Emu: Rapid Prototyping of Networking Services

Nik Sultana, Salvator Galea, David Greaves, Marcin Wójcik, Jonny Shipton, Richard G. Clegg, Luo Mai, Pietro Bressana, Robert Soulé, Richard Mortier, Paolo Costa, Peter Pietzuch, Jon Crowcroft, Andrew W. Moore, Noa Zilberman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Due to their performance and flexibility, FPGAs are an attractive platform for the execution of network functions. It has been a challenge for a long time though to make FPGA programming accessible to a large audience of developers. An appealing solution is to compile code from a general-purpose language to hardware using high-level synthesis. Unfortunately, current approaches to implement rich network functionality are insufficient because they lack: (i) libraries with abstractions for common network operations and data structures, (ii) bindings to the underlying "substrate" on the FPGA, and (iii) debugging and profiling support.

This paper describes Emu, a new standard library for an FPGA hardware compiler that enables developers to rapidly create and deploy network functionality. Emu allows for high-performance designs without being bound to particular packet processing paradigms. Furthermore, it supports running the same programs on CPUs, in Mininet, and on FPGAs, providing a better development environment that includes advanced debugging capabilities. We demonstrate that network functions implemented using Emu have only negligible resource and performance overheads compared with natively-written hardware versions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2017 USENIX Conference on Usenix Annual Technical Conference
Place of PublicationUSA
PublisherUSENIX Association
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)9781931971386
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2017
Event2017 USENIX Annual Technical Conference - Santa Clara, United States
Duration: 12 Jul 201714 Jul 2017

Publication series

PublisherUSENIX Association


Conference2017 USENIX Annual Technical Conference
Abbreviated titleUSENIX ATC 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySanta Clara
Internet address


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