Open source router: Virtual machines are to save OpenWRT

Router with OpenWRT VMs

(Picture: Imagination Technologies)

New rules in the Radio Regulations threaten projects for open router firmware. Imagination Technologies proposes virtual machines in the router in order to leave your own extensions to run without having to sacrifice Fi.

The US regulator FCC radio has attracted the reins at wireless routers: New devices must be designed so that users do not just install a third-party firmware, and so can handle the radio conditions. This barrier refers in the first instance on drivers for wireless modules but leads with conventional routers to the fact that the entire firmware must be sealed off. Which provides open source projects for free router software with enormous problems, which may mean the end for example, for the popular OpenWRT. Sun provides about the router manufacturer TP-Link in the US already devices with lock, but wants this country to offer a possibility of retrofitting features.

Well-known by the PowerVR graphics chip semiconductor designer Imagination Technologies has proposed a new concept, which is to receive the firmware freedom broadly: On a high-performance system-on-chip (SoC) with MIPS dual-core processor (P5600, 1 GHz) are three virtual machines (VM) running, two of which work with OpenWRT. The exchange between hardware and VMs takes a L4Re-Mikrohypervisor who comes from Dresden's core concept GmbH.

One of the two VMs OpenWRT operated only the WLAN; they can not be changed. On the second, open VM the remaining router operating system that handles the data transfer between the Internet and internal network running. The two OpenWRT instances communicate with a private virtual network.

Busybox as a playground

In the third, largely isolated from the rest of the system VM Busybox is to serve as a basis for nachinstallierbare third-party software. This may, for example apps for home automation and IoT applications.

The whole has tried Imagination Technologies on a developer board of Baikal Electronics. Here are intended to run the other VMs and remain so to get the router function, for example when a Smart Home App brings the BusyBox VM crash.

With the VM concept, the FCC requirement for locked-Fi is likely to be met in routers. But because of the higher hardware requirements for processing power and RAM capacities, this solution will probably only appear in future router models. Older devices it should also lack appropriate virtualization capabilities in the CPU core.(Ea)