Archive for May, 2022

OpenWRT on SR-IOV: Good Idea?

Wednesday, May 11th, 2022

If you’re not familiar, SR-IOV is a technology that allows you to expose a single physical network device (or more accurately, “physical function”) as multiple virtual functions (VFs). Each VF is a separate logical PCIe device, so a board equipped with an IOMMU should be able to pass them into VMs individually. This allows for basically the same level of performance as a passthrough of an entire PCIe device, but still allows it to be shared amongst many VMs. At the hardware level, it acts as essentially a network switch, instead of doing that in software like with typical virtual NICs.

Now, in my previous post, I talked about some of the new hardware going into my new router. The star of the show is the X10SDV-8C-TLN4F. So why not run OpenWRT baremetal on here? A few reasons:

  1. Sometimes, you have to reboot. Rebooting a board like this can take several minutes. Not good for uptime. Meanwhile, a VM takes about 20 seconds to reboot fully. A custom kernel plus bypassing the bootloader (either via efistub or KVM direct kernel boot) could probably get it down to 10 seconds.
  2. Lockouts – if you screw up your network configuration, it can be annoying to get back in. Not impossible, since it still has a VGA port and USB ports, but it’s definitely nicer to be able to still access the host and fix the VM from there.
  3. OpenWRT isn’t necessarily going to have support for every bit of hardware on a board like this. It may lack drivers, or userland applications necessary to control said hardware. e.g. IPMI tools are lacking.
  4. I can easily benchmark routing performance using virtual networks.
  5. Since I can run ZFS on the host, I get ZFS snapshots and all that.

But….was it difficult? Was it worth it?

Yes and yes.

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