Face manager


The architecture of the face manager is built around the concept of interfaces, which allows for a modular and extensible deployment.

Interfaces are used to implement in isolation various sources of information which help with the construction of faces (such as network interface and service discovery), and with handling the heterogeneity of host platforms.

Platform and supported interfaces

Currently, Android, Linux and MacOS are supported through the following interfaces:

  • hicn-light [Linux, Android, MacOS, iOS] An interface to the hicn-light forwarder, and more specifically to the Face Table and FIB data structures. This component is responsible to effectively create, update and delete faces in the forwarder, based on the information provided by third party interfaces, plus adding default routes for each of the newly created face. The communication with the forwarder is based on the hicn control library (libhicnctrl).

  • netlink [Linux, Android] The default interface on Linux systems (including Android) to communicate with the kernel and receive information from various sources, including link and address information (both IPv4 and IPv6) about network interfaces.

  • android_utility [Android only] Information available through Netlink is limited with respect to cellular interfaces. This component allows querying the Android layer through SDK functions to get the type of a given network interface (Wired, WiFi or Cellular).

  • bonjour [Linux, Android] This component performs remote service discovery based on the bonjour protocol to discover a remote hICN forwarder that might be needed to establish overlay faces.

  • network_framework [MacOS, iOS]

    This component uses the recommended Network framework on Apple devices, which provided all required information to query faces in a unified API: link and address information, interface types, and bonjour service discovery.

Architectural overview



- Key attributes (netdevice and protocol family)
- Facelet API



Facelet cache & event scheduling


 - Facelet cache
 - Joins
 - How synchronization work

Interface API


Developing a new interface

Dummy template

The face manager source code includes a template that can be used as a skeleton to develop new faces. It can be found in src/interface/dummy/dummy.{h,c}. Both include guard and specific interface functions are prefixed by a (short) identifier which acts as a namespace for interface specific code (in our case the string ‘dummy_’).

Registration and instantiation of the different interfaces is currently done at compile time in the file src/api.c, and the appropriate hooks to use the dummy interface are available in the code between #if 0/#endif tags.

Interface template header and configuration parameters

All interfaces have a standard interface defined in src/interface.{h,c}, and as such the header file is only used to specify the configuration parameters of the interface, if any.

In the template, these configuration options are empty:

 * Configuration data
typedef struct {
    /* ... */
} dummy_cfg_t;

Overview of the interface template

The file starts with useful includes:

- the global include `<hicn/facemgr.h>` : this provides public facing elements
    of the face manager, such the standard definition of faces (`face_t` from
    `libhicnctrl`), helper classes (such as `ip_address_t` from `libhicn`), etc.
- common.h
- facelet.h : facelets are the basic unit of communication between the face
manager and the different interfaces. They are used to construct the faces
- interface.h : the parent class of interfaces, such as the current dummy

Each interface can hold a pointer to an internal data structure, which is declared as follows:

 * Internal data
typedef struct {
    /* The configuration data will likely be allocated on the stack (or should
     * be freed) by the caller, we recommend to make a copy of this data.
     * This copy can further be altered with default values.
    dummy_cfg_t cfg;

    /* ... */

    int fd; /* Sample internal data: file descriptor */
} dummy_data_t;

We find here a copy of the configuration settings (which allows the called to instantiate the structure on the stack), as well as a file descriptor (assuming most interfaces will react on events on a file descriptor).

The rest of the file consists in the implementation of the interface, in particular the different function required by the registration of a new interface to the system. They are grouped as part of the interface_ops_t data structure declared at the end of the file:

interface_ops_t dummy_ops = {
    .type = "dummy",
    .initialize = dummy_initialize,
    .finalize = dummy_finalize,
    .callback = dummy_callback,
    .on_event = dummy_on_event,

The structure itself is declared and documented in src/interface.h

 * \brief Interface operations
typedef struct {
    /** The type given to the interfaces */
    char * type;
    /* Constructor */
    int (*initialize)(struct interface_s * interface, void * cfg);
    /* Destructor */
    int (*finalize)(struct interface_s * interface);
    /* Callback upon file descriptor event (iif previously registered) */
    int (*callback)(struct interface_s * interface);
    /* Callback upon facelet events coming from the face manager */
    int (*on_event)(struct interface_s * interface, const struct facelet_s * facelet);
} interface_ops_t;

Such an interface has to be registered first, then one (or multiple) instance(s) can be created (see src/interface.c for the function prototypes, and src/api.c for their usage).

  • interface registration:

extern interface\_ops\_t dummy\_ops;

/* [...] */

rc = interface\_register(&dummy\_ops);
if (rc < 0)
    goto ERR_REGISTER;
  • interface instantiation:

#include "interfaces/dummy/dummy.h"

/* [...] */

rc = facemgr_create_interface(facemgr, "dummy0", "dummy", &facemgr->dummy);
if (rc < 0) {
    ERROR("Error creating 'Dummy' interface\n");

Implementation of the interface API

We now quickly go other the different functions, but their usage will be better understood through the hands-on example treated in the following section.

In the template, the constructor is the most involved as it need to:

  • initialize the internal data structure:

    dummy_data_t * data = malloc(sizeof(dummy_data_t));
    if (!data)
        goto ERR_MALLOC;
    interface->data = data;
  • process configuration parameters, eventually setting some default values:

    /* Use default values for unspecified configuration parameters */
    if (cfg) {
        data->cfg = *(dummy_cfg_t *)cfg;
    } else {
        memset(&data->cfg, 0, sizeof(data->cfg));
  • open an eventually required file descriptor

For the sake of simplicity, the current API only supports a single file descriptor per-interface, and it has to be created in the constructor, and set as the return value so as to be registered by the system, and added to the event loop for read events. A return value of 0 means the interface does not require any file descriptor. As usual, a negative return value indicates an error.

    data->fd = 0;

    /* ... */

     * We should return a negative value in case of error, and a positive value
     * otherwise:
     *  - a file descriptor (>0) will be added to the event loop; or
     *  - 0 if we don't use any file descriptor
    return data->fd;

While support for multiple file descriptors might be added in the future, an alternative short-term implementation might consider the instanciation of multiple interface, as is done for Bonjour in the current codebase, in src/api.c.

Data reception on the file descriptor will get the callback function called, in our case dummy_callback. Finally, the destructor dummy_finalize should close an eventual open file descriptor.

In order to retrieve the internal data structure, that should in particular store such a file descriptor, all other function but the constructor can dereference it from the interface pointer they receive as parameter:

dummy_data_t * data = (dummy_data_t*)interface->data;

Raising and receiving events

An interface will receive events in the form of a facelet through the *_on_event function. It can then use the facelet API we have described above to read information about the face.

As this information is declared const, the interface can either create a new facelet (identified by the same netdevice and protocol family), or eventually clone it.

The facelet event can then be defined and raised to the face manager for further processing through the following code:

    facelet_set_event(facelet, EVENT_TYPE_CREATE);
    interface_raise_event(interface, facelet);

Here the event is a facelet creation (EVENT_TYPE_CREATE). The full facelet API and the list of possible event types is available in src/facelet.h

Integration in the build system

The build system is based on CMake. Each interface should declare its source files, private and public header files, as well as link dependencies in the local CMakeLists.txt file.

TODO: detail the structure of the file



In order to better illustrate the development of a new interface, we will consider the integration of a sample server providing a signal instructing the face manager to alternatively use either the WiFi or the LTE interface. The code of this server is available in the folder examples/updownsrv/, and the corresponding client code in examples/updowncli.

Communication between client and server is done through unix sockets over an abstract namespace (thereby not using the file system, which would cause issues on Android). The server listens for client connections, and periodically broadcast a binary information to all connected clients, in the form of one byte equal to either \0 (which we might interpret as enable LTE, disable WiFi), or \1 (enable WiFi, disable LTE).

Our objective is to develop a new face manager interface that would listen to such event in order to update the administrative status of the current faces. This would thus alternatively set the different interfaces administratively up and down (which takes precedence over the actual status of the interface when the forwarder establishes the set of available next hops for a given prefix). The actual realization of such queries will be ultimately performed by the hicn-light interface.

Sample server and client

In the folder containing the source code of hICN, the following commands allow to run the sample server:

cd ctrl/facemgr/examples/updownsrv

The server should display “Waiting for clients…”

Similar commands allow to run the sample client:

cd ctrl/facemgr/examples/updowncli

The client should display “Waiting for server data…”, then every couple of seconds display either “WiFi” or “LTE”.

Face manager interface

An example illustrating how to connect to the dummy service from updownsrv is provided as the updown interface in the facemgr source code.

This interface periodically swaps the status of the LTE interface up and down. It is instantiated as part of the facemgr codebase when the code is compiled with the ``-DWITH_EXAMPLE_UPDOWN` cmake option.