August 21, 2017

SilkRoad: Making Stateful Layer-4 Load Balancing Fast and Cheap Using Switching ASICs

Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Data Communications (SIGCOMM)

By: Rui Miao, Hongyi Zeng, Changhoon Kim, Jeongkeun Lee, Minlan Yu


In this paper, we show that up to hundreds of software load balancer (SLB) servers can be replaced by a single modern switching ASIC, potentially reducing the cost of load balancing by over two orders of magnitude. Today, large data centers typically employ hundreds or thousands of servers to load-balance incoming traffic over application servers. These software load balancers (SLBs) map packets destined to a service (with a virtual IP address, or VIP), to a pool of servers tasked with providing the service (with multiple direct IP addresses, or DIPs). An SLB is stateful, it must always map a connection to the same server, even if the pool of servers changes and/or if the load is spread differently across the pool. This property is called per-connection consistency or PCC. The challenge is that the load balancer must keep track of millions of connections simultaneously.

Until recently, it was not possible to implement a load balancer with PCC in a merchant switching ASIC, because high-performance switching ASICs typically can not maintain per-connection states with PCC. Newer switching ASICs provide resources and primitives to enable PCC at a large scale. In this paper, we explore how to use switching ASICs to build much faster load balancers than have been built before. Our system, called SilkRoad, is defined in a 400 line P4 program and when compiled to a state-of-the-art switching ASIC, we show it can load-balance ten million connections simultaneously at line rate.