USENIX 2004 Annual Technical Conference, General Track Abstract
Pp. 213226 of the Proceedings
Network Subsystems Reloaded: A High-Performance, Defensible Network Subsystem
Anshumal Sinha, Sandeep Sarat, and Jonathan S. Shapiro, Johns Hopkins University
Traditionally, operating systems have used monolithic network stack implementations: implementations
where the whole network stack executes in the kernel or (in microkernels) in a single, trusted, user level server.
Code maintenance issues, ease of debugging, need for simultaneous existence of multiple protocols, and security
benefit have argued for removing the networking implementation from kernel and dividing it into multiple
user level protection domains. Previous attempts to do so have failed to deliver adequate performance. Given
the advances made in both hardware (CPU, Memory, NIC) and micro-kernel design over the last decade, it is
now appropriate to re-evaluate how these re-factored implementations perform, and to examine the reasons for
earlier failures in greater detail.
Building on the primitives of the EROS microkernel, we have implemented two network subsystems: one
a conventional, user mode, monolithic design and the other a domain-factored user level networking stack
that restructures the network subsystem into several protection domains. We show that the restructuring maintains
performance very close to that of the monolithic design, and that both designs compare favorably to a
conventional in-kernel implementation. We discuss the issues faced in engineering the domain-factored implementation
to achieve high performance, and present the quantitative evaluation of the resulting network
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