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IRIX Advanced Site and Server Administration Guide

Chapter 18
Managing a Network

This chapter provides information on how to manage a network after installation. Management includes maintenance, monitoring, and problem isolation. This chapter provides brief descriptions of the various network management tools, help in interpreting network statistics, a discussion on the factors that can impact network performance, and some of the network kernel configuration options. The following topics are covered:

Network Management Tools

This section describes a number of standard and some optional networking tools at your disposal for managing the day to day operation of your network. Except as noted, the standard networking tools reside in the /usr/etc directory. See the online reference pages for additional information.

ifconfig (1M)

Configures the network interface devices. ifconfig is performed at boot time by the master network configuration script /etc/init.d/network.

Interface configuration includes enabling and disabling of the interface and any interface options that should be set when the interface is configured. Options include support for the Address Resolution Protocol (ARP), routing metrics, netmask, broadcast addresses, etc. The ifconfig tool used with the station's interface name displays the current interface configuration. Some of the interface names for Silicon Graphics models include, et0 - Power Series, ec0 for the Personal IRIS and IRIS Indigo, fxp0 for Professional series, ipg0 and xpi0 for FDDI, etc.

netstat (1M)

Displays various network-related data structures that are useful for monitoring and troubleshooting a network. It has many options to show information about all or specific interfaces (-i or -I), routing tables (-r and -M), socket information (-a or -A), queue information (-iq), network memory (-m) and protocols (-p).

arp (1M)

Displays and manipulates arp table entries located in cache. arp options include -a for all entries, -d to delete an entry, -s to publish an entry and act as a server for this entry, and -f to pull information from a specified file versus /dev/kmem. arp is a good tool for troubleshooting physical address resolution on a network. arp does not display the local station's Ethernet address. To get a local station's Ethernet address, use the netstat command with the -ia options.

rpcinfo (1M)

Provides information about Remote Procedure Call (RPC) based programs on local and remote stations. This is an excellent tool for isolating network problems related to the RPC service. The information provided by rpcinfo includes a list of rpc-based applications (portmapper, NIS, rstatd, etc.), the program number, version number, protocol (TCP/UDP), and associated port number. If you are running an RPC based network application and cannot get a response from the remote station, use the rpcinfo tool to ensure that the remote station supports the desired application.

ping (1M)

Tests and measures general network performance. It is based on the Internet Control Management Protocol (ICMP) and sends an ECHO_REQUEST soliciting an ECHO_RESPONSE, thereby creating a two-way stream. It provides general information about packet loss and round trip time. ping increases network load; this factor should be considered when testing a network with ping.

spray (1M)

Sends a one-way stream of packets to a station using remote procedure calls. It reports information about the transfer rate and the number of packets received by the remote station. It provides very limited information about general network performance.

rtquery (1M)

Sends a request to a designated station for information on the station's network routing tables (routed or gated). This tool is especially useful for troubleshooting routing problems.

traceroute (1M)

Tracks packets as they journey through the network. This tool is very useful for isolating network and router faults in a large heterogeneous network. It displays the names and addresses of all the intermediary routers that support the Internet Protocol "time-to-live" (TTL) field. It also displays the amount of time the packet spends traveling to the router, on the router, and leaving the router. traceroute increases network load; this factor should be considered when testing a network with traceroute.

route (1M)

Manipulates the network routing tables. Typically, the routing tables are handled automatically by the routed or gated daemon. However, route can be used to create, maintain, and delete static routing tables, to flush routing tables, and to show metric information about routes. To have static routes incorporated at startup, modify the file /etc/gateways and /etc/config/routed.options.

/usr/bin/rup (1C)

Displays status information, including uptime and load average, about remote stations using Sun RPC broadcasts. If no specific station is specified, it uses broadcasting and returns information about stations on the local network; broadcasting does not go through routers. This tool is useful for isolating physical problems with a station or the network.

ttcp (1)

Used to test Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and User Datagram Protocol (UDP) performance. This tool provides a more realistic measurement of performance than the standard tests (spray, rup, ping). It allows measurements to be taken at both the local and remote end of the transmission.

These network management tools are available as options for use on any Silicon Graphics 4D-IRIS station:


A passive network management product. It offers a set of graphical traffic monitoring, diagnostics, planning, and performance analysis tools that provide network information and statistics for Ethernet or FDDI networks in a visually intuitive form. NetVisualyzer is comprised of six tools: NetLook, NetGraph, NetCPA, Analyzer, RouteQuery, and TraceRoute. NetVisualyzer allows you to view and monitor your network, collect network statistics and generate reports based on those statistics, and decode heterogeneous packets layer by layer.


A UNIX based network management tool for large-scale, multi-LAN, multi-vendor networks. It provides you with graphical, real-time views of your network. These views represent network location layouts, network topology maps, and device front panels. The information provided by these views allows you to intelligently manage, monitor, and configure your network.

IRIS Networker

An automatic backup and recovery service for networked stations that performs backups of client systems to a centralized server. Backup schedules are specified by the network administrator. Stations in the network may be heterogeneous.

Interpreting Network Statistics

The network management tools provide the network administrator with valuable information about the network. However, the presentation of these statistics can be overwhelming. This section illustrates how to use three of the most common management tools and how to interpret the network statistics generated by these tools.

The ping Tool

The ping tool tests and measures general network performance. It tells you when there is a problem with your network. The most important piece of information provided by ping is the percentage packet loss. Ideally, you want to see 0% packet loss; however, anything under .01% is acceptable. This low packet loss threshold is required because many network applications transmit large packets. If 0.1% of a packet is lost, the entire packet must be retransmitted. This can cause a network to be saturated by retransmissions.

The following example uses ping in its simplest form, but the information obtained is very useful. The ping tool is testing and measuring traffic between the local station and the station testcase. See the reference page for more details about the many ping options.

/usr/etc/ping testcase 
PING testcase ( 56 data bytes
64 bytes from icmp_seq=0 ttl=255 time=0 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=255 time=0 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=255 time=0 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=3 ttl=255 time=0 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=4 ttl=255 time=0 ms
----testcase PING Statistics----
5 packets transmitted, 5 packets received, 0% packet loss
round-trip (ms)  min/avg/max = 0/0/0

The percentage packet loss is highlighted in bold. Again, 0% packet loss is the goal. Anything over 0.1% should be investigated further.

The ttcp Tool

The ttcp tool provides a realistic measurement of network performance between two stations as it allows measurements to be taken at both the local and remote end of the transmission. This tool measures the network throughput. As with all network management tools, the statistics must be interpreted with the network configuration and applications in mind. For example, the statistics generated from a ttcp probe between two stations with routers in between results in lower throughput than if the stations were located on the same network. On the same note, users running applications that transmit large data structures see slower throughput than users running applications that transmit smaller data structures.

In any case, on a relatively quiet network, you should expect to see throughput in the 700 KB/sec or greater range. Throughput of 500 KB/sec or less is questionable, and 400 KB/sec or less may indicate a definite network problem.

The following example illustrates the statistics you might see if you ran a simple ttcp test between the stations sheridan and longstreet (two workstations) on a clean network. See the ttcp reference page for details about the many ttcp options.

On sheridan, give the command:

ttcp -r -s

You see the following output:

ttcp-r: buflen=8192, nbuf=2048, align=16384/0, port=5001 tcp
ttcp-r: socket ttcp-r: accept from
ttcp-r: 16777216 bytes in 19.99 real seconds = 819.64 KB/sec +++
ttcp-r: 10288 I/O calls, msec/call = 1.99, calls/sec = 514.67
ttcp-r: 0.1user 3.4sys 0:19real 17%

On longstreet, give the following command:

ttcp -t -s sheridan

You see the following output:

ttcp-t: buflen=8192, nbuf=2048, align=16384/0, port=5001 tcp  -> sheridan
ttcp-t: socket
ttcp-t: connect
ttcp-t: 16777216 bytes in 19.98 real seconds = 820.02 KB/sec +++
ttcp-t: 2048 I/O calls, msec/call = 9.99, calls/sec = 102.50
ttcp-t: 0.0user 2.3sys 0:19real 12%

The throughput statistics are highlighted in bold and are represented by KB/sec. The throughput on the station sheridan is 819.64 KB/sec and the throughput on the station longstreet is 820.02 KB/sec. Both throughput values indicate good network performance between the stations.

The netstat Tool

The netstat tool displays various network-related data structures that are useful for monitoring and troubleshooting a network. Detailed statistics about network collisions can be captured with the netstat tool. Collision rates anywhere between 5% and 20% indicate a problem with the network. The problem could be physical (bad tap, transceiver, loose terminator, and so on.) or there might be too much traffic on the network.

This example illustrates the statistics you might see on a station using netstat. See the reference page for details about the many netstat options:

netstat -i 
Name Mtu  Network  Address  Ipkts   Ierrs  Opkts   Oerrs Coll
enp0 1500 b1-channels thumper 498690  937   1066135   3  4858
lo0  32880 loopback localhost 1678915 0     1678915   0   0

The collision rate is approximately 0.45%, well within the acceptable range.

Factors Affecting Network Performance

A variety of factors can impact network performance, including hardware problems, network configuration, network applications, and packet size.

Hardware Problems

Hardware problems can cause a network to be slow or inoperable. These problems are usually in the form of packet loss or corruption. Both of these problems can cause increased network traffic to the point of unmanageable congestion. Items to check at the physical level are:

Controller board

Even if the network media bandwidth is capable of handling the network traffic load, the individual station may not be able to handle the traffic. This is evidenced by a high degree of traffic on the network interface for no apparent reason. This traffic can be seen using the gr_osview(1M) tool (see the gr_osview online reference page for options to see network traffic statistics). If traffic is unusually heavy on the interface, then there may be a problem with the controller, or the controller may be too slow to handle the volume of traffic. You may need a high-speed controller like the Efast card.

Transmitter and controller

Ensure that the Signal Quality Error (SQE), also called heartbeat, is disabled on both the transmitter and controller. SQE can cause unnecessary network traffic between the local station and the transceiver. See the installation guides for your network controller and transceiver for instructions on disabling SQE. By default, all Silicon Graphics' network controller boards are shipped with SQE disabled.

Physical problems with the media

Cables, taps, and other hardware will periodically break or malfunction. A Time Domain Reflectometer (TDR) is essential for troubleshooting Ethernet cable problems. A good analyzer is also strongly recommended to assist in isolating network physical problems. Silicon Graphics' NetVisualyzer product supplies a visual network analyzer ideal for locating physical problems with the media.troubleshooting network media.

Network Configuration

The network configuration or topology can also adversely effect network performance. Check for the following conditions:

Network Servers

Some network servers (rwhod, rtnetd, etc.) can have an undesirable affect on the network or network interface. For example, if a workstation is a multi-processor or is running real-time processes, the rtnetd daemon may be running on the station. This daemon is responsible for preempting incoming network packets to provide better response time for real-time processes. This is perfectly acceptable if the user is aware of the trade-offs between network processing and real-time processing. Some network servers should be evaluated individually.

Do not load rtnetd software on routers or other network intensive stations (mail servers, NIS and DNS servers, etc.).

Packet Size

The Maximum Transfer Unit (MTU) for data on the Ethernet is 1500 bytes. Network performance and efficiency increase with packet size up to the MTU for the medium. Packets that are larger than the media's MTU must be broken into smaller packets (fragmented) to fit within the medium's MTU. Applications and services must be configured to transmit MTU size packets.

Kernel Configuration

You can change several parameters to customize network behavior for local configurations. The parameters listed Table 18-1 are in the /var/sysgen/master.d/bsd configuration file. For details on reconfiguring the kernel after changing this file, see Chapter 5, "Tuning System Performance." Some of these listed options are also discussed in Appendix A, "IRIX Kernel Tunable Parameters."

Kernel Tunable Options

Table 18-1 : Kernel Configuration Options

Parameter Meaning
These parameters determine the default amount of buffer space used by TCP (SOCK_STREAM) and UDP (SOCK_DGRAM) sockets. The tcp_sendspace and tcp_recvspace parameters define the initial buffer space allocated to a socket. The udp_sendspace parameter defines the default maximum size of UDP datagrams that can be sent. The udp_recvgrams parameter determines the number of maximally sized UDP datagrams that can be buffered in a UDP socket. The total receive buffer size in bytes for each UDP socket is the product of udp_sendspace and udp_recvgrams. A program can increase or decrease the send buffer and receive buffer sizes for a socket with the SO_SNDBUF and SO_RCVBUF options to the setsockopt(2) system call. Many older TCP implementations have problems with large TCP sendspace/recvspace values. This should be decreased from 60 to 24 in environments where older stations have problems communicating.

For 4.2BSD compatibility, the IRIX system limits its initial TCP sequence numbers to positive numbers.

PC Connectivity

Many industry-standard personal computers with TCP/IP implementations experience difficulty connecting to Silicon Graphics workstations and servers. This is because of the increased size of the tcp_sendspace and tcp_recvspace variables in the IRIX file /var/sysgen/master.d/bsd.

To allow your personal computers to connect successfully, change the values of the above variables from the default (60 * 1024) to (24 * 1024) and reconfigure the kernel with the lboot(1M) command. For more information on reconfiguring these values, see Chapter 5, "Tuning System Performance."

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