EtherFuse: An Ethernet Watchdog

By: 
Khaled Elmeleegy, Alan L. Cox, and T. S. Eugene Ng
Appears in: 
CCR October 2007

Ethernet is pervasive. This is due in part to its ease of use. Equipment can be added to an Ethernet network with little or no manual configuration. Furthermore, Ethernet is self-healing in the event of equipment failure or removal. However, there are scenarios where a local event can lead to network-wide packet loss and congestion due to slow or faulty reconfiguration of the spanning tree. Moreover, in some cases the packet loss and congestion may persist indefinitely.

To address these problems, we introduce the EtherFuse, a new device that can be inserted into an existing Ethernet to speed the reconfiguration of the spanning tree and prevent congestion due to packet duplication. EtherFuse is backward compatible and requires no change to the existing hardware, software, or protocols. We describe a prototype EtherFuse implementation and experimentally demonstrate its effectiveness. Specifically, we characterize how quickly it responds to network failures, its ability to reduce packet loss and duplication, and its benefits on the end-to-end performance of common applications.