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Topology Discovery

This document describes Terragraph's topology discovery feature.


TopologyBuilderApp orchestrates the high-level topology discovery algorithm, which extends the topology by incrementally adding and establishing links to responding nodes. The main piece of the algorithm is the broadcast beamforming protocol, or "topology scan" (refer to Scans for further details).

There are currently three actions available in TopologyBuilderApp:

  1. Running a single-node topology scan, and receiving results synchronously.
  2. Coordinating a network-wide topology discovery.
  3. Coordinating a link discovery within a search radius.

These actions are outlined in the sections below.

Single-Node Topology Scan

The goal of the single-node topology scan command is to provide a synchronous wrapper over ScanApp's API, along with more detailed response data. TopologyBuilderApp goes through the following steps upon receiving a START_TOPOLOGY_SCAN command:

  1. Send a START_SCAN request to ScanApp. If successful, ScanApp will reply with a START_SCAN_RESP message containing a unique scan identifier (or "token") that will be used to tag the scan results.
  2. ScanApp forwards all topology scan results to TopologyBuilderApp in the TOPOLOGY_SCAN_RESULT message. Process the raw scan results and return a START_TOPOLOGY_SCAN_RESP response to the original sender.

Scan result processing is handled within TopologyBuilder::processTopologyScanResult(). For each responder, this finds the strongest beam with the smallest beam angle using the initiator-to-responder LQM (link quality metric) matrix. This also identifies the nearest site in the topology via GPS distance.

Network-Wide Topology Discovery

The following user operations are available for managing network-wide topology discovery scans:

User OperationCommand

The inputs to the procedure are as follows:

  • Sites - All site locations should be added to the topology beforehand (responding nodes are matched to the nearest site).
  • Links between sites - Site-level link information (thrift::SiteLink) provided in the request will determine which links to form.

The outputs of the procedure are as follows:

  • Nodes - All responder nodes and adjacent nodes/radios on the same site will be added to the topology.
  • Links between nodes - Node-level link information will be added to the topology.

The current implementation is heavily dependent on GPS accuracy to match responder nodes to sites in the topology, and does not run scans in parallel.

Discovery Algorithm

The topology discovery algorithm resides in TopologyBuilder, which contains three main methods for handling a network-wide topology scan:

  • initNetworkTopologyScan() - Queues all sites specified in the scan request.
  • networkTopologyScanLoop() - Advances the algorithm.
  • handleScanResult() - Stores a topology scan result.

The scan loop is invoked once to initiate the scan, and then asynchronously upon receiving new scan results or hitting a timeout. Sites are removed from the scan queue after processing all scan results for the site. The loop terminates when the site queue is empty.

Scan progress is recorded throughout the procedure and returned via the thrift::NetworkTopologyScanStatus structure. This data persists in memory until another scan is started.

Scan Parameters

Scans are initiated via a StartNetworkTopologyScan request. The only required parameter is the list of all site links, which TopologyBuilder uses to build its site queue (of SiteQueueEntry entries).

The other tunable parameters are described below:

  • MAC addresses - If provided, only these specific MAC addresses may be added to the topology, and other radios ignored. This is primarily used for testing purposes.
  • CN sites - All nodes added on the given sites will be labeled as CNs (otherwise DNs).
  • Y-street sites - DN radios on the given sites will be allowed to form two DN-to-DN links (otherwise not allowed).
  • Beam angle penalty - A coefficient penalizing high beam angles at the transmitter or receiver when deciding the best link to form, because properly-aligned P2P links should normally be close to boresight. This penalty is not applied to P2MP sites, since the beam angle should average to zero degrees across all links of a P2MP radio. The default penalty of 0.1 would penalize a combined beam angle (i.e. sum of the absolute values of transmit and receive angles) of 45 degrees by an SNR of 4.5dB.
  • Distance threshold - The maximum distance, in meters, to allow between a responder's reported GPS position and the nearest site in order to compensate for GPS inaccuracies. Nodes located further away are ignored. The default distance threshold is 50 meters.
  • SNR threshold - The minimum signal-to-noise ratio, in decibels, to allow on new links. The default SNR threshold of 6.1dB is the minimum needed to support MCS2 at a packet error rate of 1e-3.
  • Scans per node - A scan request can be issued to each radio multiple times to increase the likelihood of picking up all responders.

Scan Loop

The scan loop determines the next action to perform based on the current site queue state. It returns an Action structure encapsulating the results for TopologyBuilderApp to then execute.

Starting at the site at the head of the queue, the loop proceeds as follows:

  • Find any DN left to scan on the site. The DN must be alive; to account for configuration-related reboots, the controller must have received a status report at least 3 seconds after a configuration change was pushed to the node.
    • If any valid DN was found, send it a topology scan request and wait for a response.
      • Upon receiving scan results, store them and invoke the loop again.
      • Upon a timeout, invoke the loop again.
    • If no valid DN was found, check the following cases:
      • If no scan results have been received so far, push the site to the bottom of the queue and continue (a node may come online later).
      • If any DN left to scan on the site was recently online (within 90 seconds), wait because it may come back online soon (e.g. rebooting).
      • Otherwise, process the scan results for the site (see below). If all site links have formed, remove the site from the queue; otherwise, re-add the site to the bottom of the queue.
  • Upon reaching the end of the queue, terminate if the queue is empty, or wait 5 seconds if any sites remain.

Processing Results

After collecting all scan results for a site, responders are filtered out through any of the following conditions:

  • The responder didn't report a GPS location (possibly a transient issue).
  • No site link should form between the current site and the responder's site.
  • The responder's MAC address did not match the input filter, if any.
  • The responder does not meet distance or SNR thresholds.
  • The responder is already part of the topology and already has the maximum number of links defined.
  • The responder is another radio on the node that initiated the scan.
  • The responder is already part of a different site (due to past or present GPS errors).

The remaining responders are grouped by their nearest site; site links are added in a greedy manner, where link quality is defined as follows:

link quality := SNR - (beam angle penalty * combined beam angle)

The chosen responders, their wired adjacencies (if applicable), and the associated wireless links are added to the topology via a BULK_ADD request to TopologyApp.

Link discovery scans aim to find the best possible link(s) from an existing node to a newly-installed node, issuing topology scans from each DN within a given radius. This is implemented using most of the same logic as topology discovery scans, but as only a single step (i.e. only the initial set of sites is enqueued).

The following user operations are available for managing link discovery scans:

User OperationCommand

The output is a list of all possible links found; no topology changes are made automatically.

Continuous Topology Scan

Continuous topology scans can be used for physically aligning a responder node. The purpose of the topology scan is to trigger a beamforming procedure on the responder at a sweep rate of roughly 2 cycles per second (depending on firmware parameters).

The "continuous" scan is implemented by running regular scans back-to-back, scheduling them about 4 seconds in advance (FLAGS_continuous_topo_scan_start_time_offset_s) and about 1.8s apart (as computed with ibfNumberOfBeams=31, or overridden via FLAGS_continuous_topo_scan_bwgd_delta). In this example, there would be a cycle consisting of ~1.5s of sweeping followed by a ~300ms gap.

The following user operations are available for managing continuous topology scans:

User OperationCommand

An ongoing scan can be interrupted by sending another request with a duration of zero.

Radio Alignment Using Continuous Topology Scans

A continuous topology scan will continuously sweep through all (Tx, Rx) beam combinations between the topology scan initiator (Tx beam sweep) and topology scan responder(s) (Rx beam sweep). The beamforming stats (TGF_STATS_BF) at the responder(s) can then be inspected to give quick alignment feedback, providing higher layers with SNR/RSSI measurements for every packet detected. Note that only a few of the (Tx, Rx) beam combinations detected at the responder(s) are sent back to the initiator, so in general the information available at the initiator is not enough to use for a robust alignment procedure.

Beamforming stats at each responder node contain the full heatmap of (Tx, Rx) beam combinations, which can be used to determine the current angle of arrival at the responder. As a simple example, if the (Tx, Rx) beam combination with highest SNR at the responder corresponds to an Rx angle of +10 degrees relative boresight, an installer could be instructed to rotate the responder node by +10 degrees so that the responder's boresight is aligned to the line-of-sight path to the initiator node. The beamforming stats can optionally be post-processed to improve robustness, for example by averaging across packets in the time and/or spatial domain, or by adding logic to distinguish reflections from the line-of-sight path.

Note that the host processor and software stack must be able to consume the high volume of TGF_STATS_BF stats generated by firmware to avoid loss. This can be on the order of thousands of samples per second. Refer to Firmware Stats for a full list of available beamforming stats.