Overcoming Asymmetric Routing on Multi-Homed Servers
A good way to address this imbalance is with the iproute2 package. iproute2 allows the administrator to throw away traditional network configuration tools, such as ifconfig, and tackle more complicated situations using a program named ip. ip is part of the iproute2 package written by kernel developer Alexey Kuznetsov. iproute2 comes installed with most distributions. If the ip command is not available on your system, the package may be downloaded at ftp.inr.ac.ru/ip-routing. Like many packages that tightly integrate with Linux internals, iproute2 needs a copy of the kernel sources to be available during its own compilation.
General iproute2 functionality also requires netlink socket support to be compiled into the running kernel. Additionally, the particular strategy outlined in this article requires the IP: advanced router and IP: policy routing options to be configured in the running kernel. These features have been available for the entire 2.4 kernel series and are included in 2.6 as well. The kernel configuration scripts still label policy routing as NEW, but that is more a factor of the kernel help screens being updated slowly than a reflection on the maturity level of advanced and policy routing.
The complete story of iproute2 is too involved for this article. In addition to controlling routing behavior, iproute2 can be used to set up interfaces, control arp behavior, do NAT and establish tunnels.
The main idea of iproute2's routing control is to separate routing decisions into two steps. The second step is a traditional destination-based routing table. The key difference in an iproute2 world is the system may contain many different destination-based routing tables instead of a single global system table. The first iproute2 step is used to identify which of those many tables should be used during the second step. This table identification step is known as rule selection or policy selection. Rule selection is considered more flexible than traditional routing, because it uses factors broader than only the destination address of the packet when making a policy selection.
This two-phase infrastructure lays the groundwork for solving the bottleneck problem on the multi-homed Web server described above. First, we need to create two routing tables; each table routes out through a different interface. Second, we need to create the decision step in such a manner that it selects the routing table that sends the server's response traffic out the same interface on which the request arrived. The source address of the outgoing packets can be used to correlate the packets with the interface on which the session originated. In networking parlance, this technique is known as source-based routing.
Begin by creating the two routing tables. The tables need only default routes to our main gateway, but each one uses a different interface to reach that gateway. Different tables are represented in iproute2 configurations by unique integers. Table numbers can be given string aliases through the /etc/iproute2/rt_tables file, but simple numbers are sufficient for this example. The numbers are simply identifiers, their magnitude carries no meaning. The default system routing table (the normal table seen when using the traditional route command) is number 254. Numbers 1 through 252 are available for local use. We call our example tables here table 1 and table 2:
#ip route add default via 192.168.16.1 dev eth0 tab 1 #ip route add default via 192.168.16.1 dev eth1 tab 2
Displaying the contents of any table is done using the ip route show command:
#ip route show table 1 default via 192.168.16.1 dev eth0 #ip route show table 2 default via 192.168.16.1 dev eth1
Our simple tables look fine; their only difference is the interface on which they transmit. Let's move on to creating the policies that dynamically select among the two tables at runtime. On the example server, interface eth0 is bound to address 192.168.16.20 and interface eth1 is bound to 192.168.16.21. A selection policy that matches the source address of an outgoing packet with the table that uses an interface that is in turn bound to that source address accomplishes our goal. That sounds more complicated than the process really is. What it really means is we need a policy that says packets with a source address of 192.168.16.20 should use table 1 because table 1 uses eth0 and eth0 is bound to 192.168.16.20. Similar logic applies to a policy that ties eth1 and 192.168.16.21 together.
Each routing policy has an associated priority. Policies with a lower priority number take precedence over policies that also may match the candidate packet but have a higher priority value. The priority is an unsigned 32-bit number, so there is never a problem finding enough priority levels to express any algorithm in great detail. Our example algorithm requires only two policies.
At start-up time, the kernel creates several default rules to control the normal routing for the server. These rules have priorities 0, 32766 and 32767. The rule at priority 0 is a special rule for controlling intra-box traffic and does not affect us. However, we do want our new rules to take precedence over the other default rules, so they should use priority numbers less than 32766. These two default rules also may be deleted if you are sure your replacement routes never need to fall back on the default behavior of the server.
The new policy rules are added using the ip rule add command. The from attribute is used to generate source address-based routing policies.
#ip rule add from 192.168.16.20/32 tab 1 priority 500 #ip rule add from 192.168.16.21/32 tab 2 priority 600
Under this setup, outgoing packets first are checked for source address 192.168.16.20. If that matches they use routing table 1, which sends all traffic out eth0. Otherwise the packets are checked for source addresses that match 192.168.16.21. Matches to that rule would use table 2, which sends all traffic out eth1. Any other packets would use the default system rules detailed by rules 32766 and 32767.
#ip rule show 0: from all lookup local 500: from 192.168.16.20 lookup 1 600: from 192.168.16.21 lookup 2 32766: from all lookup main 32767: from all lookup 253
Changes made to the policy database do not take effect dynamically. To tell the kernel that it needs to re-parse the policy database, issue the ip route flush cache command:
#ip route flush cache
iproute2 allows you to use factors other than the source address when performing policy selection. The candidate packet's type of service bits, the destination address and any diffserv markings also are available, along with some other attributes. See www.compendium.com.ar/policy-routing.txt and www.linuxgrill.com/iproute2.doc.html for a good description of all the iproute2 parameters and capabilities.