Faasm: Lightweight Isolation for Efficient Stateful Serverless Computing


Simon Shillaker and Peter Pietzuch, Imperial College London


Serverless computing is an excellent fit for big data processing because it can scale quickly and cheaply to thousands of parallel functions. Existing serverless platforms isolate functions in ephemeral, stateless containers, preventing them from directly sharing memory. This forces users to duplicate and serialise data repeatedly, adding unnecessary performance and resource costs. We believe that a new lightweight isolation approach is needed, which supports sharing memory directly between functions and reduces resource overheads.

We introduce Faaslets, a new isolation abstraction for high-performance serverless computing. Faaslets isolate the memory of executed functions using \emph{software-fault isolation} (SFI), as provided by WebAssembly, while allowing memory regions to be shared between functions in the same address space. Faaslets can thus avoid expensive data movement when functions are co-located on the same machine. Our runtime for Faaslets, Faasm, isolates other resources, e.g. CPU and network, using standard Linux cgroups, and provides a low-level POSIX host interface for networking, file system access and dynamic loading. To reduce initialisation times, Faasm restores Faaslets from already-initialised snapshots. We compare Faasm to a standard container-based platform and show that, when training a machine learning model, it achieves a 2× speed-up with 10× less memory; for serving machine learning inference, Faasm doubles the throughput and reduces tail latency by 90%.

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 {254432,
author = {Simon Shillaker and Peter Pietzuch},
title = {Faasm: Lightweight Isolation for Efficient Stateful Serverless Computing},
booktitle = {2020 USENIX Annual Technical Conference (USENIX ATC 20)},
year = {2020},
isbn = {978-1-939133-14-4},
pages = {419--433},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/atc20/presentation/shillaker},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = jul

Presentation Video