The Network is the Computer: Running Distributed Services on Programmable Switches

Abstract: Historically, the conventional wisdom has been that networks should offer fixed functionality for forwarding packets and little else. This appears to be changing, as a new breed of programmable switches match the speed of fixed function devices. This trend raises the question: What services could and should sit in the forwarding plane?

In this talk, we explore how a programmable forwarding plane can naturally accelerate the fundamental building blocks of distributed systems. We identify and discuss three key issues for network acceleration: (i) How do we actually program network devices? What are the abstractions and limitations? (ii) What is the right architecture these “networked-distributed systems”? (iii) Given that we are asking the network to do so much more work, how can we be sure that it is implemented correctly? Our results show how we can build provably-correct distributed systems that provide orders-of-magnitude performance improvements over software-based alternatives.

Biography: Robert Soulé is an associate professor at the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) and a Research Scientist at Barefoot Networks. His research interests are in distributed systems, networking, and applied programming languages. Prior to joining USI, he was a postdoctoral associate at Cornell University. He received his PhD from New York University in 2012, and his BA from Brown University in

  1. For two years, he was a research co-op in the Data Intensive Systems and Analytics Group at IBM T. J. Watson Research Center. He is the recipient of an IBM Invention Plateau Award, a Google Faculty Research Award, and Best Paper Awards at ACM DEBS 2012 and USENIX NSDI 2018.