CSMA Model

Collaboration diagram for CSMA Model:

CSMA Model Overview

The ns-3 CSMA device models a simple bus network in the spirit of Ethernet. Although it does not model any real physical network you could ever build or buy, it does provide some very useful functionality.

Typically when one thinks of a bus network Ethernet or IEEE 802.3 comes to mind. Ethernet uses CSMA/CD (Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection with exponentially increasing backoff to contend for the shared transmission medium. The ns-3 CSMA device models only a portion of this process, using the nature of the globally available channel to provide instantaneous (faster than light) carrier sense and priority-based collision "avoidance." Collisions in the sense of Ethernet never happen and so the ns-3 CSMA device does not model collision detection, nor will any transmission in progress be "jammed."

CSMA Layer Model

There are a number of conventions in use for describing layered communications architectures in the literature and in textbooks. The most common layering model is the ISO seven layer reference model. In this view the ns3::CsmaNetDevice and ns3::CsmaChannel pair occupies the lowest two layers -- at the physical (layer one), and data link (layer two) positions. Another important reference model is that specified by RFC 1122, "Requirements for Internet Hosts -- Communication Layers." In this view the CsmaNetDevice and CsmaChannel pair occupies the lowest layer -- the link layer. There is also a seemingly endless litany of alternative descriptions found in textbooks and in the literature. We adopt the naming conventions used in the IEEE 802 standards which speak of LLC, MAC, MII and PHY layering. These acronyms are defined as:

In this case the LLC and MAC are sublayers of the OSI data link layer and the MII and PHY are sublayers of the OSI physical layer.

The "top" of the CSMA device defines the transition from the network layer to the data link layer. This transition is performed by higher layers by calling either ns3::CsmaNetDevice::Send or ns3::CsmaNetDevice::SendFrom.

In contrast to the IEEE 802.3 standards, there is no precisely specified PHY in the CSMA model in the sense of wire types, signals or pinouts. The "bottom" interface of the CsmaNetDevice can be thought of as as a kind of Media Independent Interface (MII) as seen in the "Fast Ethernet" (IEEE 802.3u) specifications. This MII interface fits into a corresponding media independent interface on the CsmaChannel. You will not find the equivalent of a 10BASE-T or a 1000BASE-LX PHY.

The CsmaNetDevice calls the CsmaChannel through a media independent interface. There is a method defined to tell the channel when to start "wiggling the wires" using the method ns3::CsmaChannel::TransmitStart, and a method to tell the channel when the transmission process is done and the channel should begin propagating the last bit across the "wire": ns3::CsmaChannel::TransmitEnd.

When the TransmitEnd method is executed, the channel will model a single uniform signal propagation delay in the medium and deliver copes of the packet to each of the devices attached to the packet via the ns3::CsmaNetDevice::Receive method.

There is a "pin" in the device media independent interface corresponding to "COL" (collision). The state of the channel may be sensed by calling ns3::CsmaChannel::GetState. Each device will look at this "pin" before starting a send and will perform appropriate backoff operations if required.

Properly received packets are forwarded up to higher levels from the CsmaNetDevice via a callback mechanism. The callback function is initialized by the higher layer (when the net device is attached) using ns3::CsmaNetDevice::SetReceiveCallback and is invoked upon "proper" reception of a packet by the net device in order to forward the packet up the protocol stack.

CSMA Channel Model

The class CsmaChannel models the actual transmission medium. There is no fixed limit for the number of devices connected to the channel. The CsmaChannel models a data rate and a speed-of-light delay which can be accessed via the attributes "DataRate" and "Delay" respectively. The data rate provided to the channel is used to set the data rates used by the transmitter sections of the CSMA devices connected to the channel. There is no way to independently set data rates in the devices. Since the data rate is only used to calculate a delay time, there is no limitation (other than by the data type holding the value) on the speed at which CSMA channels and devices can operate; and no restriction based on any kind of PHY characteristics.

The CsmaChannel has three states, IDLE, TRANSMITTING and PROPAGATING. These three states are "seen" instantaneously by all devices on the channel. By this we mean that if one device begins or ends a simulated transmission, all devices on the channel are immediately aware of the change in state. There is no time during which one device may see an IDLE channel while another device physically further away in the collision domain may have begun transmitting with the associated signals not propagated. Thus there is no need for collision detection in the CsmaChannel model and it is not implemented in any way.

We do, as the name indicates, have a Carrier Sense aspect to the model. Since the simulator is single threaded, access to the common channel will be serialized by the simulator. This provides a deterministic mechanism for contending for the channel. The channel is allocated (transitioned from state IDLE to state TRANSMITTING) on a first-come first-served basis. The channel always goes through a three state process:


The TRANSMITTING state models the time during which the source net device is actually wiggling the signals on the wire. The PROPAGATING state models the time after the last bit was sent, when the signal is propagating down the wire to the "far end."

The transition to the TRANSMITTING state is driven by a call to ns3::CsmaChannel::TransmitStart which is called by the net device that transmits the packet. It is the responsibility of that device to end the transmission with a call to ns3::CsmaChannel::TransmitEnd at the appropriate simulation time that reflects the time elapsed to put all of the packet bits on the wire. When TransmitEnd is called, the channel schedules an event corresponding to a single speed-of-light delay. This delay applies to all net devices on the channel identically. You can think of a symmetrical hub in which the packet bits propagate to a central location and then back out equal length cables to the other devices on the channel.

The CsmaChannel models a broadcast medium so the packet is delivered to all of the devices on the channel (including the source) at the end of the propagation time. It is the responsibility of the sending device to determine whether or not it receives a packet broadcast over the channel.

The CsmaChannel provides following Attributes:

CSMA Net Device Model

The CSMA network device appears somewhat like an Ethernet device. The CsmaNetDevice provides following Attributes:

The CsmaNetDevice supports the assignment of a "receive error model." This is an ErrorModel object that is used to simulate data corruption on the link.

Packets sent over the CsmaNetDevice are always routed through the transmit queue to provide a trace hook for packets sent out over the network. This transmit queue can be set (via attribute) to model different queueing strategies.

Also configurable by attribute is the encapsulation method used by the device. By default, or by setting the "EncapsulationMode" attribute to "Dix", the encapsulation is according to the DEC, Intel, Xerox standard. This is sometimes called EthernetII framing and is the familiar destination MAC, source MAC, EtherType, Data, CRC format.

If the "EncapsulationMode" attribute is set to "Llc", the encapsulation is by LLC SNAP. In this case, a SNAP header is added that contains the EtherType (IP or ARP).

The other implemented encapsulation modes are IP_ARP (set "EncapsulationMode" to "IpArp") in which the length type of the Ethernet header receives the protocol number of the packet; or ETHERNET_V1 (set "EncapsulationMode" to "EthernetV1") in which the length type of the Ethernet header receives the length of the packet. A "Raw" encapsulation mode is defined but not implemented -- use of the RAW mode results in an assertion.

The CsmaNetDevice implements a random exponential backoff algorithm that is executed if the channel is determined to be busy (TRANSMITTING or PROPAGATING) when the device wants to start propagating. This results in a random delay of up to pow (2, retries) - 1 microseconds before a retry is attempted. The default maximum number of retries is 1000.

CSMA Tracing Model

Like all ns-3 devices, the CSMA Model provides a number of trace sources. These trace sources can be hooked using your own custom trace code, or you can use our helper functions to arrange for tracing to be enabled on devices you specify.

Upper-Level (MAC) Hooks

From the point of view of tracing in the net device, there are several interesting points to insert trace hooks. A convention inherited from other simulators is that packets destined for transmission onto attached networks pass through a single "transmit queue" in the net device. We provide trace hooks at this point in packet flow, which corresponds (abstractly) only to a transition from the network to data link layer, and call them collectively the device MAC hooks.

When a packet is sent to the CSMA net device for transmission it always passes through the transmit queue. The transmit queue in the CsmaNetDevice inherits from Queue, and therefore inherits three trace sources:

The upper-level (MAC) trace hooks for the CsmaNetDevice are, in fact, exactly these three trace sources on the single transmit queue of the device.

The m_traceEnqueue event is triggered when a packet is placed on the transmit queue. This happens at the time that ns3::CsmaNetDevice::Send or ns3::CsmaNetDevice::SendFrom is called by a higher layer to queue a packet for transmission.

The m_traceDequeue event is triggered when a packet is removed from the transmit queue. Dequeues from the transmit queue can happen in three situations: 1) If the underlying channel is idle when the CsmaNetDevice::Send or CsmaNetDevice::SendFrom is called, a packet is dequeued from the transmit queue and immediately transmitted; 2) If the underlying channel is idle, a packet may be dequeued and immediately transmitted in an internal TransmitCompleteEvent that functions much like a transmit complete interrupt service routine; or 3) from the random exponential backoff handler if a timeout is detected.

Case (3) implies that a packet is dequeued from the transmit queue if it is unable to be transmittted according to the backoff rules. It is important to understand that this will appear as a Dequeued packet and it is easy to incorrectly assume that the packet was transmitted since it passed through the transmit queue. In fact, a packet is actually dropped by the net device in this case. The reason for this behavior is due to the definition of the Queue Drop event. The m_traceDrop event is, by defintion, fired when a packet cannot be enqueued on the transmit queue becasue it is full. This event only fires if the queue is full and we do not overload this event to indicate that the CsmaChannel is "full."

Upper-Level (MAC) Hooks

Similar to the upper level trace hooks, there are trace hooks available at the lower levels of the net device. We call these the PHY hooks. These events fire from the device methods that talk directly to the CsmaChannel.

The trace source m_dropTrace is called to indicate a packet that is dropped by the device. This happens in two cases: First, if the receive side of the net device is not enabled (see ns3::CsmaNetDevice::m_receiveEnable and the associated attribute "ReceiveEnable").

The m_dropTrace is also used to indicate that a packet was discarded as corrupt if a receive error model is used (see ns3::CsmaNetDevice::m_receiveErrorModel and the associated attribute "ReceiveErrorModel").

The other low-level trace source fires on reception of an accepted packet (see ns3::CsmaNetDevice::m_rxTrace). A packet is accepted if it is destined for the broadcast address, a multicast address, or to the MAC address assigned to the net device.

CSMA Model Summary

The ns3 CSMA model is a simplistic model of an Ethernet-like network. It supports a Carrier-Sense function and allows for Multiple Access to a shared medium. It is not physical in the sense that the state of the medium is instantaneously shared among all devices. This means that there is no collision detection required in this model and none is implemented. There will never be a "jam" of a packet already on the medium. Access to the shared channel is on a first-come first-served basis as determined by the simulator scheduler. If the channel is determined to be busy by looking at the global state, a random exponential backoff is performed and a retry is attempted.

Ns-3 Attributes provide a mechanism for setting various parameters in the device and channel such as addresses, encapsulation modes and error model selection. Trace hooks are provided in the usual manner with a set of upper level hooks corresponding to a transmit queue and used in ASCII tracing; and also a set of lower level hooks used in pcap tracing.

Although the ns-3 CsmaChannel and CsmaNetDevice does not model any kind of network you could build or buy, it does provide us with some useful functionality. You should, however, understand that it is explicitly not Ethernet or any flavor of IEEE 802.3 but an interesting subset.

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