Many algorithms for congestion control, scheduling, network measurement, active queue management, and traffic engineering require custom processing of packets in the data plane of a network switch. To run at line rate, these data-plane algorithms must be implemented in hardware. With today's switch hardware, algorithms cannot be changed, nor new algorithms installed, after a switch has been built. This paper shows how to program data-plane algorithms in a high-level language and compile those programs into low-level microcode that can run on emerging programmable line-rate switching chips. The key challenge is that many data-plane algorithms create and modify algorithmic state. To achieve line-rate programmability for stateful algorithms, we introduce the notion of a packet transaction: a sequential packet-processing code block that is atomic and isolated from other such code blocks. We have developed this idea in Domino, a C-like imperative language to express data-plane algorithms. We show with many examples that Domino provides a convenient way to express sophisticated data-plane algorithms, and show that these algorithms can be run at line rate with modest estimated chip-area overhead.


August, 2016


  • Mihai Budiu
  • Anirudh Sivaraman
  • Alvin Cheung
  • Changhoon Kim
  • Mohammad Alizadeh
  • Hari Balakrishnan
  • George Varghese
  • Nick McKeown
  • Steve Licking

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