[zeromq-dev] multiple network interfaces for one exchange?

Martin Sustrik sustrik at fastmq.com
Fri Mar 20 11:01:19 CET 2009

Hi Aamir,

> I have a situation where some clients are on a VPN tunnel interface
> (e.g. tun0 in ifconfig) and some are on a regular ethernet interface
> (e.g. eth0). I want to use a load-balancing global exchange to
> distribute requests across both network interfaces. I don't know how
> easy to is to abstract these two interfaces into a single interface at
> the OS level (e.g. using OpenVPN). Is it correct to assume that the
> 0MQ exchange cannot publish on both interfaces at the same time?

You are right there's no way to attach a single global object to 
multiple interfaces. However, this functionality would be really useful 
so let me discuss it a little.

Basically, I can imagine 2 use cases (I'm not sure which one of them is 
the one you want):

1.) Increasing the bandwidth.

In this use case 1Gb/sec that your NIC provides isn't enough for you, so 
instead of buying 10GbE or InfiniBand cards you buy a second 1GbE card.

Now, Linux allows you to bond the two cards into a single virtual 
interface. No need to change 0MQ at all. The drawbacks of the solution are:

* Individual network connections are still assigned to a single NIC, so 
single connection cannot use more than 1Gb/sec of bandwidth anyway.

* Interface bonding affects all the traffic, doesn't allow you to 
balance the load only for specific message streams.

It would be easy to implement this kind of thing at 0MQ level. You will 
simply specify multiple interfaces when creating the global objects. 
Client applications binding to the global object will choose (either 
randomly, or by doing XOR on MAC address) one of the interfaces to 
connect to. Advantages:

* It will work even on OSes that don't support interface bonding.

* Bonding will be controlled on the level of particular data stream 
rather than on the level on network interface as a whole.

2.) Load-balancing requests among separate networks.

If you have two NICs, each connected to a different network, you can 
load balance the messages on the application level (create 2 exchanges, 
send messages alternatively to the first one and the second one). The 
problem with this approach is that if there was a single connection on 
one NIC and five network connections on the other NIC, 50% messages will 
be routed to the single connection connected via first NIC, while five 
connections on the second NIC will each recieve 10% of the messages.

To solve this problem, global object which is currently a pair 
consisting of name and network location would have to be changed to 
contain multiple locations. Also, applications binding to a global 
object shouldn't bind to the object as a whole, rather to a specific 
location (NIC) within the object.

This kind of thing is easy to implement, the problem being that it would 
make the API much more complex.

I was thinking of this kind of functionality before, although with a 
different use case (distributing market data on local subnet via PGM 
while sending them to a geographically distance location via TCP - see 
diagram attached), but the complexity of the API scared me off. Now, 
there's an setup-via-XML feature on our roadmap. Defining you dataflows 
using XML would allow you to write rather complex configurations without 
need for bloated API. Once we have that, implementing this feature will 
be fairly trivial.


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