Date of Award


Document type


Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Electrical and Computer Engineering

First Advisor

Russell G. Tessier

Second Advisor

Lixin Gao

Third Advisor

Eric Polizzi

Subject Categories

Computer Engineering | Computer Sciences | Electrical and Computer Engineering


Modern web applications are marked by distinct networking and computing characteristics. As applications evolve, they continue to operate over a large monolithic framework of networking and computing equipment built from general-purpose microprocessors and Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) that offers few architectural choices. This dissertation presents techniques to diversify the next-generation Internet infrastructure by integrating Field-programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs), a class of reconfigurable integrated circuits, with general-purpose microprocessor-based techniques. Specifically, our solutions are demonstrated in the context of two applications - network virtualization and distributed cluster computing.

Network virtualization enables the physical network infrastructure to be shared among several logical networks to run diverse protocols and differentiated services. The design of a good network virtualization platform is challenging because the physical networking substrate must scale to support several isolated virtual networks with high packet forwarding rates and offer sufficient flexibility to customize networking features. The first major contribution of this dissertation is a novel high performance heterogeneous network virtualization system that integrates FPGAs and general-purpose CPUs. Salient features of this architecture include the ability to scale the number of virtual networks in an FPGA using existing software-based network virtualization techniques, the ability to map virtual networks to a combination of hardware and software resources on demand, and the ability to use off-chip memory resources to scale virtual router features. Partial-reconfiguration has been exploited to dynamically customize virtual networking parameters. An open software framework to describe virtual networking features using a hardware-agnostic language has been developed. Evaluation of our system using a NetFPGA card demonstrates one to two orders of improved throughput over state-of-the-art network virtualization techniques.

The demand for greater computing capacity grows as web applications scale. In state-of-the-art systems, an application is scaled by parallelizing the computation on a pool of commodity hardware machines using distributed computing frameworks.

Although this technique is useful, it is inefficient because the sequential nature of execution in general-purpose processors does not suit all workloads equally well. Iterative algorithms form a pervasive class of web and data mining algorithms that are poorly executed on general purpose processors due to the presence of strict synchronization barriers in distributed cluster frameworks. This dissertation presents Maestro, a heterogeneous distributed computing framework that demonstrates how FPGAs can break down such synchronization barriers using asynchronous accumulative updates. These updates allow for the accumulation of intermediate results for numerous data points without the need for iteration-based barriers. The benefits of a heterogeneous cluster are illustrated by executing a general-class of iterative algorithms on a cluster of commodity CPUs and FPGAs. Computation is dynamically prioritized to accelerate algorithm convergence. We implement a general-class of three iterative algorithms on a cluster of four FPGAs. A speedup of 7× is achieved over an implementation of asynchronous accumulative updates on a general-purpose CPU. The system offers 154× speedup versus a standard Hadoop-based CPU-workstation cluster. Improved performance is achieved by clusters of FPGAs.