Using Scatter/Gather DMA

Drivers that perform system or bus-master, packet-based DMA can use support routines designed especially for scatter/gather DMA. Instead of calling the sequence of routines outlined in Using Packet-Based System DMA and Packet-Based Bus-Master DMA, a driver can use GetScatterGatherList and PutScatterGatherList.

A device does not need to have built-in scatter/gather support for its driver to use these routines.

Drivers that use packet-based DMA call the following general sequence of support routines for scatter/gather operations:

  1. MmGetMdlVirtualAddress to get an index into the MDL, required as a parameter in the call to GetScatterGatherList

  2. GetScatterGatherList when the driver is ready to program its device for DMA and needs the system DMA controller or bus-master adapter

    GetScatterGatherList allocates the system DMA controller or bus-master adapter, determines how many map registers are required and allocates them, fills in the scatter/gather list, and calls the driver's AdapterListControl routine when the DMA controller or adapter and map registers are available.

  3. PutScatterGatherList as soon as all the requested data has been transferred or the driver fails the IRP because of a device I/O error

    PutScatterGatherList flushes the adapter buffers, frees the map registers, and frees the scatter/gather list. The driver must call PutScatterGatherList before it can access the data in the buffer.

The adapter object pointer returned by IoGetDmaAdapter is a required parameter to each of these routines except MmGetMdlVirtualAddress, which requires a pointer to the MDL at Irp->MdlAddress.

The GetScatterGatherList routine includes calls to AllocateAdapterChannel and MapTransfer, so the driver does not have to make these calls. The routine takes the following as parameters:

  • A pointer to the DMA_ADAPTER structure returned by IoGetDmaAdapter

  • A pointer to the target device object for the DMA operation

  • A pointer to the MDL that describes the buffer at Irp->MdlAddress

  • A pointer to the current virtual address in the buffer described by the Mdl

  • The number of bytes to be mapped

  • A pointer to an AdapterListControl routine that performs the transfer

  • A pointer to a driver-defined context area to be passed to the AdapterListControl routine

  • A Boolean value: TRUE for a transfer to the device; FALSE otherwise

After determining the number of map registers required, allocating the adapter channel and map registers, filling in the scatter/gather list and preparing for the transfer, GetScatterGatherList calls the driver-supplied AdapterListControl routine. The AdapterListControl routine is run in an arbitrary thread context at IRQL = DISPATCH_LEVEL.

The AdapterListControl routine a driver supplies in calls to GetScatterGatherList differs from the AdapterControl routine passed to AllocateAdapterChannel in the following important respects:

  • The AdapterListControl routine has no return value, whereas the AdapterControl routine returns an IO_ALLOCATION_ACTION.

  • Rather than a pointer to the MapRegisterBase for the system-allocated map registers, the third parameter to an AdapterListControl routine instead points to a SCATTER_GATHER_LIST structure through which the driver can perform DMA.

  • The AdapterListControl routine performs a subset of the tasks required in an AdapterControl routine.

    The AdapterListControl routine does not call AllocateAdapterChannel or MapTransfer. Its only responsibilities are to save the input scatter/gather list pointer, set up its device, and use the scatter/gather list to perform DMA.

The scatter/gather list structure includes a SCATTER_GATHER_ELEMENT array and the number of elements in the array. Each element of the array provides the length and starting physical address of a physically contiguous scatter/gather region. A driver uses the length and address in data transfers.

A driver can use GetScatterGatherList regardless of whether its device supports scatter/gather DMA. For a device that does not support scatter/gather DMA, the scatter/gather list will contain only one element.

Using the scatter/gather routines can improve performance over calling AllocateAdapterChannel (as previously described in Using Packet-Based System DMA and Using Packet-Based Bus-Master DMA). Unlike calls to AllocateAdapterChannel, more than one call to GetScatterGatherList can be queued for a device object at any one time. A driver can call GetScatterGatherList again for another DMA operation on the same driver object before its AdapterListControl routine has completed execution.

On return from the driver-supplied AdapterListControl routine, GetScatterGatherList keeps the map registers but frees the DMA adapter structure.

When the driver has satisfied the current IRP's transfer request or must fail the IRP due to a device or bus I/O error, it must call PutScatterGatherList before it can access the transferred data in the buffer. PutScatterGatherList flushes the adapter buffers and frees the map registers and scatter/gather list.