Emu: Rapid Prototyping of Networking Services


Nik Sultana, Salvator Galea, David Greaves, Marcin Wojcik, and Jonny Shipton, University of Cambridge; Richard Clegg, Queen Mary University of London; Luo Mai, Imperial College London; Pietro Bressana and Robert Soule, Università della Svizzera italiana; Richard Mortier, University of Cambridge; Paolo Costa, Microsoft Research; Peter Pietzuch, Imperial College London; Jon Crowcroft, Andrew W Moore, and Noa Zilberman, University of Cambridge


Due to their performance and flexibility, FPGAs are an attractive platform for the execution of network functions. It has been a challenge for a long time though to make FPGA programming accessible to a large audience of developers. An appealing solution is to compile code from a general-purpose language to hardware using high-level synthesis. Unfortunately, current approaches to implement rich network functionality are insufficient because they lack: (i) libraries with abstractions for common network operations and data structures, (ii) bindings to the underlying “substrate” on the FPGA, and (iii) debugging and profiling support.

This paper describes Emu, a new standard library for an FPGA hardware compiler that enables developers to rapidly create and deploy network functionality. Emu allows for high-performance designs without being bound to particular packet processing paradigms. Furthermore, it supports running the same programs on CPUs, in Mininet, and on FPGAs, providing a better development environment that includes advanced debugging capabilities. We demonstrate that network functions implemented using Emu have only negligible resource and performance overheads compared with natively-written hardware versions.

Open Access Media

USENIX is committed to Open Access to the research presented at our events. Papers and proceedings are freely available to everyone once the event begins. Any video, audio, and/or slides that are posted after the event are also free and open to everyone. Support USENIX and our commitment to Open Access.

@inproceedings {203245,
author = {Nik Sultana and Salvator Galea and David Greaves and Marcin Wojcik and Jonny Shipton and Richard Clegg and Luo Mai and Pietro Bressana and Robert Soul{\'e} and Richard Mortier and Paolo Costa and Peter Pietzuch and Jon Crowcroft and Andrew W Moore and Noa Zilberman},
title = {Emu: Rapid Prototyping of Networking Services},
booktitle = {2017 USENIX Annual Technical Conference (USENIX ATC 17)},
year = {2017},
isbn = {978-1-931971-38-6},
address = {Santa Clara, CA},
pages = {459--471},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/atc17/technical-sessions/presentation/sultana},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = jul

Presentation Audio