Highly flexible software network functions (NFs) are crucial components to enable multi-tenancy in the clouds. However, software packet processing on a commodity server has
limited capacity and induces high latency. While software NFs could scale out using more servers, doing so adds significant cost. This paper focuses on accelerating NFs with programmable hardware, i.e., FPGA, which is now a mature technology and inexpensive for datacenters. However, FPGA is predominately programmed using low-level hardware description languages (HDLs), which are hard to code and difficult to debug. More importantly, HDLs are almost inaccessible for most software programmers. This paper presents ClickNP, a FPGA-accelerated platform for highly flexible and high-performance NFs with commodity servers. ClickNP is highly flexible as it is completely programmable using high-level C-like languages, and exposes a modular programming abstraction that resembles Click Modular Router.
ClickNP is also high performance. Our prototype NFs show that they can process traffic at up to 200 million packets per second with ultra-low latency (< 2us). Compared to existing software
counterparts, with FPGA, ClickNP improves throughput by 10x, while reducing latency by 10x. To the best of our knowledge, ClickNP is the first FPGA-accelerated platform for NFs, written completely in high-level language and achieving 40 Gbps line rate at any packet size.