NetChain: Scale-Free Sub-RTT Coordination


Xin Jin, Johns Hopkins University; Xiaozhou Li, Barefoot Networks; Haoyu Zhang, Princeton University; Nate Foster, Cornell University; Jeongkeun Lee, Barefoot Networks; Robert Soulé, Università della Svizzera italiana; Changhoon Kim, Barefoot Networks; Ion Stoica, UC Berkeley
Awarded Best Paper!


Coordination services are a fundamental building block of modern cloud systems, providing critical functionalities like configuration management and distributed locking. The major challenge is to achieve low latency and high throughput while providing strong consistency and fault-tolerance. Traditional server-based solutions require multiple round-trip times (RTTs) to process a query. This paper presents NetChain, a new approach that provides scale-free sub-RTT coordination in datacenters. NetChain exploits recent advances in programmable switches to store data and process queries entirely in the network data plane. This eliminates the query processing at coordination servers and cuts the end-to-end latency to as little as half of an RTT—clients only experience processing delay from their own software stack plus network delay, which in a datacenter setting is typically much smaller. We design new protocols and algorithms based on chain replication to guarantee strong consistency and to efficiently handle switch failures. We implement a prototype with four Barefoot Tofino switches and four commodity servers. Evaluation results show that compared to traditional server-based solutions like ZooKeeper, our prototype provides orders of magnitude higher throughput and lower latency, and handles failures gracefully.

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@inproceedings {211261,
author = {Xin Jin and Xiaozhou Li and Haoyu Zhang and Nate Foster and Jeongkeun Lee and Robert Soul{\'e} and Changhoon Kim and Ion Stoica},
title = {NetChain: Scale-Free Sub-RTT Coordination},
booktitle = {15th {USENIX} Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation ({NSDI} 18)},
year = {2018},
isbn = {978-1-931971-43-0},
address = {Renton, WA},
pages = {35--49},
url = {},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},