Decentralized NIC-switching architecture using SR-IOV PCI express network device

Dawei Zang*, Zheng Cao, Zhan Wang, Xiaoli Liu, Lin Wang, Ninghui Sun

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


To increase the flexibility and bandwidth of intrarack communication, the authors propose a decentralized network-interface-controller (NIC) switching architecture that enables rack-level network bandwidth disaggregation. This is the first solution that uses the built-in switch of SR-IOV-compliant PCI Express (PCIe) NICs in datacenters to handle a rack's traffic. The authors design a decentralized switching topology, whereby a pool of virtual NICs (vNICs) from several SR-IOV-compliant PCIe NICs can be shared among multiple servers in a rack instead of each being permanently designated to a server. To take advantage of this new architecture, we also develop a mechanism to dynamically assign vNICs to each server and distribute the traffic from each server into the vNICs allocated to it. By utilizing the high bandwidth of PCIe technology, the new architecture provides higher switching capacity and more flexibility than the traditional top-of-rack-centric architecture. Additionally, the dynamic allocation of vNICs to servers enables flexible bandwidth adjustment for servers according to traffic demands. At this preliminary stage, the authors focus on exploiting the unique design point and implementing an FPGA prototype to prove the technical feasibility of the proposed architecture.

Original languageEnglish
Article number60
Pages (from-to)42-50
Number of pages9
JournalIEEE Micro
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Bandwidth
  • Computer architecture
  • Data centers
  • Datacenter network
  • Decentralized control
  • Field programmable gate arrays
  • Network topology
  • Networking
  • Optical fiber networks
  • Prototypes
  • Rack architecture
  • SR-IOV
  • Switches


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