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.

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@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},