Creating an OpenFlow Playground with OVS:
A Homemade Mininet Alternative

2 years ago by Milos Zdravkovic

OVS-Mesh Script Generator -

Demo   GitHub

# System requirements
# Creating a topology in OVS-Mesh Script Generator
# A quick topology check using ONOS
# Host configuration
# Cleaning up the mess
# About OVS-Mesh Script Generator

System requirements

So far the solution we are describing in this post has only been tested on Ubuntu 16.04. It should, however, work on any reasonably old member of the Debian/Ubuntu family. The steps that follow are intended for testing and experimental purposes and for that reason we recommend that you first try them in some isolated environment (a dedicated VM or some old PC) where the risk of losing your data or something else going wrong is minimal.

As the title suggests, for this journey you will also need to install the Open vSwitch. If you haven't done so already, use the following two commands:

# apt-get update
# apt-get -y install openvswitch-vswitch

Note: Unlike $, the # prompt marks the commands for which you need to acquire root privilegies. You can also prefix these commands with the sudo command (if available on your system) to run them.

Once installed, you can check the Open vSwitch version as follows:

$ ovs-vswitchd --version
ovs-vswitchd (Open vSwitch) 2.5.0
Compiled Mar 10 2016 14:17:22

The latest compatibilty matrix for OVS and OpenFlow versions can be found here. At the time of writing this post, Ubuntu 16.04 provided us with the most recent version:

Open vSwitch OF1.0 OF1.1 OF1.2 OF1.3 OF1.4 OF1.5 OF1.6
1.9 and earlier yes
1.10, 1.11 yes (*) (*)
2.0, 2.1 yes (*) (*) (*)
2.2 yes (*) (*) (*) (%) (*)
2.3, 2.4 yes yes yes yes (*) (*)
2.5 yes yes yes yes (*) (*) (*)

(*) Supported, with one or more missing features.
(%) Experimental, unsafe implementation.

Of course, it is possible that you will not be happy with the version of OVS that comes with the default packaging for the distro of your choice (or more importantly, that you will not be happy with the versions of OpenFlow it supports). In that case, you can either change the distribuition, search for some other package repositories or find the version that suits your needs and build it directly from the source (see here on how to proceed with this).

Creating a topology in OVS-Mesh Script Generator

The next step is to create a data-plane topology you would like to present to your OpenFlow controller. For this purpose, we have prepared a small web application called OVS-Mesh Script Generator.

OVS-Mesh Script Generator

Note: The OVS-Mesh Script Generator will not work properly in older and outdated browsers.

Each switch should be configured with the Controller, Listen and OpenFlow version values as described in the man 8 ovs-vsctl. The values can be specified for each switch individually (while adding them to the graph for the first time or by editing them afterwards). When adding a switch for the first time, the defaults from the top of the page will be offered as shown on the picture below:

OVS Mesh Script Generator - Adding a new switch

Changing the defaults at the top of the page will also affect the switches holding the old values.

The other type of node that can be added to the graph is a host. Hosts do not have any configurable parameters and are a described in a separate section.

OVS Mesh Script Generator - Adding a new host

As a result of the changes you make on the graph, the Bash script shown in the frame below will also change. This script is what you will run on your system in order to create a desired OpenFlow playground:

Bash Script - OVS-Mesh Script Generator

Once you are done with setting your topology and parameters, you can copy-paste the data-plane script to your favorite editor (vim, nano, joe, ...) and save it under the name such as /root/ (you will need root privilegies for this particular path). After that, you can add the execute permissions to the owner of this file:

# chmod u+x /root/

In order for your OVS playground to survive accross reboots, add the following line in to your /etc/rc.local (just above the exit 0 command):

/root/ > /root/ovs-mesh.log 2>&1 &

You can use the same command to run the script directly from the shell:

# /root/ > /root/ovs-mesh.log 2>&1 &

Note: Running scripts as root should always raise some security concerns. It's probably a good idea to check the content of the script before actually running. Or even better, run it in environment in which it cannot do much harm.

Note: If you're running a manually built version of OVS, make sure that the PATH environment variable contains everything you need to execute the script.

If everything went as expected, the content of the /root/ovs-mesh.log should be something like:

# cat /root/ ovs-mesh.log
(Re-)creating OVS instances...
The list of OVS instances is: sw00 sw01 sw02 sw03 sw04

Instantiating virtual crossover cables...

Connecting OVS instances to each other...

Creating hosts...

Creating and connecting virtual patch cables...

Press Ctrl-C to exit...

A quick topology check using ONOS

If you don't have an OpenFlow controller on which you can play and are not sure where to start, we can recommend that you try ONOS (Open Network Operating System) as it is free and relatively easy to set up option.

Note: You can skip this section if you already have an OpenFlow controller suitable for this kind of testing.

The detailed instructions on how to install and run ONOS can be found on their official Wiki page. We will only lay out a brief summary of these steps for the 1.7.1 version (the latest stable edition of ONOS at the time of writing this post). Assuming that you have accepted the default values offered by the OVS-Mesh Script Generator, you should execute the following commands on the same host on which your previously generated data-plane script is running:

# ONOS_VERSION="1.7.1"

# adduser sdn --system –group
# apt-get install software-properties-common -y
# add-apt-repository ppa:webupd8team/java -y
# apt-get update
# echo "oracle-java8-installer shared/accepted-oracle-license-v1-1 select true" | debconf-set-selections
# apt-get install oracle-java8-installer oracle-java8-set-default -y
# apt-get install curl
# mkdir /opt
# cd /opt
# wget -c${ONOS_VERSION}.tar.gz
# tar xzf onos-${ONOS_VERSION}.tar.gz
# mv onos-${ONOS_VERSION} onos

In order to run ONOS you need to call its start script, located under the /opt/onos/bin directory. We recommend that you do this from a dedicated terminal (virtual console or a separate SSH session):

/opt/onos/bin/onos-service start

Note: Once you're done playing with ONOS, you can hit Ctrl-D or type system:shutdown or logout in its shell to stop it.

To access the ONOS web GUI use the following URL: http://<yourhost>:8181/onos/ui. The default account is User:onos/Password:rocks.

ONOS web GUI - OVS-Mesh Script Generator

If everything went as expected, ONOS will display your data-plane topology.

As a final step in this section, use the slide-out topology toolbar in the lower left corner to enable the host visibility. Note that this will not cause the diagram to change since ONOS is still not aware of your hosts at this point.

Host configuration

In order to demonstrate a simple ping between the hosts, you first need to enable it in your OpenFlow controller. In ONOS, the easiest way to do so is to activate a few basic applications as shown on the picture below (use the navigation menu button near the ONOS logo to get there):

ONOS - Accessing and configuring the hosts - OVS-Mesh Script Generator

Next, you need to configure some IP addresses on your hosts. The hosts are implemented using the simplest form of Linux namespaces. To access their shells, you can use something like:

# ip netns exec Host-00 bash

... where Host-00 is the name of the host and bash is the name of the executable for the shell you would like to use.

To confirm that you have landed on the right host, use the following check:

# ifconfig -a

The output should look something like:

c.sw01-host00.1 Link encap:Ethernet HWaddr ba:a8:b8:5e:bf:3d
      RX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:2 overruns:0 frame:0
      TX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
      collisions:0 txqueuelen:1000
      RX bytes:0 (0.0 B) TX bytes:0 (0.0 B)

lo     Link encap:Local Loopback
      LOOPBACK MTU:65536 Metric:1
      RX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
      TX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
      collisions:0 txqueuelen:1
      RX bytes:0 (0.0 B) TX bytes:0 (0.0 B)

The naming convention for the network interfaces (such as c.sw01-host00.1) may seem a bit cryptic at first but is actually there to remind you of your topology. The format can be broken down as c.<SWITCH>-<HOST>.<NUMBER>. The <HOST> part identifies the host itself (i.e. host00 for the Host-00, host01 for the Host-01, and so on). The <SWITCH> part tells you to which switch the interfaces leads to. Finally, the <NUMBER> was introduced because you are allowed to have multiple connections between a host and a switch (e.g. c.sw01-host00.2, c.sw01-host00.3, and so on, if we were to have them).

Now, let's assign some IP address to the c.sw01-host00.1 interface:

# ifconfig c.sw01-host00.1 netmask

Trying to ping the other host on will fail at this point but as a result, your OpenFlow controller will become aware of it:

ONOS 2 - OVS-Mesh Script Generator

# ping
--- ping statistics ---
60 packets transmitted, 0 received, 100% packet loss, time 59020ms

To leave the Host-00 and return to your main host, hit the Ctrl-D pair on your keyboard or simply use the exit command:

# exit

To confirm that you have returned to the right place use the ifconfig -a command again. You should see a different output this time showing a bunch of OVS instances and veth pairs used to connect them.

To get the ping finally working, configure the Host-01 as shown in the following snippet:

# ip netns exec Host-01 bash

# ifconfig -a
c.sw03-host01.1 Link encap:Ethernet HWaddr 92:a7:7d:7e:da:1b
      RX packets:1 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
      TX packets:1 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
      collisions:0 txqueuelen:1000
      RX bytes:90 (90.0 B) TX bytes:90 (90.0 B)

lo     Link encap:Local Loopback
      LOOPBACK MTU:65536 Metric:1
      RX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
      TX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
      collisions:0 txqueuelen:1
      RX bytes:0 (0.0 B) TX bytes:0 (0.0 B)

# ifconfig c.sw03-host01.1 netmask

# ping
PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.
64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=64 time=32.6 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=64 time=0.493 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=3 ttl=64 time=0.069 ms
--- ping statistics ---
3 packets transmitted, 3 received, 0% packet loss, time 2000ms
rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 0.069/11.086/32.696/15.281 ms

# exit

As the output confirms, the ping is now working and both hosts are recognized by the controller:

ONOS 3 - OVS-Mesh Script Generator

In order to make the IP configuration on your hosts more permananet, you need to manually add it to the data-plane script. The change has to be made just above the echo "Press Ctrl-C to exit..." command:


ip netns exec Host-00 ifconfig c.sw01-host00.1 netmask
ip netns exec Host-01 ifconfig c.sw03-host01.1 netmask

echo "Press Ctrl-C to exit..."

This part of the script is open for other types of "permanent" changes, as well. For example, you can extend your topology beyond the main host by attaching a real interface to one of your OVS instances. Adding other types of hosts (Docker, QEMU, Libvirt,..) into the mixture is also an option. Note that if you are adding your custom things to the script, you should also consider updating the clean-up routine.

Cleaning up the mess

To stop and clean up everything, all you need to do is "kill" your data-plane script:

# killall

As a result, this will remove the OVS instances, along with the hosts and the virtual cabling between them.

Note: Using SIGKILL (a.k.a. -9) to stop the script will not trigger the clean-up routine, leaving the topology garbage behind.

Note: The script cannot be started if it already has a running instance.

About OVS-Mesh Script Generator

OVS-Mesh Script Generator was developed using Vue.js framework and Vis.js visualization library. Additional features include tabular connectivity view:

Tabular View - OVS-Mesh Script Generator

... as well as the option to save and import your topologies:

Export-Import Projects - OVS-Mesh Script Generator

Feel free to use the comment section below if you have any questions.

Demo   GitHub

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