Documenting the ioctl interfaces to discover relationships between namespaces

Eric W. Biederman ebiederm at
Sun Dec 11 22:30:38 UTC 2016

"Michael Kerrisk (man-pages)" <mtk.manpages at> writes:

> [was: [PATCH 0/4 v3] Add an interface to discover relationships
> between namespaces]

One small comment below.

>    Introspecting namespace relationships
>        Since Linux 4.9, two ioctl(2) operations  are  provided  to  allow
>        introspection  of  namespace relationships (see user_namespaces(7)
>        and pid_namespaces(7)).  The form of the calls is:
>            ioctl(fd, request);
>        In each case, fd refers to a /proc/[pid]/ns/* file.
>        NS_GET_USERNS
>               Returns a file descriptor that refers to  the  owning  user
>               namespace for the namespace referred to by fd.
>        NS_GET_PARENT
>               Returns  a file descriptor that refers to the parent names‐
>               pace of the namespace referred to by fd.  This operation is
>               valid  only for hierarchical namespaces (i.e., PID and user
>               namespaces).  For user namespaces, NS_GET_PARENT is synony‐
>               mous with NS_GET_USERNS.
>        In each case, the returned file descriptor is opened with O_RDONLY
>        and O_CLOEXEC (close-on-exec).
>        By applying fstat(2) to the returned file descriptor, one  obtains
>        a  stat structure whose st_ino (inode number) field identifies the
>        owning/parent namespace.  This inode number can  be  matched  with
>        the  inode  number  of  another  /proc/[pid]/ns/{pid,user} file to
>        determine whether that is the owning/parent namespace.

Like all fstat inode comparisons to be fully accurate you need to
compare both the st_ino and st_dev.  I reserve the right for st_dev to
be significant when comparing namespaces.  Otherwise I might have to
create a namespace of namespaces someday and that is ugly.

>        Either of these ioctl(2) operations can fail  with  the  following
>        error:
>        EPERM  The  requested  namespace is outside of the caller's names‐
>               pace scope.  This error can occur if, for example, the own‐
>               ing  user  namespace is an ancestor of the caller's current
>               user namespace.  It can also occur on  attempts  to  obtain
>               the parent of the initial user or PID namespace.
>        Additionally,  the  NS_GET_PARENT operation can fail with the fol‐
>        lowing error:
>        EINVAL fd refers to a nonhierarchical namespace.
>        See the EXAMPLE section for an example of the use of these  opera‐
>        tions.
>    [...]


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