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  1. Advanced high-speed network cards have made packet processing in host operating systems a major performance bottleneck. The kernel network stack gives rise to various sources of overheads that limit the throughput and lengthen the per-packet processing latency. The problem is further exacerbated for short-lived, latency-sensitive network flows such as control packets, online gaming, database requests, etc. — in a highly utilized system, especially in virtualized (containerized) cloud environments, short flows can experience excessively long in-kernel queuing delays. As a consequence, recent research works propose to bypass the kernel network stack to enable lightweight, custom userspace network stacks for improved performance, but at a heavy cost of compatibility and security. In this paper, we take a different approach: We first analyze various sources of inefficiencies in the kernel network stack and propose ways to mitigate them without compromising systems compatibility, security, or flexibility. Further, we propose PRISM, a novel mechanism in the kernel network stack to differentiate incoming packets based on their performance requirements and streamline the processing stages of multi-stage packet processing pipelines (e.g., in container overlay networks). Our evaluation demonstrates that PRISM can significantly improve the latency of high-priority flows in container overly networks in the presence of heavy low-priority background traffic. 
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  2. Fast provisioning of serverless functions is salient for serverless platforms. Though lightweight sandboxes (e.g., containers) enclose only necessary files and libraries, a cold launch still requires up to a few seconds to complete. Such slow provisioning prolongs the response time of serverless functions and negatively impacts users’ experiences. This paper analyzes the main reasons for such slowdown and introduces an effective containerization framework, FlashCube. Instead of building a container from scratch, FlashCube quickly and eff iciently assembles it through a group of pre-created general container parts (e.g., namespaces, cgroups, and language runtimes). In addition, FlashCube’s user-space implementation makes it easily applicable to existing commodity serverless platforms. Our preliminary evaluation demonstrates that FlashCube can quickly provision containerized functions in less than 10 ms (vs. ∼400 ms using Docker containers). 
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  3. null (Ed.)
    Container networking, which provides connectivity among containers on multiple hosts, is crucial to building and scaling container-based microservices. While overlay networks are widely adopted in production systems, they cause significant performance degradation in both throughput and latency compared to physical networks. This paper seeks to understand the bottlenecks of in-kernel networking when running container overlay networks. Through profiling and code analysis, we find that a prolonged data path, due to packet transformation in overlay networks, is the culprit of performance loss. Furthermore, existing scaling techniques in the Linux network stack are ineffective for parallelizing the prolonged data path of a single network flow. We propose FALCON, a fast and balanced container networking approach to scale the packet processing pipeline in overlay networks. FALCON pipelines software interrupts associated with different network devices of a single flow on multiple cores, thereby preventing execution serialization of excessive software interrupts from overloading a single core. FALCON further supports multiple network flows by effectively multiplexing and balancing software interrupts of different flows among available cores. We have developed a prototype of FALCON in Linux. Our evaluation with both micro-benchmarks and real-world applications demonstrates the effectiveness of FALCON, with significantly improved performance (by 300% for web serving) and reduced tail latency (by 53% for data caching). 
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  4. null (Ed.)
    Container storage commonly relies on overlay file systems to interpose read-only container images upon backing file systems. While being transparent to and compatible with most existing backing file systems, the overlay file-system approach imposes nontrivial I/O overhead to containerized applications, especially for writes: To write a file originating from a read-only container image, the whole file will be copied to a separate, writable storage layer, resulting in long write latency and inefficient use of container storage. In this paper, we present BAOverlay, a lightweight, block-accessible overlay file system: Equipped with a new block-accessibility attribute, BAOverlay not only exploits the benefit of using an asynchronous copy-on-write mechanism for fast file updates but also enables a new file format for efficient use of container storage space. We have developed a prototype of BAOverlay upon Linux Ext4. Our evaluation with both micro-benchmarks and real-world applications demonstrates the effectiveness of BAOverlay with improved write performance and on-demand container storage usage. 
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  5. Developers are always on the lookout for simple solutions to manage their applications on cloud platforms. Major cloud providers have already been offering automatic elasticity management solutions (e.g., AWS Lambda, Azure durable function) to users. However, many cloud applications are stateful --- while executing, functions need to share their state with others. Providing elasticity for such stateful functions is much more challenging, as a deployment/elasticity decision for a stateful entity can strongly affect others in ways which are hard to predict without any application knowledge. Existing solutions either only support stateless applications (e.g., AWS Lambda) or only provide limited elasticity management (e.g., Azure durable function) to stateful applications. PLASMA (Programmable Elasticity for Stateful Cloud Computing Applications) is a programming framework for elastic stateful cloud applications. It includes (1) an elasticity programming language as a second "level" of programming (complementing the main application programming language) for describing elasticity behavior, and (2) a novel semantics-aware elasticity management runtime that tracks program execution and acts upon application features as suggested by elasticity behavior. We have implemented 10+ applications with PLASMA. Extensive evaluation on Amazon AWS shows that PLASMA significantly improves their efficiency, e.g., achieving same performance as a vanilla setup with 25% fewer resources, or improving performance by 40% compared to the default setup. 
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