New Capability: SoNIC-enabled Software-Defined Precise Network Measurements in GENI

This post comes to us courtesy of Dr. Hakim Weatherspoon of Cornell University.

It introduces a new capability recently added to ExoGENI slices for precise network measurements using SoNIC, Software-defined Network Interface Card ( Users can now allocate bare-metal nodes that are equipped with SoNIC cards to their topology for precise network measurements. Examples of possible usage includes precise traffic capture and generation, network device characterization, available bandwidth estimation, fine-grain clock synchronization, and even physical layer (PHY) timing channel creation and detection.  See the Figure.


SoNIC enables realtime access from software to the entire network stack, especially including the data link and physical layers of a 10 Gbps Ethernet network. By implementing the creation of the bitstream in software and the transmission of the bitstream in hardware, SoNIC provides complete control over the entire network stack in realtime. SoNIC utilizes commodity-off-the-shelf multi-core processors to implement part of the physical layer in software, and employs an FPGA board to transmit optical signals over the wire. As an example of SoNIC’s fine-granularity control, it can perform precise network measurements at picosecond scale, accurately characterizing network components such as routers, switches, and network interface cards. For a complete description of SoNIC’s internal design, readers can refer the papers published in NSDI 2013 and 2014 (

Here we demonstrate how to create a slice with bare-metal nodes to use SoNIC in ExoGENI.  In ExoGENI, a bare-metal node is a special type of a compute node, in which users are granted full root access to the bare-metal resource. Currently, SoNIC-enabled bare-metal nodes are located at RENCI XO Rack and UCD XO Rack. To use a SoNIC-enabled node, simply add a compute node to your slice request from the drop down list of resources. After that, drag a link between two compute nodes to form a dumb-bell topology. The link represents the network between two compute nodes. In this case, it will represent the network stretch from Chapel Hill, NC to UC Davis, CA.

Your request should look like the following figure.


Next, we will configure the nodes to be bare-metal nodes with SoNIC installed. Right click on one of the compute nodes to view and set its properties. For the node type, select ExoGENI Bare-metal. For the domain, select RENCI (Chapel Hill, NC USA) XO Rack for node 0. You can also configure the Link 0 IP address. Note this configures the IP address of the Chelsio 10G NIC available in the bare-metal node. It does not configure the SoNIC card.


Similarly, we configure the other node in the topology to use the bare-metal resource from UCD XO Rack.

Now, double check the settings, give a name to the slice and click the submit button. Wait a while for the slice to be instantiated. You should see a pop-up window with response from ORCA as shown below.


In the next blog post, we will demonstrate how to use the created SoNIC slice to perform interesting network measurement experiment in ExoGENI.

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