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Our upcoming NSDI 2022 paper “Packet Order Matters! Improving Application Performance by Deliberately Delaying Packets”


Our upcoming NSDI 2022 paper Packet Order Matters shows a surprising result: deliberately delaying packets can improve the performance of backend servers by up to about a factor of 2 (e.g., those used for Network Function Virtualization)! This applies to both throughput and latency (including the time spent in our Reframer). We show three different scenarios in which Reframer can be deployed. Source code is available here.

Below is the presentation at NSDI 2022:

This is joint work with:

Hamid Ghasemirahni, Tom Barbette, Georgios P. Katsikas, Alireza Farshin, Amir Roozbeh, Massimo Girondi, Marco Chiesa, Gerald Q. Maguire Jr., and Dejan Kostić.


Full abstract is below:

Data centers increasingly deploy commodity servers with high-speed network interfaces to enable low-latency communication. However, achieving low latency at high data rates crucially depends on how the incoming traffic interacts with the system’s caches. When packets that need to be processed in the same way are consecutive, i.e., exhibit high temporal and spatial locality, caches deliver great benefits.

In this paper, we systematically study the impact of temporal and spatial traffic locality on the performance of commodity servers equipped with high-speed network interfaces. Our results show that (i) the performance of a variety of widely deployed applications degrade substantially with even the slightest lack of traffic locality, and (ii) a traffic trace from our organization reveals poor traffic locality as networking protocols, drivers, and the underlying switching/routing fabric spread packets out in time (reducing locality). To address these issues, we built Reframer, a software solution that deliberately delays packets and reorders them to increase traffic locality. Despite introducing μs-scale delays of some packets, we show that Reframer increases the throughput of a network service chain by up to 84% and reduces the flow completion time of a web server by 11% while improving its throughput by 20%.