The syscall provider makes available a probe at the entry to and return from every system call in the system. Because system calls are the primary interface between user-level applications and the operating system kernel, the syscall provider can offer tremendous insight into application behavior with respect to the system.
syscall provides a pair of probes for each system call: an entry probe that fires before the system call is entered, and a return probe that fires after the system call has completed but before control has transferred back to user-level. For all syscall probes, the function name is set to be the name of the instrumented system call and the module name is undefined.
The names of the system calls as provided by the syscall provider may be found in the /etc/name_to_sysnum file. Often, the system call names provided by syscall correspond to names in Section 2 of the man pages. However, some probes provided by the syscall provider do not directly correspond to any documented system call. The common reasons for this discrepancy are described in this section.
System Call Anachronisms
In some cases, the name of the system call as provided by the syscall provider is actually a reflection of an ancient implementation detail. For example, for reasons dating back to UNIXTM antiquity, the name of exit(2) in /etc/name_to_sysnum is rexit. Similarly, the name of time(2) is gtime, and the name of both execle(2) and execve(2) is exece.
Subcoded System Calls
Some system calls as presented in Section 2 are implemented as suboperations of an undocumented system call. For example, the system calls related to System V semaphores (semctl(2), semget(2), semids(2), semop(2), and semtimedop(2)) are implemented as suboperations of a single system call, semsys. The semsys system call takes as its first argument an implementation-specific subcode denoting the specific system call required: SEMCTL, SEMGET, SEMIDS, SEMOP or SEMTIMEDOP, respectively. As a result of overloading a single system call to implement multiple system calls, there is only a single pair of syscall probes for System V semaphores: syscall::semsys:entry and syscall::semsys:return.
Large File System Calls
A 32-bit program that supports large files that exceed four gigabytes in size must be able to process 64–bit file offsets. Because large files require use of large offsets, large files are manipulated through a parallel set of system interfaces, as described in lf64(5). These interfaces are documented in lf64, but they do not have individual man pages. Each of these large file system call interfaces appears as its own syscall probe as shown in Table 21–1.
sycall Large File Probes
Private System Calls
Some system calls are private implementation details of illumos subsystems that span the user-kernel boundary. As such, these system calls do not have man pages in Section 2. Examples of system calls in this category include the signotify system call, which is used as part of the implementation of POSIX.4 message queues, and the utssys system call, which is used to implement fuser(1M).
For entry probes, the arguments (arg0 .. argn) are the arguments to the system call. For return probes, both arg0 and arg1 contain the return value. A non-zero value in the D variable errno indicates system call failure.
The syscall provider uses DTrace's stability mechanism to describe its stabilities as shown in the following table. For more information about the stability mechanism, refer to Chapter 39, Stability.