Infoscience

Conference paper

Toward Predictable Performance in Software Packet-Processing Platforms

To become a credible alternative to specialized hardware, general-purpose networking needs to offer not only flexibility, but also predictable performance. Recent projects have demonstrated that general-purpose multicore hardware is capable of high-performance packet processing, but under a crucial simplifying assumption of uniformity: all processing cores see the same type/amount of traffic and run identical code, while all packets incur the same type of conventional processing (e.g., IP forwarding). Instead, we present a general-purpose packet-processing system that combines ease of programmability with predictable performance, while running a diverse set of applications and serving multiple clients with different needs. Offering predictability in this context is considered a hard problem because software processes contend for shared hardware resources -- caches, memory controllers, buses -- in unpredictable ways. Still, we show that, in our system, (a) the way in which resource contention affects performance is predictable and (b) the overall performance depends little on how different processes are scheduled on different cores. To the best of our knowledge, our results constitute the first evidence that, when designing software network equipment, flexibility and predictability are not mutually exclusive goals.

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