Feedback-directed Virtualization Techniques for Scalable Network Experimentation

Mike Hibler, Robert Ricci, Leigh Stoller, Jonathon Duerig, Shashi Guruprasad, Tim Stack, Kirk Webb, Jay Lepreau

University of Utah Flux Group Technical Note FTN-2004-02

May 2004

Flux Research Group
School of Computing, University of Utah
50 S. Central Campus Drive Rm. 3190
Salt Lake City, Utah 84112-9205 USA


Network emulation is valuable largely because of its ability to study applications running on real hosts and "somewhat real" networks. However, conservatively allocating a physical host or network link for each corresponding virtual entity is costly and limits scale. We present a system that can faithfully emulate, on relatively low-end PCs, virtual topologies over an order of magnitude larger than the physical hardware, when running typical classes of distributed applications that have modest resource requirements. The new \Emulab virtualizes hosts, routers, and networks, while retaining near-total application transparency, good performance fidelity, responsiveness suitable for interactive use, high system throughput, and efficient use of resources. Our key design techniques are to use the minimum degree of virtualization that provides transparency to applications, to exploit the hierarchy found in real computer networks, to perform optimistic automated resource allocation, and to use feedback to adaptively allocate resources. The entire system is highly automated, making it easy to use even when scaling to thousands of virtual nodes. This paper describes the system's motivation, design, and preliminary evaluation.

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