A Discrete-Event Network Simulator
Models

Tap NetDevice

The Tap NetDevice can be used to allow a host system or virtual machines to interact with a simulation.

TapBridge Model Overview

The Tap Bridge is designed to integrate “real” internet hosts (or more precisely, hosts that support Tun/Tap devices) into ns-3 simulations. The goal is to make it appear to a “real” host node in that it has an ns-3 net device as a local device. The concept of a “real host” is a bit slippery since the “real host” may actually be virtualized using readily available technologies such as VMware, VirtualBox or OpenVZ.

Since we are, in essence, connecting the inputs and outputs of an ns-3 net device to the inputs and outputs of a Linux Tap net device, we call this arrangement a Tap Bridge.

There are three basic operating modes of this device available to users. Basic functionality is essentially identical, but the modes are different in details regarding how the arrangement is created and configured; and what devices can live on which side of the bridge.

We call these three modes the ConfigureLocal, UseLocal and UseBridge modes. The first “word” in the camel case mode identifier indicates who has the responsibility for creating and configuring the taps. For example, the “Configure” in ConfigureLocal mode indicates that it is the TapBridge that has responsibility for configuring the tap. In UseLocal mode and UseBridge modes, the “Use” prefix indicates that the TapBridge is asked to “Use” an existing configuration.

In other words, in ConfigureLocal mode, the TapBridge has the responsibility for creating and configuring the TAP devices. In UseBridge or UseLocal modes, the user provides a configuration and the TapBridge adapts to that configuration.

TapBridge ConfigureLocal Mode

In the ConfigureLocal mode, the configuration of the tap device is ns-3 configuration-centric. Configuration information is taken from a device in the ns-3 simulation and a tap device matching the ns-3 attributes is automatically created. In this case, a Linux computer is made to appear as if it was directly connected to a simulated ns-3 network.

This is illustrated below:

+--------+
|  Linux |
|  host  |                    +----------+
| ------ |                    |   ghost  |
|  apps  |                    |   node   |
| ------ |                    | -------- |
|  stack |                    |    IP    |     +----------+
| ------ |                    |   stack  |     |   node   |
|  TAP   |                    |==========|     | -------- |
| device | <----- IPC ------> |   tap    |     |    IP    |
+--------+                    |  bridge  |     |   stack  |
                              | -------- |     | -------- |
                              |   ns-3   |     |   ns-3   |
                              |   net    |     |   net    |
                              |  device  |     |  device  |
                              +----------+     +----------+
                                   ||               ||
                              +---------------------------+
                              |        ns-3 channel       |
                              +---------------------------+

In this case, the “ns-3 net device” in the “ghost node” appears as if it were actually replacing the TAP device in the Linux host. The ns-3 simulation creates the TAP device on the underlying Linux OS and configures the IP and MAC addresses of the TAP device to match the values assigned to the simulated ns-3 net device. The “IPC” link shown above is the network tap mechanism in the underlying OS. The whole arrangement acts as a conventional bridge; but a bridge between devices that happen to have the same shared MAC and IP addresses.

Here, the user is not required to provide any configuration information specific to the tap. A tap device will be created and configured by ns-3 according to its defaults, and the tap device will have its name assigned by the underlying operating system according to its defaults.

If the user has a requirement to access the created tap device, he or she may optionally provide a “DeviceName” attribute. In this case, the created OS tap device will be named accordingly.

The ConfigureLocal mode is the default operating mode of the Tap Bridge.

TapBridge UseLocal Mode

The UseLocal mode is quite similar to the ConfigureLocal mode. The significant difference is, as the mode name implies, the TapBridge is going to “Use” an existing tap device previously created and configured by the user. This mode is particularly useful when a virtualization scheme automatically creates tap devices and ns-3 is used to provide simulated networks for those devices.

+--------+
|  Linux |
|  host  |                    +----------+
| ------ |                    |   ghost  |
|  apps  |                    |   node   |
| ------ |                    | -------- |
|  stack |                    |    IP    |     +----------+
| ------ |                    |   stack  |     |   node   |
|  TAP   |                    |==========|     | -------- |
| device | <----- IPC ------> |   tap    |     |    IP    |
| MAC X  |                    |  bridge  |     |   stack  |
+--------+                    | -------- |     | -------- |
                              |   ns-3   |     |   ns-3   |
                              |   net    |     |   net    |
                              |  device  |     |  device  |
                              |  MAC Y   |     |  MAC Z   |
                              +----------+     +----------+
                                   ||               ||
                              +---------------------------+
                              |        ns-3 channel       |
                              +---------------------------+

In this case, the pre-configured MAC address of the “Tap device” (MAC X) will not be the same as that of the bridged “ns-3 net device” (MAC Y) shown in the illustration above. In order to bridge to ns-3 net devices which do not support SendFrom() (especially wireless STA nodes) we impose a requirement that only one Linux device (with one unique MAC address – here X) generates traffic that flows across the IPC link. This is because the MAC addresses of traffic across the IPC link will be “spoofed” or changed to make it appear to Linux and ns-3 that they have the same address. That is, traffic moving from the Linux host to the ns-3 ghost node will have its MAC address changed from X to Y and traffic from the ghost node to the Linux host will have its MAC address changed from Y to X. Since there is a one-to-one correspondence between devices, there may only be one MAC source flowing from the Linux side. This means that Linux bridges with more than one net device added are incompatible with UseLocal mode.

In UseLocal mode, the user is expected to create and configure a tap device completely outside the scope of the ns-3 simulation using something like:

$ sudo tunctl -t tap0
$ sudo ifconfig tap0 hw ether 08:00:2e:00:00:01
$ sudo ifconfig tap0 10.1.1.1 netmask 255.255.255.0 up

To tell the TapBridge what is going on, the user will set either directly into the TapBridge or via the TapBridgeHelper, the “DeviceName” attribute. In the case of the configuration above, the “DeviceName” attribute would be set to “tap0” and the “Mode” attribute would be set to “UseLocal”.

One particular use case for this mode is in the OpenVZ environment. There it is possible to create a Tap device on the “Hardware Node” and move it into a Virtual Private Server. If the TapBridge is able to use an existing tap device it is then possible to avoid the overhead of an OS bridge in that environment.

TapBridge UseBridge Mode

The simplest mode for those familiar with Linux networking is the UseBridge mode. Again, the “Use” prefix indicates that the TapBridge is going to Use an existing configuration. In this case, the TapBridge is going to logically extend a Linux bridge into ns-3.

This is illustrated below:

+---------+
|  Linux  |                             +----------+
| ------- |                             |   ghost  |
|  apps   |                             |   node   |
| ------- |                             | -------- |
|  stack  |                             |    IP    |     +----------+
| ------- | +--------+                  |   stack  |     |   node   |
| Virtual | |  TAP   |                  |==========|     | -------- |
| Device  | | Device | <---- IPC -----> |   tap    |     |    IP    |
+---------+ +--------+                  |  bridge  |     |   stack  |
    ||          ||                      | -------- |     | -------- |
+--------------------+                  |   ns-3   |     |   ns-3   |
| OS (brctl) Bridge  |                  |   net    |     |   net    |
+--------------------+                  |  device  |     |  device  |
                                        +----------+     +----------+
                                             ||               ||
                                        +---------------------------+
                                        |        ns-3 channel       |
                                        +---------------------------+

In this case, a computer running Linux applications, protocols, etc., is connected to a ns-3 simulated network in such a way as to make it appear to the Linux host that the TAP device is a real network device participating in the Linux bridge.

In the ns-3 simulation, a TapBridge is created to match each TAP Device. The name of the TAP Device is assigned to the Tap Bridge using the “DeviceName” attribute. The TapBridge then logically extends the OS bridge to encompass the ns-3 net device.

Since this mode logically extends an OS bridge, there may be many Linux net devices on the non-ns-3 side of the bridge. Therefore, like a net device on any bridge, the ns-3 net device must deal with the possibly of many source addresses. Thus, ns-3 devices must support SendFrom() (NetDevice::SupportsSendFrom() must return true) in order to be configured for use in UseBridge mode.

It is expected that the user will do something like the following to configure the bridge and tap completely outside ns-3:

$ sudo brctl addbr mybridge
$ sudo tunctl -t mytap
$ sudo ifconfig mytap hw ether 00:00:00:00:00:01
$ sudo ifconfig mytap 0.0.0.0 up
$ sudo brctl addif mybridge mytap
$ sudo brctl addif mybridge ...
$ sudo ifconfig mybridge 10.1.1.1 netmask 255.255.255.0 up

To tell the TapBridge what is going on, the user will set either directly into the TapBridge or via the TapBridgeHelper, the “DeviceName” attribute. In the case of the configuration above, the “DeviceName” attribute would be set to “mytap” and the “Mode” attribute would be set to “UseBridge”.

This mode is especially useful in the case of virtualization where the configuration of the virtual hosts may be dictated by another system and not be changeable to suit ns-3. For example, a particular VM scheme may create virtual “vethx” or “vmnetx” devices that appear local to virtual hosts. In order to connect to such systems, one would need to manually create TAP devices on the host system and brigde these TAP devices to the existing (VM) virtual devices. The job of the Tap Bridge in this case is to extend the bridge to join a ns-3 net device.

TapBridge ConfigureLocal Operation

In ConfigureLocal mode, the TapBridge and therefore its associated ns-3 net device appears to the Linux host computer as a network device just like any arbitrary “eth0” or “ath0” might appear. The creation and configuration of the TAP device is done by the ns-3 simulation and no manual configuration is required by the user. The IP addresses, MAC addresses, gateways, etc., for created TAP devices are extracted from the simulation itself by querying the configuration of the ns-3 device and the TapBridge Attributes.

Since the MAC addresses are identical on the Linux side and the ns-3 side, we can use Send() on the ns-3 device which is available on all ns-3 net devices. Since the MAC addresses are identical there is no requirement to hook the promiscuous callback on the receive side. Therefore there are no restrictions on the kinds of net device that are usable in ConfigureLocal mode.

The TapBridge appears to an ns-3 simulation as a channel-less net device. This device must not have an IP address associated with it, but the bridged (ns-3) net device must have an IP address. Be aware that this is the inverse of an ns-3 BridgeNetDevice (or a conventional bridge in general) which demands that its bridge ports not have IP addresses, but allows the bridge device itself to have an IP address.

The host computer will appear in a simulation as a “ghost” node that contains one TapBridge for each NetDevice that is being bridged. From the perspective of a simulation, the only difference between a ghost node and any other node will be the presence of the TapBridge devices. Note however, that the presence of the TapBridge does affect the connectivity of the net device to the IP stack of the ghost node.

Configuration of address information and the ns-3 devices is not changed in any way if a TapBridge is present. A TapBridge will pick up the addressing information from the ns-3 net device to which it is connected (its “bridged” net device) and use that information to create and configure the TAP device on the real host.

The end result of this is a situation where one can, for example, use the standard ping utility on a real host to ping a simulated ns-3 node. If correct routes are added to the internet host (this is expected to be done automatically in future ns-3 releases), the routing systems in ns-3 will enable correct routing of the packets across simulated ns-3 networks. For an example of this, see the example program, tap-wifi-dumbbell.cc in the ns-3 distribution.

The Tap Bridge lives in a kind of a gray world somewhere between a Linux host and an ns-3 bridge device. From the Linux perspective, this code appears as the user mode handler for a TAP net device. In ConfigureLocal mode, this Tap device is automatically created by the ns-3 simulation. When the Linux host writes to one of these automatically created /dev/tap devices, the write is redirected into the TapBridge that lives in the ns-3 world; and from this perspective, the packet write on Linux becomes a packet read in the Tap Bridge. In other words, a Linux process writes a packet to a tap device and this packet is redirected by the network tap mechanism toan ns-3 process where it is received by the TapBridge as a result of a read operation there. The TapBridge then writes the packet to the ns-3 net device to which it is bridged; and therefore it appears as if the Linux host sent a packet directly through an ns-3 net device onto an ns-3 network.

In the other direction, a packet received by the ns-3 net device connected to the Tap Bridge is sent via a receive callback to the TapBridge. The TapBridge then takes that packet and writes it back to the host using the network tap mechanism. This write to the device will appear to the Linux host as if a packet has arrived on a net device; and therefore as if a packet received by the ns-3 net device during a simulation has appeared on a real Linux net device.

The upshot is that the Tap Bridge appears to bridge a tap device on a Linux host in the “real world” to an ns-3 net device in the simulation. Because the TAP device and the bridged ns-3 net device have the same MAC address and the network tap IPC link is not externalized, this particular kind of bridge makes it appear that a ns-3 net device is actually installed in the Linux host.

In order to implement this on the ns-3 side, we need a “ghost node” in the simulation to hold the bridged ns-3 net device and the TapBridge. This node should not actually do anything else in the simulation since its job is simply to make the net device appear in Linux. This is not just arbitrary policy, it is because:

  • Bits sent to the TapBridge from higher layers in the ghost node (using the TapBridge Send method) are completely ignored. The TapBridge is not, itself, connected to any network, neither in Linux nor in ns-3. You can never send nor receive data over a TapBridge from the ghost node.
  • The bridged ns-3 net device has its receive callback disconnected from the ns-3 node and reconnected to the Tap Bridge. All data received by a bridged device will then be sent to the Linux host and will not be received by the node. From the perspective of the ghost node, you can send over this device but you cannot ever receive.

Of course, if you understand all of the issues you can take control of your own destiny and do whatever you want – we do not actively prevent you from using the ghost node for anything you decide. You will be able to perform typical ns-3 operations on the ghost node if you so desire. The internet stack, for example, must be there and functional on that node in order to participate in IP address assignment and global routing. However, as mentioned above, interfaces talking to any TapBridge or associated bridged net devices will not work completely. If you understand exactly what you are doing, you can set up other interfaces and devices on the ghost node and use them; or take advantage of the operational send side of the bridged devices to create traffic generators. We generally recommend that you treat this node as a ghost of the Linux host and leave it to itself, though.

TapBridge UseLocal Mode Operation

As described in above, the TapBridge acts like a bridge from the “real” world into the simulated ns-3 world. In the case of the ConfigureLocal mode, life is easy since the IP address of the Tap device matches the IP address of the ns-3 device and the MAC address of the Tap device matches the MAC address of the ns-3 device; and there is a one-to-one relationship between the devices.

Things are slightly complicated when a Tap device is externally configured with a different MAC address than the ns-3 net device. The conventional way to deal with this kind of difference is to use promiscuous mode in the bridged device to receive packets destined for the different MAC address and forward them off to Linux. In order to move packets the other way, the conventional solution is SendFrom() which allows a caller to “spoof” or change the source MAC address to match the different Linux MAC address.

We do have a specific requirement to be able to bridge Linux Virtual Machines onto wireless STA nodes. Unfortunately, the 802.11 spec doesn’t provide a good way to implement SendFrom(), so we have to work around that problem.

To this end, we provided the UseLocal mode of the Tap Bridge. This mode allows you approach the problem as if you were creating a bridge with a single net device. A single allowed address on the Linux side is remembered in the TapBridge, and all packets coming from the Linux side are repeated out the ns-3 side using the ns-3 device MAC source address. All packets coming in from the ns-3 side are repeated out the Linux side using the remembered MAC address. This allows us to use Send() on the ns-3 device side which is available on all ns-3 net devices.

UseLocal mode is identical to the ConfigureLocal mode except for the creation and configuration of the tap device and the MAC address spoofing.

TapBridge UseBridge Operation

As described in the ConfigureLocal mode section, when the Linux host writes to one of the /dev/tap devices, the write is redirected into the TapBridge that lives in the ns-3 world. In the case of the UseBridge mode, these packets will need to be sent out on the ns-3 network as if they were sent on a device participating in the Linux bridge. This means calling the SendFrom() method on the bridged device and providing the source MAC address found in the packet.

In the other direction, a packet received by an ns-3 net device is hooked via callback to the TapBridge. This must be done in promiscuous mode since the goal is to bridge the ns-3 net device onto the OS (brctl) bridge of which the TAP device is a part.

For these reasons, only ns-3 net devices that support SendFrom() and have a hookable promiscuous receive callback are allowed to participate in UseBridge mode TapBridge configurations.

Tap Bridge Channel Model

There is no channel model associated with the Tap Bridge. In fact, the intention is make it appear that the real internet host is connected to the channel of the bridged net device.

Tap Bridge Tracing Model

Unlike most ns-3 devices, the TapBridge does not provide any standard trace sources. This is because the bridge is an intermediary that is essentially one function call away from the bridged device. We expect that the trace hooks in the bridged device will be sufficient for most users,

Using the TapBridge

We expect that most users will interact with the TapBridge device through the TapBridgeHelper. Users of other helper classes, such as CSMA or Wifi, should be comfortable with the idioms used there.