Episode 03. Underlying Technology
Welcome to our “Underlying Technology” video in Netgate’s short-form video series about TNSR. In this video, we’ll cover a high level overview of TNSR’s software stack, showing where each open source project fits. This should help more technical viewers who like to “get under the hood” to see what makes TNSR tick. It also provides an understanding of both our use of - and contribution back to - open source software.
As displayed on our website, a number of open source projects play a role in making TNSR a high performance software router. Those projects include: Vector Packet Processing (VPP), Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK), Free Range Routing, strongSwan, Kea, Unbound, CLIXON, net-SNMP, and CentOS
On the site, we provide a brief rundown of the functional role each project plays in TNSR. But rather than just reel off a list of projects, it’s more useful to view each project within the three basic components of a telecommunications architecture. They are the data plane, the control plane, and the management plane.
- The Data Plane - sometimes referred to as the forwarding plane - is where packets are moved from one interface to another, as well as where additional packet processing and transformation occurs
- The Control Plane carries signaling traffic which defines what to do with incoming packets
- The Management Plane provides configuration, management, and monitoring of all parts of the software system itself.
With those three planes in mind, let’s look at a logical description of TNSR’s architecture - which puts each software function into context.
Starting at the bottom of the stack, the data plane, TNSR uses VPP and DPDK. Vector Packet Processing propels TNSR to speed gains of up to two orders of magnitude over traditional kernel-based packet processing solutions. For a full explanation and deeper dive into Vector Packet Processing, visit our VPP education page here. DPDK provides a set of data plane libraries and network interface controller poll-mode drivers that offload TCP/IP packet processing from the operating system kernel to processes running in user space.
Within TNSR’s control plane, you will find: Free Range Routing - which provides TNSR’s routing protocol stack. strongSwan for IPsec key generation and parameter negotiation. Kea for DHCP server functionality and Unbound which provides a DNS resolver.
Within the management plane, TNSR relies upon Clixon for system management, including a YANG-based configuration manager, interactive command line interface, and a RESTCONF interface. RESTCONF enables web applications to access TNSR’s configuration data, state data, RPC operations, and event notifications.TNSR also incorporates net-SNMP, which enables legacy SNMP monitoring functions to identify devices, monitor network performance, keep track of changes to the network, or determine the status of network devices in real time.
Rolling all of these projects - within their respective logical planes - into a single code base is what makes TNSR special. Users get world-class router software, progressed by the best minds in the industry, then developed, tested, and packaged as a commercial product by Netgate - which ensures its readiness for prime time deployment, complete with all of the same “ilities” and support expertise you’d expect from a proprietary software vendor, just at a far more attractive price.
One last point. Netgate believes wholeheartedly in the open source movement. But, we are not “net takers”. Our developers have worked tirelessly and passionately - for years - to contribute software features and fixes to multiple open source projects. In the case of TNSR, Netgate developers are currently the third largest contributor to FD.io's Vector Packet Processing - right behind Cisco and Intel - two companies substantially larger in size. You can see the actual number of commits by company at stackalytics.com. This is a testament not only to our commitment to open source itself, but also Netgate’s ethos of contributing back our expertise for the good of all.
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