A New Network I/O Acceleration Architecture for Virtualized Systems Supporting Large-Scale, Dynamic Cloud Infrastructures

Author: Anna Fischer

In response to increasing demand for high-performance I/O in virtualized infrastructures, a variety of virtualization-aware network devices have been developed over the last years. However, due to the lack of a standard hardware or software interface for integrating these into a virtualized system and exposing their capability set to an application running inside a virtual machine, it is a challenge for today’s cloud computing infrastructure providers to take advantage of high-performance network devices. Existing approaches tie the virtual machine to a particular hardware interface which significantly limits the dynamic and flexible nature of virtual machines in the cloud. This research investigates an I/O architecture which allows advantage to be taken of a variety of network devices by assigning them as “network acceleration engines” (NAEs) to the virtual machine. The main benefit of the proposed design is that the virtual machine remains decoupled from the underlying real network device. We analyse the design and implementation of today’s hardware and system software interfaces and our work reveals challenges for using those efficiently and flexibly on a virtualized system. As a result, we propose enhancements to both hardware and software interfaces in order to provide a high-performance I/O path which can be deployed in dynamic, large-scale environments like cloud computing infrastructures. We implement this NAE framework for three different network devices from two different vendors and results of our initial prototype demonstrate that we can efficiently provide a common, vendor-independent virtual network interface on top of a variety of network hardware.

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