Design and Implementation of a Network Server in LibrettOS

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Virginia Tech

Traditional network stacks in monolithic kernels have reliability and security concerns. Any fault in a network stack affects the entire system owing to lack of isolation in the monolithic kernel. Moreover, the large code size of the network stack enlarges the attack surface of the system. A multiserver OS design solves this problem. In contrast to the traditional network stack, a multiserver OS pushes the network stack into the network server as a user process, which performs three enhancements: (i) allows the network server to run in user mode while having its own address space and isolating any fault occurring in the network server; (ii) minimizes the attack surface of the system because the trusted computing base contracts; (iii) enables failure recovery, which is an important feature supported by a multiserver OS. This thesis proposes a network server for LibrettOS, an operating system based on rumprun unikernels and the Xen Hypervisor developed by Virginia Tech. The proposed network server is a service domain providing an L2 frame forwarding service for application domains and based on rumprun such that the existing device drivers of NetBSD can be leveraged with little modification. In this model, the TCP/IP stack runs directly in the address space of applications. This allows retaining the client state even if the network server crashes and makes it possible to recover from a network server failure. We leverage the Xen PCI passthrough to access a NIC (Network Interface Controller) from the network server. Our experimental evaluation demonstrates that the performance of the network server is good and comparable with Linux and NetBSD. We also demonstrate the successful recovery after a failure.

multiserver OS, microkernel, hypervisor, Xen