KUnit Architecture

The KUnit architecture is divided into two parts:

In-Kernel Testing Framework

The kernel testing library supports KUnit tests written in C using KUnit. These KUnit tests are kernel code. KUnit performs the following tasks:

  • Organizes tests

  • Reports test results

  • Provides test utilities

Test Cases

The test case is the fundamental unit in KUnit. KUnit test cases are organised into suites. A KUnit test case is a function with type signature void (*)(struct kunit *test). These test case functions are wrapped in a struct called struct kunit_case.

Each KUnit test case receives a struct kunit context object that tracks a running test. The KUnit assertion macros and other KUnit utilities use the struct kunit context object. As an exception, there are two fields:

  • ->priv: The setup functions can use it to store arbitrary test user data.

  • ->param_value: It contains the parameter value which can be retrieved in the parameterized tests.

Test Suites

A KUnit suite includes a collection of test cases. The KUnit suites are represented by the struct kunit_suite. For example:

static struct kunit_case example_test_cases[] = {

static struct kunit_suite example_test_suite = {
        .name = "example",
        .init = example_test_init,
        .exit = example_test_exit,
        .test_cases = example_test_cases,

In the above example, the test suite example_test_suite, runs the test cases example_test_foo, example_test_bar, and example_test_baz. Before running the test, the example_test_init is called and after running the test, example_test_exit is called. The kunit_test_suite(example_test_suite) registers the test suite with the KUnit test framework.


The KUnit executor can list and run built-in KUnit tests on boot. The Test suites are stored in a linker section called .kunit_test_suites. For the code, see KUNIT_TABLE() macro definition in include/asm-generic/vmlinux.lds.h. The linker section consists of an array of pointers to struct kunit_suite, and is populated by the kunit_test_suites() macro. The KUnit executor iterates over the linker section array in order to run all the tests that are compiled into the kernel.

KUnit Suite Memory

KUnit Suite Memory Diagram

On the kernel boot, the KUnit executor uses the start and end addresses of this section to iterate over and run all tests. For the implementation of the executor, see lib/kunit/executor.c. When built as a module, the kunit_test_suites() macro defines a module_init() function, which runs all the tests in the compilation unit instead of utilizing the executor.

In KUnit tests, some error classes do not affect other tests or parts of the kernel, each KUnit case executes in a separate thread context. See the kunit_try_catch_run() function in lib/kunit/try-catch.c.

Assertion Macros

KUnit tests verify state using expectations/assertions. All expectations/assertions are formatted as: KUNIT_{EXPECT|ASSERT}_<op>[_MSG](kunit, property[, message])

  • {EXPECT|ASSERT} determines whether the check is an assertion or an expectation. In the event of a failure, the testing flow differs as follows:

    • For expectations, the test is marked as failed and the failure is logged.

    • Failing assertions, on the other hand, result in the test case being terminated immediately.

      • Assertions call the function: void __noreturn __kunit_abort(struct kunit *).

      • __kunit_abort calls the function: void __noreturn kunit_try_catch_throw(struct kunit_try_catch *try_catch).

      • kunit_try_catch_throw calls the function: void kthread_complete_and_exit(struct completion *, long) __noreturn; and terminates the special thread context.

  • <op> denotes a check with options: TRUE (supplied property has the boolean value “true”), EQ (two supplied properties are equal), NOT_ERR_OR_NULL (supplied pointer is not null and does not contain an “err” value).

  • [_MSG] prints a custom message on failure.

Test Result Reporting

KUnit prints the test results in KTAP format. KTAP is based on TAP14, see The Kernel Test Anything Protocol (KTAP), version 1. KTAP works with KUnit and Kselftest. The KUnit executor prints KTAP results to dmesg, and debugfs (if configured).

Parameterized Tests

Each KUnit parameterized test is associated with a collection of parameters. The test is invoked multiple times, once for each parameter value and the parameter is stored in the param_value field. The test case includes a KUNIT_CASE_PARAM() macro that accepts a generator function. The generator function is passed the previous parameter and returns the next parameter. It also includes a macro for generating array-based common-case generators.

kunit_tool (Command-line Test Harness)

kunit_tool is a Python script, found in tools/testing/kunit/kunit.py. It is used to configure, build, execute, parse test results and run all of the previous commands in correct order (i.e., configure, build, execute and parse). You have two options for running KUnit tests: either build the kernel with KUnit enabled and manually parse the results (see Run Tests without kunit_tool) or use kunit_tool (see Running tests with kunit_tool).

  • configure command generates the kernel .config from a .kunitconfig file (and any architecture-specific options). The Python scripts available in qemu_configs folder (for example, tools/testing/kunit/qemu configs/powerpc.py) contains additional configuration options for specific architectures. It parses both the existing .config and the .kunitconfig files to ensure that .config is a superset of .kunitconfig. If not, it will combine the two and run make olddefconfig to regenerate the .config file. It then checks to see if .config has become a superset. This verifies that all the Kconfig dependencies are correctly specified in the file .kunitconfig. The kunit_config.py script contains the code for parsing Kconfigs. The code which runs make olddefconfig is part of the kunit_kernel.py script. You can invoke this command through: ./tools/testing/kunit/kunit.py config and generate a .config file.

  • build runs make on the kernel tree with required options (depends on the architecture and some options, for example: build_dir) and reports any errors. To build a KUnit kernel from the current .config, you can use the build argument: ./tools/testing/kunit/kunit.py build.

  • exec command executes kernel results either directly (using User-mode Linux configuration), or through an emulator such as QEMU. It reads results from the log using standard output (stdout), and passes them to parse to be parsed. If you already have built a kernel with built-in KUnit tests, you can run the kernel and display the test results with the exec argument: ./tools/testing/kunit/kunit.py exec.

  • parse extracts the KTAP output from a kernel log, parses the test results, and prints a summary. For failed tests, any diagnostic output will be included.