High Performance Packet Processing with FlexNIC

Antoine Kaufmann, Simon Peter, Naveen Kr. Sharma, Arvind Krishnamurthy, and Thomas Anderson

Proceedings of the ACM Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems (ASPLOS) 2016.

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Operating Systems, Networking

The recent surge of network I/O performance has put enormous pressure on memory and software I/O processing sub systems. We argue that the primary reason for high memory and processing overheads is the inefficient use of these resources by current commodity network interface cards (NICs). We propose FlexNIC, a flexible network DMA interface that can be used by operating systems and applications alike to reduce packet processing overheads. FlexNIC allows services to install packet processing rules into the NIC, which then executes simple operations on packets while exchanging them with host memory. Thus, our proposal moves some of the packet processing traditionally done in software to the NIC, where it can be done flexibly and at high speed. We quantify the potential benefits of FlexNIC by emulating the proposed FlexNIC functionality with existing hardware or in software. We show that significant gains in application performance are possible, in terms of both latency and throughput, for several widely used applications, including a key-value store, a stream processing system, and an intrusion detection system.