Crossbow Virtual Wire - Network in a Box

Technical Article from the System Admin and Developer Community of OTN

This paper was originally presented at LISA 09 by Sunay Tripathi, Nicolas Droux, Kais Belgaied, and Shrikrishna Khare from the Solaris network kernel engineering team.



Project Crossbow in OpenSolaris (now Oracle Solaris 11 Express) is introducing new abstractions that provide virtual network interface cards (VNICs) and virtual switches that can have dedicated hardware resources and bandwidth assigned to them.

Multiple VNICs can be assigned to OpenSolaris (now Oracle Solaris) zones to create virtual network machines (VNM) that provide higher level networking functionality like virtual routing, virtual load balancing, and so on. These components can be combined to build an arbitrarily complex virtual network called virtual wire (vWire) which can span one or more physical machines. vWires on the same physical network can be VLAN-separated and support dynamic migration of virtual machines, which is an essential feature for hosting and cloud operators. vWires can be reduced to a set of rules and objects that can be easily modified or replicated.

This ability is useful for abstracting out the application from the hardware and the network, and thus considerably facilitates management and hardware upgrade.

The administrative model is simple yet powerful. It allows administrators to validate their network architecture, do performance and bottleneck analysis, and debug existing problems in physical networks by replicating them in virtual form within a box.