Gearbox: A Hierarchical Packet Scheduler for Approximate Weighted Fair Queuing


Peixuan Gao and Anthony Dalleggio, New York University; Yang Xu, Fudan University; H. Jonathan Chao, New York University


Bandwidth allocation and performance isolation are crucial to achieving network virtualization and guaranteeing service quality in data centers as well as other network systems. Weighted Fair Queuing (WFQ) can achieve customized bandwidth allocation and flow isolation; however, its implementation in large-scale high-speed network systems is very challenging due to the high complexity of the scheduling and the large number of queues required.

This paper proposes Gearbox, a scheduler primitive for next-generation programmable switches and smart NICs that practically approximates WFQ. Gearbox consists of a logical hierarchy of queuing levels, which accommodate a wide range of packet departure times using a relatively small number of FIFOs. Gearbox's enqueue and dequeue operations have O(1) time complexity, which makes it suitable to cope with high-speed line rates. Gearbox provides its simplicity and performance advantages by allowing slight discrepancies in packet departure time from strict WFQ. We show that Gearbox's normalized departure time discrepancy is bounded and has a negligible impact on bandwidth allocation and flow completion time (FCT).

We implement Gearbox in NS2 and in VHDL, targeted to a Xilinx Alveo U250 card with an XCVU13P FPGA. The NS2 evaluation results show that Gearbox closely approximates WFQ and achieves weighted max-min fairness in bandwidth allocation as well as flow isolation. Gearbox provides FCT performance comparable to ideal WFQ. The Gearbox FPGA prototype runs at 350MHz and achieves full line rate for 100GbE with packets larger than 123 bytes. Gearbox consumes less than 1% of the FPGA's logic resources and less than 4% of its internal block memory.

NSDI '22 Open Access Sponsored by
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)

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@inproceedings {276940,
author = {Peixuan Gao and Anthony Dalleggio and Yang Xu and H. Jonathan Chao},
title = {Gearbox: A Hierarchical Packet Scheduler for Approximate Weighted Fair Queuing},
booktitle = {19th USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI 22)},
year = {2022},
isbn = {978-1-939133-27-4},
address = {Renton, WA},
pages = {551-565},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = apr

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