Getting Started with Pktgen

This section contains instructions on how to get up and running with DPDK and the pktgen traffic generator application.

These instructions relate to setting up DPDK and pktgen on an Ubuntu desktop system. However, the should work on any recent Linux system with kernel support for hugeTLB/hugepages.

System requirements

The main system requirement is that the DPDK packet processing framework is supported.

The DPDK Linux Getting Started Guide has a section on the System Requirements that explains the BIOS, System and Toolchain requirements to compile and run a DPDK based application such as pktgen. Ensure that your system meets those requirements before proceeding.

You will also need a DPDK supported NIC.

The current version of pktgen was developed and tested using Ubuntu 13.10 x86_64, kernel version 3.5.0-25, on a Westmere Dual socket board running at 2.4GHz with 12GB of ram 6GB per socket.

Setting up hugeTLB/hugepage support

To get hugeTLB/hugepage support your Linux kernel must be at least 2.6.33 and the HUGETLBFS kernel option must be enabled.

The DPDK Linux Getting Started Guide has a section on the Use of Hugepages in the Linux Environment.

Once you have made the required changed make sure you have HUGE TLB support in the kernel with the following commands:

$ grep -i huge /boot/config-2.6.35-24-generic

$ grep -i huge /proc/meminfo

HugePages_Total:      128
HugePages_Free:       128
HugePages_Rsvd:        0
HugePages_Surp:        0
Hugepagesize:       2048 kB

The values in Total and Free may be different depending on your system.

You will need to edit the /etc/sysctl.conf file to setup the hugepages size:

$ sudo vi /etc/sysctl.conf
Add to the bottom of the file:

You can configure the vm.nr_hugepages=256 as required. In some cases making it too small will effect the performance of pktgen or cause it to terminate on startup.

You will also need to edit the /etc/fstab file to mount the hugepages at startup:

$ sudo vi /etc/fstab
Add to the bottom of the file:
huge /mnt/huge hugetlbfs defaults 0 0

$ sudo mkdir /mnt/huge
$ sudo chmod 777 /mnt/huge

You should also reboot your machine as the huge pages must be setup just after boot to make sure there is enough contiguous memory for the 2MB pages.


If you start an application that makes extensive use of hugepages, such as Eclipse or WR Workbench, before starting pktgen for the first time after reboot, pktgen may fail to load. In this case you should close the other application that is using hugepages.

BIOS settings

In the BIOS make sure that the HPET High Precision Event Timer is enabled. Also make sure hyper-threading is enabled. See the DPDK documentation on enabling additional BIOS functionality for more details.

Terminal display

The pktgen output display requires 132 columns and about 42 lines to display correctly. The author uses an xterm of 132x42, but you can also have a larger display and maybe a bit smaller. If you are displaying more then 4-6 ports then you will need a wider display.

Pktgen allows you to view a set ports via the page runtime command if they do not all fit on the screen at one time, see commands.

Pktgen uses VT100 control codes display its output screens, which means your terminal must support VT100.

It is also best to set your terminal background to black when working with the default pktgen color scheme.

Get the source code

Pktgen requires the DPDK source code to build.

The main dpdk and pktgen git repositories are hosted on

The dpdk code can be cloned as follows:

git clone git://
# or:
git clone

The pktgen code can be cloned as follows:

git clone git://
# or:
git clone

In the instructions below the repository close directories are referred to as DPDKInstallDir and PktgenInstallDir.

You will also require the Linux kernel headers to allow DPDK to build its kernel modules. On Ubuntu you can install them as follows (where the version matches the kernel version):

$ sudo apt-get install linux-headers-3.5.0-32-generic

DPDK can also work with a libpcap driver which is sometimes useful for testing without a real NIC or for low speed packet capture. Install the libpcap development libs using your package manage. For example:

$ sudo apt-get install libpcap-dev

Build DPDK and Pktgen

Set up the environmental variables required by DPDK:

export RTE_SDK=<DPDKInstallDir>
export RTE_TARGET=x86_64-native-linux-gcc
export RTE_TARGET=x86_64-native-linuxapp-gcc

# or use clang if you have it installed:
export RTE_TARGET=x86_64-native-linux-clang
export RTE_TARGET=x86_64-native-linuxapp-clang

Create the DPDK build tree:

$ cd $RTE_SDK
$ make install T=x86_64-native-linux-gcc
$ make install T=x86_64-native-linuxapp-gcc

This above command will create the x86_64-pktgen-linux-gcc directory in the top level of the $RTE_SDK directory. It will also build the basic DPDK libraries, kernel modules and build tree.

Pktgen can then be built as follows:

$ cd <PktgenInstallDir>
$ make

Setting up your environment

In the PktgenInstallDir/tools level directory there is script, which should be run once per boot with the -s option to setup the ports. The same configuration file is also used to run pktgen by removing the -s option.


The script will do the sudo to root internally, which means the sudo is not required.

The script contains the commands required to set up the environment:

$ cd <PktgenInstallDir>/tools
$ ./ -s default  # setup system using the cfg/default.cfg file

The script is a python script and tries to configure the system to run a DPDK application. You will probably have to change the configuration files to match your system.

To run pktgen with the default.cfg configuration:

$ cd <PktgenInstallDir>/tools
$ default

The command use python data files to configure setup and run pktgen. The configuration files are located in the PktgenInstallDir/cfg directory. These files allow for setup and running pktgen and can be configured to match you system or new configuration files can be created.

Here is the default.cfg file:

# Setup configuration
setup = {
 'devices': [
     '81:00.0 81:00.1 81:00.2 81:00.3',
     '85:00.0 85:00.1 85:00.2 85:00.3',

 'opts': [
     '-b igb_uio'

# Run command and options
run = {
 'dpdk': [
     '-l 1,1-5,10-13',
     '-n 4',
     '--proc-type auto',
     '--log-level 7',
     '--socket-mem 2048,2048',
     '--file-prefix pg'

 'blocklist': [
     #'-b 81:00.0 -b 81:00.1 -b 81:00.2 -b 81:00.3',
     #'-b 85:00.0 -b 85:00.1 -b 85:00.2 -b 85:00.3',
     '-b 81:00.0 -b 81:00.1',
     '-b 85:00.0 -b 85:00.1',
     '-b 83:00.0'

 'pktgen': [
     '-m [2:3].0',
     '-m [4:5].1',
     '-m [10:11].2',
     '-m [12:13].3',

 'misc': [
     '-f themes/black-yellow.theme'

We have two sections one for setup and the other for running pktgen.

The modprobe uio command, in the setup script, loads the UIO support module into the kernel as well as loafing the igb-uio.ko module.

The two echo commands, in the setup script, set up the huge pages for a two socket system. If you only have a single socket system then remove the second echo command. The last command in the script is used to display the hugepage setup.

You may also wish to edit your .bashrc, .profile or .cshrc files to permanently add the environment variables that you set up above:

export RTE_SDK=<DPDKInstallDir>
export RTE_TARGET=x86_64-native-linux-gcc
export RTE_TARGET=x86_64-native-linux-appgcc

Running the application

Once the above steps have been completed and the pktgen application has been compiled you can run it using the commands shown in the Running Pktgen section.