Network namespaces – part 1

Linux namespaces are a relatively new kernel feature which is essential for implementation of containers. A namespace wraps a global system resource into an abstraction which will be bound only to processes within the namespace, providing resource isolation. In this article I discuss network namespace and show a practical example.

What is namespace?

A namespace is a way of scoping a particular set of identifiers. Using a namespace, you can use the same identifier multiple times in different namespaces. You can also restrict an identifier set visible to particular processes.

For example, Linux provides namespaces for networking and processes, among other things. If a process is running within a process namespace, it can only see and communicate with other processes in the same namespace. So, if a shell in a particular process namespace ran ps waux, it would only show the other processes in the same namespace.

Linux network namespaces

In a network namespace, the scoped ‘identifiers’ are network devices; so a given network device, such as eth0, exists in a particular namespace. Linux starts up with a default network namespace, so if your operating system does not do anything special, that is where all the network devices will be located. But it is also possible to create further non-default namespaces, and create new devices in those namespaces, or to move an existing device from one namespace to another.

Each network namespace also has its own routing table, and in fact this is the main reason for namespaces to exist. A routing table is keyed by destination IP address, so network namespaces are what you need if you want the same destination IP address to mean different things at different times – which is something that OpenStack Networking requires for its feature of providing overlapping IP addresses in different virtual networks.

Each network namespace also has its own set of iptables (for both IPv4 and IPv6). So, you can apply different security to flows with the same IP addressing in different namespaces, as well as different routing.

Any given Linux process runs in a particular network namespace. By default this is inherited from its parent process, but a process with the right capabilities can switch itself into a different namespace; in practice this is mostly done using the ip netns exec NETNS COMMAND… invocation, which starts COMMAND running in the namespace named NETNS. Suppose such a process sends out a message to IP address A.B.C.D, the effect of the namespace is that A.B.C.D will be looked up in that namespace’s routing table, and that will determine the network device that the message is transmitted through.

Lets play with ip namespaces

By convention a named network namespace is an object at /var/run/netns/NAME that can be opened. The file descriptor resulting from opening /var/run/netns/NAME refers to the specified network namespace.

create a namespace

power up loopback device

open up a namespace shell

now we can use this shell like user shell where it uses ns1 namespace only

 

In part-2  , I will explain how to connect to internet from ns1 namespace and adding custom routes.