M³x: Autonomous Accelerators via Context-Enabled Fast-Path Communication


Nils Asmussen, Michael Roitzsch, and Hermann Härtig, Technische Universität Dresden, Germany; Barkhausen Institut, Dresden, Germany


Performance and efficiency requirements are driving a trend towards specialized accelerators in both datacenters and embedded devices. In order to cut down communication overheads, system components are pinned to cores and fast-path communication between them is established. These fast paths reduce latency by avoiding indirections through the operating system. However, we see three roadblocks that can impede further gains: First, accelerators today need to be assisted by a general-purpose core, because they cannot autonomously access operating system services like file systems or network stacks. Second, fast-path communication is at odds with preemptive context switching, which is still necessary today to improve efficiency when applications underutilize devices. Third, these concepts should be kept orthogonal, such that direct and unassisted communication is possible between any combination of accelerators and general-purpose cores. At the same time, all of them should support switching between multiple application contexts, which is most difficult with accelerators that lack the hardware features to run an operating system.

We present M³x, a system architecture that removes these roadblocks. M³x retains the low overhead of fast-path communication while enabling context switching for general-purpose cores and specialized accelerators. M³x runs accelerators autonomously and achieves a speedup of 4.7 for PCIe-attached image-processing accelerators compared to traditional assisted operation. At the same time, utilization of the host CPU is reduced by a factor of 30.

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@inproceedings {234864,
author = {Nils Asmussen and Michael Roitzsch and Hermann H{\"a}rtig},
title = {{M{\textthreesuperior}x}: Autonomous Accelerators via {Context-Enabled} {Fast-Path} Communication},
booktitle = {2019 USENIX Annual Technical Conference (USENIX ATC 19)},
year = {2019},
isbn = {978-1-939133-03-8},
address = {Renton, WA},
pages = {617--632},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/atc19/presentation/asmussen},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = jul

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