Slim: OS Kernel Support for a Low-Overhead Container Overlay Network


Danyang Zhuo and Kaiyuan Zhang, University of Washington; Yibo Zhu, Microsoft and Bytedance; Hongqiang Harry Liu, Alibaba; Matthew Rockett, Arvind Krishnamurthy, and Thomas Anderson, University of Washington


Containers have become the de facto method for hosting large-scale distributed applications. Container overlay networks are essential to providing portability for containers, yet they impose significant overhead in terms of throughput, latency, and CPU utilization. The key problem is a reliance on packet transformation to implement network virtualization. As a result, each packet has to traverse the network stack twice in both the sender and the receiver’s host OS kernel. We have designed and implemented Slim, a low-overhead container overlay network that implements network virtualization by manipulating connection-level metadata. Our solution maintains compatibility with today’s containerized applications. Evaluation results show that Slim improves the throughput of an in-memory key-value store by 66% while reducing the latency by 42%. Slim reduces the CPU utilization of the in-memory key-value store by 54%. Slim also reduces the CPU utilization of a web server by 28%-40%, a database server by 25%, and a stream processing framework by 11%.

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@inproceedings {227669,
author = {Danyang Zhuo and Kaiyuan Zhang and Yibo Zhu and Hongqiang Harry Liu and Matthew Rockett and Arvind Krishnamurthy and Thomas Anderson},
title = {Slim: {OS} Kernel Support for a {Low-Overhead} Container Overlay Network},
booktitle = {16th USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI 19)},
year = {2019},
isbn = {978-1-931971-49-2},
address = {Boston, MA},
pages = {331-344},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = feb

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