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Virtualizing Testbeds

Creating prototypes is a typical way to demonstrate the feasibility of scientific ideas. Testbeds are an important scientific tool, as they can provide the platform to build such prototypes. However, to build a prototype in such a testbed resources, such as servers, switches, or network spectrum, are needed. Resources are limited; therefore, only a limited number of experiments can run in a testbed. Sharing resources across multiple applications or even different customers is a problem that is relevant in other areas. Data centers allow resource sharing by virtualizing their resources, such as servers or networks. Because of this use case, virtualization has become a mature and widely-used technique over the last decades.

We want to use virtualization to create an entire testbed with multiple virtual nodes that can be hosted on a single server. A major benefit of this virtual testbed is the lower investment cost compared to a hardware-based testbed. However, virtualization comes at a price. Typically, the behavior of the individual virtual nodes is different if their resources are shared across a number of different VMs. We designed our virtual testbed with resource sharing in mind and created an isolated testbed environment on multiple levels, the CPU and the network. Modern hardware offers acceleration features such as VT-d or SR-IOV that allow the creation of isolated VMs to offer near-native performance.

There are multiple areas where our testbed can be applied:

  • As a teaching facility for students in practical lab courses
  • As a debug facility for developers and engineers maintaining and developing the testbed
  • As a training facility for new testbed users

If you are interested in the architecture of our virtual testbed and the techniques that we employ to create our testbed, have a look at our paper [1].

[1] Sebastian Gallenmüller, Eric Hauser, Georg Carle, “Prototyping Prototyping Facilities: Developing and Bootstrapping Testbeds,” in 2022 IFIP Networking WKSHPS: SLICES Scientific Instruments to support digital infrastructure science (IFIP Networking 2022 WKSHPS SLICES), Catania, Italy, Jun. 2022.