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19th Large Installation System Administration Conference—Abstract

Pp. 155–168 of the Proceedings

Network Configuration Management via Model Finding

Sanjai Narain, Telcordia Technologies, Inc.


Complex, end-to-end network services are set up via the configuration method: each component has a finite number of configuration parameters each of which is set to a definite value. End-to-end network service requirements can be on connectivity, security, performance and fault-tolerance. However, there is a large conceptual gap between end-to-end requirements and detailed component configurations. To bridge this gap, a number of subsidiary requirements are created that constrain, for example, the protocols to be used, and the logical structures and associated policies to be set up at different protocol layers.

By performing different types of reasoning with these requirements, different configuration tasks are accomplished. These include configuration synthesis, configuration error diagnosis, configuration error fixing, reconfiguration as requirements or components are added and deleted, and requirement verification. However, such reasoning is currently ad hoc. Network requirements are not even precisely specified hence automation of reasoning is impossible. This is a major reason for the high cost of network management and total cost of ownership. This paper shows how to formalize and automate such reasoning using a new logical system called Alloy.

Alloy is based on the concept of model finding. Given a first-order logic formula and a domain of interpretation, Alloy tries to find whether the formula is satisfiable in that domain, i.e., whether it has a model. Alloy is used to build a Requirement Solver that takes as input a set of network components and requirements upon their configurations and determines component configurations satisfying those requirements.

This Solver is used in different ways to accomplish the above reasoning tasks. The Solver is illustrated in depth by carrying out a variety of these tasks in the context of a realistic fault-tolerant virtual private network with remote access. Alloy uses modern satisfiability solvers that solve millions of constraints in millions of variables in seconds. However, poor requirements can easily nullify such speeds. The paper outlines approaches for writing efficient requirements. Finally, it outlines directions for future research.

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