Inner Workings of WANPIPE

Corbic and Mandelstam discuss the structure and user interfaces to the WANPIPE drivers as they have evolved and currently exist.

From the start, Linux has been the operating system of choice for network appliances—devices that provide services such as network address translation (NAT), firewalling, virtual private networks (VPN), mail services and web caching. It was therefore a natural requirement, from the earliest days, that Linux provide internal support for wide area network (WAN) connectivity.

In 1994, Sangoma began developing its WANPIPE code and utilities for Linux to supplement drivers that had been written by third parties to support Sangoma WAN cards.

Intelligent Adapters

WANPIPE supports the Sangoma S series. Included in this series are cards such as the S514 PCI and S508 ISA—intelligent adapters that support most WAN protocols in firmware, including Frame Relay, PPP, HDLC, X25 and BiSync.

Because protocols are supported in firmware, design of the device driver is much simpler. It is easier to port to a new operating system as there are fewer chances of failure and CPU load is kept to a minimum. These characteristics enable a relatively slow machine like a 486 to use a Sangoma adapter and Linux to create a powerful T1 router.

With protocols isolated on the board, it is possible to test and certify the protocol implementations of one operating system and know that they will work identically on any other operating system. If necessary, a protocol update can be installed on the fly, without recompiling the driver or the kernel.

Sangoma adapters can have two different physical interfaces, T1 (CSU/DSU on board) or serial V.35/X.21/EIA530/RS232. The card with the T1 interface allows the server to connect directly to the T1 line without an external CSU/DSU.

WANPIPE Device Drivers

Sangoma S514 and S508 cards support up to four high-speed sync lines, each carrying a multichannel WAN protocol. The driver architecture was based on the following requirements:

  • Multi-adapter support, where each adapter can have up to four physical links

  • Each link can have a maximum of 255 logical channels

  • Control and configure each link separately

  • Control and configure each logical channel separately

  • Support multiple protocols: Frame Relay, CHDLC, PPP, X25, SDLC, etc.

  • Easily expandable (future protocols)

  • Support for both Routing and API applications simultaneously

  • Secure socket for API applications (No silent packet dropping allowed)

  • Local and remote debugging support

  • SNMP Support

  • Fast Tx and Rx paths

  • Proc file system support: statistics and debugging

  • Driver Message/Event Logging

  • Easy updates and upgrades

The following design rules were adopted in developing the driver:

1. WANPIPE drivers map each active physical link to a separate device in the kernel. Each physical line can be configured, restarted or debugged without conflicting with other sync lines. WANPIPE drivers can support up to 16 devices, four cards with four physical links.

2. Since WAN protocols can have many logical channels on a single physical link, each channel is mapped to a network interface. WAN protocols, such as Frame Relay or X.25, support one-to-many connections through the use of logical channels. For each physical line, WANPIPE supports up to 255 logical channels for X.25 and 100 logical channels for Frame Relay. Each logical channel can be restarted or reconfigured without bringing down all other channels on the same physical link.

3. Management/debugging interface calls are user datagram protocol (UDP) based and OS independent. Sangoma adopted a common UDP-based interface for collecting statistics and managing WAN links to provide an alternative to SNMP-based tools that are often complicated and costly. Sangoma felt that users should be able to easily interrogate and manage the system remotely, using tools that are included in the WANPIPE package.

The system developed is UDP-based and operating system independent so that, for instance, a Windows GUI application can be used to monitor a remote Linux system. The system is password-free but can be made to operate in a highly secure manner.

4. Each network interface can support either API or ROUTING mode. Aside from IP routing, many of Sangoma's customers use the Sangoma S series as communication building blocks for their own applications, using our published applications program interfaces (API). These applications include such diverse uses as:

  • Providing unidirectional broadcasts of financial information and newscasts over satellite links.

  • Monitoring cellular switch information using X.25.

  • Emulation of IBM mainframes or controllers over SDLC, X.25 or BSC.

  • Controlling military hardware using HDLC LAPB.

For maximum flexibility, the architecture was designed so that API calls and standard IP routing traffic can coexist on any physical port. For instance, a set of X.25 logical channels can be used to provide standard IP connectivity between a series of locations while other channels are used to exchange point-of-sale (POS) credit card swipe information that is not IP-based. The driver can accept API or routing packets simultaneously, depending on the network interface setup.

5. No API packets to be dropped by the stack. IP stacks are designed to silently discard packets when congested. This is accepted behavior in the IP world, where data integrity is ensured by higher-level TCP protocol. However, in the case of error-correcting protocols such as BSC, HDLC LAPB, X.25 and SDLC, it is assumed that once a packet has been acknowledged at the link level, delivery to the application is guaranteed. Therefore, it was absolutely necessary that the WANPIPE raw socket stack would not silently drop packets.

6. WANPIPE device drivers should be loaded as modules into the Linux kernel.

Using modules, rather than compiling the kernel, makes it easy to update the driver. Also, because only the modules need to be compiled, no reboot is needed.

Employing the above design rules, WANPIPE device drivers maximize the utility of the S series cards. Clearly defined data, debugging and (re)configuration paths enable simultaneous multiprotocol operation to be efficient, configurable and manageable. The design of the driver is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. How the WANPIPE Device Driver Fits into the Linux Kernel