While programming with buffers like uint8_t* in C++ I often arrive at situations on where I'm forced to do copies. For example, if I receive packets in chuncks from the world and I want to parse something big that is formed of these packets, I'd have to create a bigger buffer and store them, in this buffer, sequentially as they arrive. Then I can parse this big buffer efficiently.

Since the kernel can have virtual memory through page tables, shouldn't it be possible for someone to create a syscall that gets a pointer to a list of all these small buffers (and their sizes), and create a big virtual buffer that acts as if I've copied all the mini buffers inside it?


1 Answer 1


No, that isn't possible in general, because the page tables work at a page granularity. If the length of every buffer is an exact multiple of the page table size, and every buffer starts at a page table boundary, you could do what you're proposing, but otherwise you can't. Since buffers usually won't satisfy those conditions, it's not very useful to create such a syscall.

There are techniques for structuring software to avoid making copies. However, this often requires that you restructure the code to support this. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero-copy.


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