Robert Soulé – Feb 25 2019

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
1999. 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.

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