Solaris Networking Abstractions

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Solaris draws clear boundaries between IP interfaces, data-links, devices, and physical hardware. However, these boundaries are a frequent source of confusion, especially for migrants from other operating systems that do not have such clear delineations. Further, with data-link abstractions becoming ever-richer (via link aggregations, VLANs, IP tunnels -- and soon VNICs, vswitches, and vbridges), people have become increasingly confused about how the abstractions within and across each layer relate. As such, the Clearview team has been working closely with Sun's documentation writers to provide a background chapter (including illustrations) that illuminate the core abstractions.

Needless to say, I was thrilled to see my original skrawls turned into wonderful images like this one:

Above, one can see the flexible and powerful networking topologies that can be created simply from two common Sun networking cards (in this case, ce and qfe). Above the hardware layer, we see five devices -- one for the ce card, and four for the qfe card (the "q" stands for "quad"; qfe has four network ports on one card, which appear to the operating system as four independent devices).

Above the device layer, we see four physical links (shown in blue) that have been instantiated using those devices (the qfe1 device is unused). These links (as with all links) have been named by the administrator using Clearview's upcoming vanity naming feature. As illustrated, VLANs can be created over the links -- as can aggregations. Further, any of the links can also be instantiated at the IP layer (with their link name) using the ifconfig plumb subcommand. We also see that some links can exist independently of any specific underlying hardware -- such as vpn1, which uses the IP routing table to determine the actual link to direct a given packet to.

Finally, at the IP layer, we see that while most IP interfaces have a one-to-one relationship with an underlying datalink, some (such as lo0) have no underlying datalink, and others (such as eml3) group IP interfaces on the same IP broadcast domain together using IPMP (at least, they will once Clearview IPMP is complete).

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Comments:

Hi Meem,

Any idea how far off the IPMP NG, Clearview and Crossbow projects are from integrating into Nevada? These are some incredible technologies, and it will be cool to have them available with Solaris express.

Thanks for the cool post,
- Ryan

Posted by Matty on August 16, 2007 at 05:09 PM EDT #

Hey Ryan,

Most of Clearview (including IPMP NG and Vanity Naming) is approaching dev complete and is scheduled to find its way into Solaris Express in the fall. However, schedules and reality can diverge :-( Crossbow is also approaching dev complete, but I don't know their current integration target -- I'd check with them on crossbow-discuss at opensolaris dot org.

Many thanks for your interest and your questions.

Posted by meem on August 17, 2007 at 09:40 AM EDT #

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