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%.

NSDI '19 Open Access Sponsored by NetApp

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 {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,

Presentation Video