skip to main content

Title: Synergy: A SmartNIC Accelerated 5G Dataplane and Monitor for Mobility Prediction
The 5G user plane function (UPF) is a critical inter-connection point between the data network and cellular network infrastructure. It governs the packet processing performance of the 5G core network. UPFs also need to be flexible to support several key control plane operations. Existing UPFs typically run on general-purpose CPUs, but have limited performance because of the overheads of host-based forwarding. We design Synergy, a novel 5G UPF running on SmartNICs that provides high throughput and low latency. It also supports monitoring functionality to gather critical data on user sessions for the prediction and optimization of handovers during user mobility. The SmartNIC UPF efficiently buffers data packets during handover and paging events by using a two-level flow-state access mechanism. This enables maintaining flow-state for a very large number of flows, thus providing very low latency for control and data planes and high throughput packet forwarding. Mobility prediction can reduce the handover delay by pre-populating state in the UPF and other core NFs. Synergy performs handover predictions based on an existing recurrent neural network model. Synergy's mobility predictor helps us achieve 2.32× lower average handover latency. Buffering in the SmartNIC, rather than the host, during paging and handover events reduces packet loss rate by at least 2.04×. Compared to previous approaches to building programmable switch-based UPFs, Synergy speeds up control plane operations such as handovers because of the low P4-programming latency leveraging tight coupling between SmartNIC and host.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1763929 1823270
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
2022 IEEE 30th International Conference on Network Protocols (ICNP)
Page Range / eLocation ID:
1 to 12
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Cellular network control procedures (e.g., mobility, idle-active transition to conserve energy) directly influence data plane behavior, impacting user-experienced delay. Recognizing this control-data plane interdependence, L25GC re-architects the 5G Core (5GC) network, and its processing, to reduce latency of control plane operations and their impact on the data plane. Exploiting shared memory, L25GC eliminates message serialization and HTTP processing overheads, while being 3GPP-standards compliant. We improve data plane processing by factoring the functions to avoid control-data plane interference, and using scalable, flow-level packet classifiers for forwarding-rule lookups. Utilizing buffers at the 5GC, L25GC implements paging, and an intelligent handover scheme avoiding 3GPP's hairpin routing, and data loss caused by limited buffering at 5G base stations, reduces delay and unnecessary message processing. L25GC's integrated failure resiliency transparently recovers from failures of 5GC software network functions and hardware much faster than 3GPP's reattach recovery procedure. L25GC is built based on free5GC, an open-source kernel-based 5GC implementation. L25GC reduces event completion time by ~50% for several control plane events and improves data packet latency (due to improved control plane communication) by ~2×, during paging and handover events, compared to free5GC. L25GC's design is general, although current implementation supports a limited number of user sessions. 
    more » « less
  2. With the commercialization and deployment of 5G, efforts are beginning to explore the design of the next generation of cellular networks, called 6G. New and constantly evolving use cases continue to place performance demands, especially for low latency communications, as these are still challenges for the 3GPP-specified 5G design, and will have to be met by the 6G design. Therefore, it is helpful to re-examine several aspects of the current cellular network’s design and implementation.Based on our understanding of the 5G cellular network specifications, we explore different implementation options for a dis-aggregated 5G core and their performance implications. To improve the data plane performance, we consider advanced packet classification mechanisms to support fast packet processing in the User Plane Function (UPF), to improve the poor performance and scalability of the current design based on linked lists. Importantly, we implement the UPF function on a SmartNIC for forwarding and tunneling. The SmartNIC provides the fastpath for device traffic, while more complex functions of buffering and processing flows that suffer a miss on the SmartNIC P4 tables are processed by the host-based UPF. Compared to an efficient DPDK-based host UPF, the SmartNIC UPF increases the throughput for 64 Byte packets by almost 2×. Furthermore, we lower the packet forwarding latency by 3.75× by using the SmartNIC. In addition, we propose a novel context-level QoS mechanism that dynamically updates the Packet Detection Rule priority and resource allocation of a flow based on the user context. By combining our innovations, we can achieve low latency and high throughput that will help us evolve to the next generation 6G cellular networks. 
    more » « less
  3. Despite advances in network security, attacks targeting mission critical systems and applications remain a significant problem for network and datacenter providers. Existing telemetry platforms detect volumetric attacks at terabit scales using approximation techniques and coarse grain analysis. However, the prevalence of low and slow attacks that require very little bandwidth, makes flow-state tracking critical to overall attack mitigation. Traffic queries deployed on network switches are often limited by hardware constraints, preventing them from carrying out flow tracking features required to detect stealthy attacks. Such attacks can go undetected in the midst of high traffic volumes. We design SmartWatch, a novel flow state tracking and flow logging system at line rate, using SmartNICs to optimize performance and simultaneously detect a number of stealthy attacks. SmartWatch leverages advances in switch based network telemetry platforms to process the bulk of the traffic and only forward suspicious traffic subsets to the SmartNIC. The programmable network switches perform coarse-grained traffic analysis while the SmartNIC conducts the finer-grained analysis which involves additional processing of the packet as a 'bump-in-the-wire'. A control loop between the SmartNIC and programmable switch tunes the queries performed in the switch to direct the most appropriate traffic subset to the SmartNIC. SmartWatch's cooperative monitoring approach yields 2.39 times better detection rate compared to existing platforms deployed on programmable switches. SmartWatch can detect covert timing channels and perform website fingerprinting more efficiently compared to standalone programmable switch solutions, relieving switch memory and control-plane processor resources. Compared to host-based approaches, SmartWatch can reduce the packet processing latency by 72.32%. 
    more » « less
  4. An optical circuit-switched network core has the potential to overcome the inherent challenges of a conventional electrical packet-switched core of today's compute clusters. As optical circuit switches (OCS) directly handle the photon beams without any optical-electrical-optical (O/E/O) conversion and packet processing, OCS-based network cores have the following desirable properties: a) agnostic to data-rate, b) negligible/zero power consumption, c) no need of transceivers, d) negligible forwarding latency, and e) no need for frequent upgrade. Unfortunately, OCS can only provide point-to-point (unicast) circuits. They do not have built-in support for one-to-many (multicast) communication, yet multicast is fundamental to a plethora of data-intensive applications running on compute clusters nowadays. In this paper, we propose Shufflecast, a novel optical network architecture for next-generation compute clusters that can support high-performance multicast satisfying all the properties of an OCS-based network core. Shufflecast leverages small fanout, inexpensive, passive optical splitters to connect the Top-of-rack (ToR) switch ports, ensuring data-rate agnostic, low-power, physical-layer multicast. We thoroughly analyze Shufflecast's highly scalable data plane, light-weight control plane, and graceful failure handling. Further, we implement a complete prototype of Shufflecast in our testbed and extensively evaluate the network. Shufflecast is more power-efficient than the state-of-the-art multicast mechanisms. Also, Shufflecast is more cost-efficient than a conventional packet-switched network. By adding Shufflecast alongside an OCS-based unicast network, an all-optical network core with the aforementioned desirable properties supporting both unicast and multicast can be realized. 
    more » « less
  5. Scale-out datacenter network fabrics enable network operators to translate improved link and switch speeds directly into end-host throughput. Unfortunately, limits in the underlying CMOS packet switch chip manufacturing roadmap mean that NICs, links, and switches are not getting faster fast enough to meet demand. As a result, operators have introduced alternative, parallel fabric designs in the core of the network that deliver N-times the bandwidth by simply forwarding traffic over any of N parallel network fabrics. In this work, we consider extending this parallel network idea all the way to the end host. Our initial impressions found that direct application of existing path selection and forwarding techniques resulted in poor performance. Instead, we show that appropriate path selection and forwarding protocols can not only improve the performance of existing, homogeneous parallel fabrics, but enable the development of heterogeneous parallel network fabrics that can deliver even higher bandwidth, lower latency, and improved resiliency than traditional designs constructed from the same constituent components. 
    more » « less