A RISC-V in-network accelerator for flexible high-performance low-power packet processing

Research paper presented at the ISCA 2021 conference (online)


The capacity of offloading data and control tasks to the network is becoming increasingly important, especially if we consider the faster growth of network speed when compared to CPU frequencies. In-network compute alleviates the host CPU load by running tasks directly in the network, enabling additional computation/communication overlap and potentially improving overall application performance. However, sustaining bandwidths provided by next-generation networks, e.g., 400 Gbit/s, can become a challenge. sPIN is a programming model for in-NIC compute, where users specify handler functions that are executed on the NIC, for each incoming packet belonging to a given message or flow. It enables a CUDA-like acceleration, where the NIC is equipped with lightweight processing elements that process network packets in parallel. We investigate the architectural specialties that a sPIN NIC should provide to enable high-performance, low-power, and flexible packet processing. We introduce PsPIN, a first open-source sPIN implementation, based on a multi-cluster RISC-V architecture and designed according to the identified architectural specialties. We investigate the performance of PsPIN with cycle-accurate simulations, showing that it can process packets at 400 Gbit/s for several use cases, introducing minimal latencies (26 ns for 64 B packets) and occupying a total area of 18.5 mm2 (22 nm FDSOI).

DOI: 10.1109/ISCA52012.2021.0007


A presentation of this paper was recorded by ETHZ: