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Designing Next Generation Network Interface Cards

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Modern multi-tenant data center applications demand ultra low-latency, very high-throughput communication, and strong performance isolation. Traditional host software stacks cannot keep pace with these demands. In recent years, data center operators have turned to network interface cards (NICs) that implement different types of “offloads” to help accelerate processing, reduce latency, and increase network throughput. However, there are no principled approaches that guide the design of effective offloads, and inform how NICs should be architected to best support tenants’ differing offload needs and ensure isolation.

In this talk, I will describe my group’s recent work on building offloads and integrating them into next generation NICs. Using examples, I will present the trade-offs underlying various approaches to dividing the labor between a hardware offload and its corresponding software function. I will then present two multi-tenant offloads that I argue achieve good trade-offs for demanding multi-tenant scenarios: LOOM , which supports hierarchical packet scheduling, and 1RMA, which supports scalable remote memory access. Finally, I will present a new NIC architecture, PANIC , that supports many diverse multi-tenant offloads with programmable traversal and end-to-end isolation.


Aditya Akella is a Professor of Computer Science and H. I. Romnes Fellow at UW-Madison, and a visiting scientist at Google. Aditya received his B. Tech. from IIT Madras (2000), and PhD from CMU (2005). His research spans computer networks and systems, with a focus on formal methods in networking, programmable NICs, and systems for big data and machine learning. Aditya’s research has been incorporated into production data centers, content distribution systems, and cluster stacks. Aditya has received many awards for his work, including being selected as a finalist in Physical Sciences for the 2020 US Blavatnik National Award for Young Scientists, UW-Madison “Professor of the Year” award (2019 and 2017), IRTF Applied Networking Research Prize (2015), SIGCOMM Rising Star award (2014), NSF CAREER award (2008), and several best paper awards.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Systems Research Group Seminar series.

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