The Benefits of General-Purpose On-NIC Memory

Boris Pismenny, Liran Liss, Adam Morrison, Dan Tsafrir

To appear in ASPLOS '22: ACM International Conference on Architectural Support for Languages and Operating Systems, 2022

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We propose to use the small, newly available on-NIC memory (“nicmem”) to keep pace with the rapidly increasing performance of NICs. We motivate our proposal by accelerating two types of workload classes: NFV and key-value stores. As NFV workloads frequently operate on headers—rather than data—of incoming packets, we introduce a new packet-processing architecture that splits between the two, keeping the data on nicmem when possible and thus reducing PCIe traffic, memory bandwidth, and CPU processing time. Our approach consequently shortens NFV latency by up to 23% and increases its throughput by up to 19%. Similarly, because key-value stores commonly exhibit skewed distributions, we introduce a new network stack mechanism that lets applications keep frequently accessed items on nicmem. Our design shortens memcached latency by up to 43% and increases its throughput by up to 80%.