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Eqlplus is a Linux modem combining strategy based upon IP masquerading and eql. Modern browsers typically open many simultaneous HTTP TCP-based connections to fetch text and images from remote servers. TCP multiplexing distributes these simultaneous connections across several active links thereby increasing the apparent bandwidth to the Web user.

Impressed by the ability of several commercial products to multiplex independent dialup connections to the Web, we wanted to see if we could do a similar trick for free under Linux. We started with eql, Linux's kernel level link multiplexer written by Simon Janes. Unfortunately eql is not connection oriented and only works when a remote communications server also speaks eql's load balancing protocol. The remote connection could be another Linux box running eql or some models of the Livingston Portmaster terminal server. Since remote server multiplexing is not available from most Internet Service Providers, eql cannot be used with ordinary ISPs.

So we explored the idea of combining the TCP connection handling of the Linux IP masquerading software with the load balancing capabilities of eql. It worked!

We patched the Linux IP masquerade software with a kernel-level call to ask eql for the next link to use when establishing a new TCP connection. This is when the IP masquerade software sets up the mapping between the local "hidden" IP address/port numbers and the IP masquerade port number that stands in as a proxy for the hidden address. We use the link offered by eql to determine the masquerade sender's new IP address, replacing the sender's masqueraded address derived from the eql master interface which kernel routing chose. This works because kernel routing chooses the eql interface for Internet bound packets when eql is active and is designated as the default gateway interface. We are, in effect, refining the granularity of the source addressing by further specifying which eql slave interface will be used.

Next, when the masquerade software hands off the packet to eql, a modified eql driver chooses the requested address's interface instead of recomputing a potentially different address. In this way, the packet is sent over the correct interface and responses will be routed by the ISP connected to the selected interface back to the corresponding address and interface. IP masquerade receives the response, resolves the masquerade port mapping and sends the packet on its way to the original "hidden" sender.

The "eqlplus" package contains the following components:

Patches to eql.c, ip_masq.c and if_eql.h. In the Linux source tree, these files are located, respectively, at
/usr/src/linux/drivers/net/eql.c,
/usr/src/linux/net/ipv4/ip_masq.c, and
/usr/src/linux/include/linux/if_eql.h.

We have also included several small utilities.

  • A sample cron job, chkeql.cron, to call the eql check script, checkeql.sh.
  • A script, checkeql.sh, to keep the eql interface configured in the face of the loss of slave ppp links managed by eql. This script assumes that getpppinfo has been installed in /usr/local/bin and that ppp scripts have been written to handle bringing up your ppp links. In checkeql.sh, these ppp scripts are called ppp-on-ttyS0 and ppp-on-ttyS1 and are assumed to exist in /usr/sbin.
  • A script, checklinks.sh, which displays on the command line the current balance of receive and transmit traffic between ppp0 and ppp1
  • A C program, getpppinfo.c, to obtain current local or remote link information from /proc. This program is invoked by checkeql.sh.
  • Finally, we have provided a small X-based utility, xeqlinfo, to graphically monitor the load sharing provided by 2 links (although any number of links can be handled by the modified eql driver itself.) This display utility is an adaptation of Gabor Herr's xsysinfo application.

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO:

This version of the eqlplus software has been developed and tested on RedHat 6.1 (2.2.12 kernel).

  1. First, you must patch your kernel source files by running

    patch -p0 -d /usr/src < eqlplus.patch

    The patch file, eqlplus.patch, assumes that your source is in a subdirectory called "linux" and the above command assumes that this subdirectory is in "/usr/src". Your may also run "make dopatch", which also assumes your Linux source is in "/usr/src". You can change the Makefile if your source lives elsewhere. This will patch
    /usr/src/linux/drivers/net/eql.c,
    /usr/src/linux/net/ipv4/ip_masq.c,
    and /usr/src/linux/include/linux/if_eql.h.

  2. Then, configure and build your kernel selecting eql and IP Masquerading.

  3. Run "make" in the eqlplus directory to build getpppinfo and eql_enslave. getpppinfo and eql_enslave are required by checkeql.sh. Next run "make install" to move getpppinfo and eql_enslave into /usr/local/bin.

  4. You should create a script for using eql to enslave multiple ppp connections to your ISP(s). A sample script, checkeql.sh, is provided. This script may be run as a cron job to keep your multiple link configuration active in the face of line drops.

  5. If you are multiplexing two ppp connections onto the Internet you can build and run a small X utility, xeqlinfo, and watch the instantaneous behavior of load sharing. A dynamically changing graphical bar displays the percentage of ppp0 activity in pink and the complementary percentage of ppp1 activity in red. To build xeqlinfo, cd to xeqlinfo-1.0/ and run "make" and then "make install", or run "make xeqlinfo" followed by run "make xeqlinfo_install" from the top level directory.

Please email us, at eqlplus@cwareco.com, if you have any questions or even just to let us know how you are using this tool.

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