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3.4 ifaddr Structure

The next structure we look at is the interface address structure, ifaddr, shown in Figure 3.15. Each interface maintains a linked list of ifaddr structures because some data links, such as Ethernet, support more than one protocol. A separate ifaddr structure describes each address assigned to the interface, usually one address per protocol. Another reason to support multiple addresses is that many protocols, including TCP/IP, support multiple addresses assigned to a single physical interface. Although Net/3 supports this feature, many implementations of TCP/IP do not.

03fig15.gifFigure 3.15. ifaddr structure.


The ifaddr structure links all addresses assigned to an interface together by ifa_next and contains a pointer, ifa_ifp, back to the interface's ifnet structure. Figure 3.16 shows the relationship between the ifnet structures and the ifaddr structures.

03fig16.gifFigure 3.16. ifnet and ifaddr structures.


ifa_addr points to a protocol address for the interface and ifa_netmask points to a bit mask that selects the network portion of ifa_addr. Bits that represent the network portion of the address are set to 1 in the mask, and the host portion of the address is set to all 0 bits. Both addresses are stored as sockaddr structures (Section 3.5). Figure 3.38 shows an address and its related mask structure. For IP addresses, the mask selects the network and subnet portions of the IP address.


ifa_dstaddr (or its alias ifa_broadaddr) points to the protocol address of the interface at the other end of a point-to-point link or to the broadcast address assigned to the interface on a broadcast network such as Ethernet. The mutually exclusive flags IFF_BROADCAST and IFF_POINTOPOINT (Figure 3.7) in the interface's ifnet structure specify the applicable name.


ifa_rtrequest, ifa_flags, and ifa_metric support routing lookups for the interface.

ifa_refcnt counts references to the ifaddr structure. The macro IFAFREE only releases the structure when the reference count drops to 0, such as when addresses are deleted with the SIOCDIFADDR ioctl command. The ifaddr structures are reference-counted because they are shared by the interface and routing data structures.

IFAFREE decrements the counter and returns if there are other references. This is the common case and avoids a function call overhead for all but the last reference. If this is the last reference, IFAFREE calls the function ifafree, which releases the structure.

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