Switching stages as a result of rescheduling may
	 * re-enable irqs, shut them off before returning if so.
	if ((this_rq->flags|this_rq->local_flags) & RQ_SCHED) {
		if (!hard_irqs_disabled())

#endif /* !_EVL_IRQ_H */

Last modified: Wed, 22 Jun 2022 09:09:23 +0200