IP Bandwidth Management

A look at the new traffic control code in the kernel and how it aids in bandwidth management.
2.1.x Traffic Control

The Linux TC conditions packets after the next hop has been decided, i.e., after the forwarding code has decided which interface the packet will go out on. This means that only outgoing packets are subjected to the TC. The TC consists of three building blocks.

The queueing discipline can be thought of as the traffic/data-packet manager for a device. It encapsulates within it the two other major TC components and controls how data flows through them. Only one such managing component can be attached to a device. Currently, a few device queueing disciplines are available to manage devices, including class-based queueing (CBQ), Priority and CSZ (Clark-Shenker-Zhang). An example configuration with CBQ will be shown later.

The class(es) are managed by the device queueing discipline. A class consists of rules for messaging data owned by that class. For example, all data packets in a class could be subjected to a rate limit of 1Mbps and allowed to overshoot up to 3Mbps between the hours of midnight and 6AM. Several queueing disciplines can be attached to classes, including FIFO (First-In-First-Out), RED (Random Early Detection), SFQ (Stochastic Fair Queueing) and Token Bucket. If no queueing discipline is attached to a device, basic FIFO is used. In the example shown later, no specific class queueing disciplines are attached, thus defaulting to simple FIFO. CBQ, CSZ and Priority can also be used for classes and allow for subclassing within a class. This shows how easily very complex scenarios using TC can be built. The queueing disciplines managing classes are referred to as class queueing disciplines. Generally, the class queueing discipline manages the data and queues for that class and can decide to delay, drop or reclassify the packets it manages.

Classifiers or filters describe packets and map them into classes managed by the queueing disciplines. These normally provide simple description languages to specify how to select packets and map them to classes. Currently, several filters (depending on your needs) are available in conjunction with TC, including the route-based classifier, the RSVP classifier (one for IPV4 and another for IPV6) and the u32 classifier. All of the firewalling filters can be used subject to their internal filtering tags. For example, ipchains could be used to classify packets.

The TC code resides in the kernel and the different blocks can be compiled in as modules or straight into the kernel. Communication and configuration of the kernel code or modules is achieved by the user-level program tc written by Alexey. The interaction is shown in Figure 1. The tc program can be downloaded from ftp://linux.wauug.org/pub/net/ip-routing/iproute2-current.tar.gz. You will need to patch it for glibc, if you are using a glibc-only system. The patches are available in the same directory. Note that the package also includes the ip and rtmon tools.

Figure 1. Configuration of Kernel Code with TC

TC Features

TC is very flexible: you decide what you want to configure as a service. An ISP that offers virtual servers with different QoS levels is a good example of the power of Linux traffic control. Note that similar services can be applied within an intranet. The traditional offer differentiator when ISPs sell virtual, web-server, hosting services is disk space. For $5 more a month, you could get an additional 100 megabytes of disk space for your hosted web server. Other ISPs differentiate services based on access to other services, such as Realvideo and SSL, from your web pages. Still others base it on how many hits your web pages get and such things. With Linux traffic control in place, a new dimension is added to differentiating services. This presents many new opportunities for differentiating services offered to your customers. For example, if you offer virtual web hosting, you could offer four different packages:

  • Service Level Agreement (SLA) 1: cost $5/month—visitors to customers' virtual servers can get up to 250Kbps coming out of the server.

  • SLA2: cost $7/month—250Kbps, which can overshoot to 1Mbps between the hours of midnight and 6AM.

  • SLA3: cost $9/month—250Kbps, which can overshoot to 1Mbps when bandwidth is available at any time of the day.

  • SLA4: cost $50/month—up to 1Mbps of high-priority, low-latency bandwidth suitable for video and audio delivery (as well as IP telephony), with extra filters to give very low bandwidth to low priority visitors (e.g., those who get their services free).

A wide range of creative services could be offered. The time-of-day features could easily be added by using crontab-activated scripts to change configurations.