Comparing User Space and In-Kernel Packet Processing for Edge Data Centers

Federico Parola, Roberto Procopio, Roberto Querio, Fulvio Risso


Telecommunication operators are massively moving their network functions in small data centers at the edge of the network, which are becoming increasingly common. However, the high performance provided by commonly used technologies for data plane processing such as DPDK, based on kernel-bypass primitives, comes at the cost of rigid resource partitioning. This is unsuitable for edge data centers, in which efficiency demands both general-purpose applications and data-plane telco workloads to be executed on the same (shared) physical machines. In this respect, eBPF/XDP looks a more appealing solution, thanks to its capability to process packets in the kernel, achieving a higher level of integration with non-data plane applications albeit with lower performance than DPDK. In this paper we leverage the recent introduction of AF_XDP, an XDP-based technology that allows to efficiently steer packets in user space, to provide a thorough comparison of user space vs in-kernel packet processing in typical scenarios of a data center at the edge of the network. Our results provide useful insights on how to select and combine these technologies in order to improve overall throughput and optimize resource usage.

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