Automation and Optimizations for a Programming Model for Network Processors

William Plishker and Niraj Shah
(Professor Kurt Keutzer)

Programmable solutions on network processors for packet processing have relied mostly on assembly or subsets of C as an interface. For practical implementations, programmers must effectively utilize hardware parallelism, arbitrate between shared resources, divide code among threads, lay out shared data, and interface with special function units and peripherals. This is significantly removed from the natural language with which application writers describe their design. To bridge the gap between an application language and the language for a target architecture, a programming model is necessary that hides the unimportant details of the target architecture and exposes those which allow the programmer to claim the full power of the device.

The current programming model we have developed for network processors requires the programmer to specify thread boundaries, lay out shared data, and manually eliminate redundant accesses and computation across elements. Since this presents a potentially enormous design space, this work will attempt to find optimal strategies and heuristics to automate traversing it. Furthermore, there are potential optimizations that may be found in a high-level language that are not easily found once assembler or C is generated. This work will explore the finding of such optimizations automatically.

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