SPDK Directory Structure


SPDK is primarily a collection of C libraries intended to be consumed directly by applications, but the repository also contains many examples and full-fledged applications. This will provide a general overview of what is where in the repository.


The app top-level directory contains four applications:

  • app/iscsi_tgt: An iSCSI target
  • app/nvmf_tgt: An NVMe-oF target
  • app/iscsi_top: Informational tool (like top) that tracks activity in the iSCSI target.
  • app/trace: A tool for processing trace points output from the iSCSI and NVMe-oF targets.
  • app/vhost: A vhost application that presents virtio controllers to QEMU-based VMs and process I/O submitted to those controllers.

The application binaries will be in their respective directories after compiling and all can be run with no arguments to print out their command line arguments. For the iSCSI and NVMe-oF targets, they both need a configuration file (-c option). Fully commented examples of the configuration files live in the etc/spdk directory.

Build Collateral

The build directory contains all of the static libraries constructed during the build process. The lib directory combined with the include/spdk directory are the official outputs of an SPDK release, if it were to be packaged.


The doc top-level directory contains all of SPDK's documentation. API Documentation is created using Doxygen directly from the code, but more general articles and longer explanations reside in this directory, as well as the Doxygen config file.

To build the documentation, just type make within the doc directory.


The examples top-level directory contains a set of examples intended to be used for reference. These are different than the applications, which are doing a "real" task that could reasonably be deployed. The examples are instead either heavily contrived to demonstrate some facet of SPDK, or aren't considered complete enough to warrant tagging them as a full blown SPDK application.

This is a great place to learn about how SPDK works. In particular, check out examples/nvme/hello_world.


The include directory is where all of the header files are located. The public API is all placed in the spdk subdirectory of include and we highly recommend that applications set their include path to the top level include directory and include the headers by prefixing spdk/ like this:

#include "spdk/nvme.h"

Most of the headers here correspond with a library in the lib directory and will be covered in that section. There are a few headers that stand alone, however. They are:

There is also an spdk_internal directory that contains header files widely included by libraries within SPDK, but that are not part of the public API and would not be installed on a user's system.


The lib directory contains the real heart of SPDK. Each component is a C library with its own directory under lib.

Block Device Abstraction Layer

The bdev directory contains a block device abstraction layer that is currently used within the iSCSI and NVMe-oF targets. The public interface is include/spdk/bdev.h. This library lacks clearly defined responsibilities as of this writing and instead does a number of things:

  • Translates from a common block protocol to specific protocols like NVMe or to system calls like libaio. There are currently three block device backend modules that can be plugged in - libaio, SPDK NVMe, CephRBD, and a RAM-based backend called malloc.
  • Provides a mechanism for composing virtual block devices from physical devices (to do RAID and the like).
  • Handles some memory allocation for data buffers.

This layer also could be made to do I/O queueing or splitting in a general way. We're open to design ideas and discussion here.

Configuration File Parser

The conf directory contains configuration file parser. The public header is include/spdk/conf.h. The configuration file format is kind of like INI, except that the directives are are "Name Value" instead of "Name = Value". This is the configuration format for both the iSCSI and NVMe-oF targets.

... Lots more libraries that need to be described ...

Makefile Fragments

The mk directory contains a number of shared Makefile fragments used in the build system.


The scripts directory contains convenient scripts for a number of operations. The two most important are check_format.sh, which will use astyle and pep8 to check C, C++, and Python coding style against our defined conventions, and setup.sh which binds and unbinds devices from kernel drivers.


The test directory contains all of the tests for SPDK's components and the subdirectories mirror the structure of the entire repository. The tests are a mixture of unit tests and functional tests.