PARTISAN: Scaling the Distributed Actor Runtime


Christopher S. Meiklejohn and Heather Miller, Carnegie Mellon University; Peter Alvaro, UC Santa Cruz


We present the design of an alternative runtime system for improved scalability and reduced latency in actor applications called PARTISAN. PARTISAN provides higher scalability by allowing the application developer to specify the network overlay used at runtime without changing application semantics, thereby specializing the network communication patterns to the application. PARTISAN reduces message latency through a combination of three predominately automatic optimizations: parallelism, named channels, and affinitized scheduling. We implement a prototype of PARTISAN in Erlang and demonstrate that PARTISAN achieves up to an order of magnitude increase in the number of nodes the system can scale to through runtime overlay selection, up to a 38.07x increase in throughput, and up to a 13.5x reduction in latency over Distributed Erlang.

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@inproceedings {234952,
author = {Christopher S. Meiklejohn and Heather Miller and Peter Alvaro},
title = {{PARTISAN}: Scaling the Distributed Actor Runtime},
booktitle = {2019 USENIX Annual Technical Conference (USENIX ATC 19)},
year = {2019},
isbn = {978-1-939133-03-8},
address = {Renton, WA},
pages = {63--76},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = jul,

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