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Persistent Networking with Irmin and MirageOS

Mindy Preston University of Cambridge @mindypreston

on behalf of: Magnus Skjegstad, Thomas Gazagnaire, Richard Mortier and Anil Madhavapeddy

Work funded in part by the EU FP7 User-Centric Networking project, Grant No. 611001.

Press <esc> to view the slide index, and the <arrow> keys to navigate.

"Network Datastores"

  • ARP cache
  • NAT table
  • DNS cache
  • DHCP client lease status
  • IP fragmentation/reassembly
  • TCP connection state, seq/ack numbers, window status
  • upstream network: DHCP server lease status, IDS/IPS, ...

MirageOS + Irmin = <3

  • MirageOS: library operating system: code like networking and storage looks like your application-layer code

    • Lift data structures out of kernel memory
  • Irmin: library for persistent stores with built-in snapshot, branching, & reverting mechanisms

    • Mediate and track access to data structures in a type-aware way

What Updating Irmin Looks Like

  • Clone a new branch from primary
  • Make edits to the branch
  • Attempt to merge the branch back into primary


$ git merge names
CONFLICT (content): Merge conflict in
Automatic merge failed; fix conflicts and then commit the result.
$ grep -C2 =======
<<<<<<< HEAD
    S.listen_udpv4 stack ~port:1901 output_packet;
    S.listen_udpv4 stack ~port:1900 receive;
>>>>>>> names
  • Conflict is avoidable here: changes aren't mutually exclusive
  • Why doesn't Git know that?

Example: ARP

A lookup table between Ipaddr.V4.t and Macaddr.t with expiration.

Multiple code paths to access the cache:

  • Packet processing
  • Expiration
  • Lookups from External Entities

Order Doesn't Matter

  • Set some rules for conflicts & always return something
  let merge _path ~(old : Nat_table.Entry.t Irmin.Merge.promise) t1 t2 =        
    let winner =                                                                
      match compare t1 t2 with                                                  
      | n when n <= 0 -> t1                                                     
      | n -> t2                                                                 
    Irmin.Merge.OP.ok winner  
  • History!

Introspection/Editing with Git Tools

  • Flipping between in-memory and Git-backed FS:
module A_fs = Irmin_arp.Arp.Make(Irmin_unix.Irmin_git.FS)
module A_mem = Irmin_arp.Arp.Make(Irmin_mem.Make)   
module A = A_fs (* change to A_mem for in-memory store! *)

Irmin-Arp in Action

  • Virtual network of 10 nodes with ARP stacks sending TCP messages back and forth
  • Git-FS backend for introspection and modification
  • ARP:
    • initial broadcast
    • subsequent request/reply
    • entries expire after 60s

Another Demo: NAT + Irmin_http

  • CubieTruck has two network interfaces: WiFi and Ethernet
  • Xen hypervisor assigns a virtual bridge to each
  • MirageOS unikernel has an interface on each (plus a management interface)
  • Unikernel acts as a NAT device
    • Network packets on the WiFi interface are rewritten to appear to come from the Ethernet interface


  • NAT: translate packets from one (src_ip, src_port, dst_ip, dst_port) to another (src_ip, src_port, dst_ip, dst_port)
  • But IPs change!
  • Instead of lengthy connection timeout and retry, an aware NAT table could just remap them


  • "the database that never forgets"
  • access control
    • certificates and restricted channels to access the store are very coarse-grained


  • Run NATting unikernel on local Xen host across two virtual bridges (xenbr0, xenbr1) with 32MB of RAM
  • Run a DNS server on xenbr0
  • Run a client unikernel on xenbr1
  • Client unikernel resolves a name using the DNS server on xenbr0
  • Measure time delta between packet arrival on xenbr0 and xenbr1
  • DNS queries require table entry insertion; DNS responses only require a lookup

MirageOS Hashtable NAT:

  • max latency for lookup: ~140us
  • max latency for insertion: ~450us

MirageOS Hashtable NAT:

MirageOS Irmin NAT:

  • max latency for lookup: ~220us
    • (down from 450us last week)
  • max latency for insertion: ~10,000us (!)
    • (down from 25,000us yesterday)

MirageOS Irmin NAT:

Imagined Futures

  • Integration between XenStore and MirageOS unikernels


  • Questions?
+ Some of the research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme FP7/2007-2013 under the UCN project, grant agreement no 611001.
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