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Software-optimized Systems in the Era of Hardware Specialization

18 Mar
Monday, 03/18/2019 4:00pm to 5:00pm
Computer Science Building, Room 151
Special Event
Speaker: Anuj Kalia

Abstract: In the post-Moore era, using specialized hardware tuned to specific applications is a promising direction to get higher performance. To create a cohesive specialization roadmap for the future, we must ask: how far can we go by optimizing software for existing hardware, and when must we turn to the more expensive option of deploying specialized hardware? I argue that for many important systems problems for which specialized hardware---intelligent NICs, FPGAs, programmable switches, and GPUs---has been proposed, software-optimized systems can provide competitive performance.

In this talk, I will focus on this optimization-specialization tradeoff in the context of distributed systems for modern datacenter networks. By using new techniques to better use existing CPUs and networks, my work invalidates the commonly-held belief that software-based networking cannot match datacenter network speeds, and allows building fast distributed systems that run entirely in software. I show that such designs have a fundamental latency advantage over distributed systems that use specialized hardware, whose limited flexibility often increases network round trips. I will describe in detail the design of eRPC, the first networking library to provide near-network performance in commodity datacenters. eRPC aligns with the end-to-end principle, and answers long-standing networking questions about reliability and congestion control. Finally, I will discuss how by better leveraging existing hardware, and carefully choosing hardware specializations, we can create future systems that match the performance of ever-faster networks.

Bio: I am a final-year PhD student advised by Professor David Andersen at Carnegie Mellon University. My research interest is computer systems in the networked environment. My current project is eRPC. I received a B.Tech. degree in Computer Science and Engineering from IIT-Delhi in 2013. I am generously supported by a Facebook PhD fellowship.

A reception for attendees will be held in CS 150 at 3:30 p.m.

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