Intel Highlights P4 Research with over 60 Papers Published by the Members of Intel® Connectivity Research Program

By Vladimir Gurevich, Intel Principal Engineer

What do finite state machines have in common with fast trigonometric calculations? How about load balancing and linear error correction codes? Or is it true that the famous Chinese Remainder Theorem can make networks run faster and more predictably? What is the best way to define a new protocol header?

Developing next-generation intelligent networks involves advanced research and the questions above are a just few examples of the multitude of topics explored by network researchers advancing the state-of-the-art in data plane programming using the P4 programming language.

Thanks to the Intel® Connectivity Research Program (ICRP), papers describing algorithms that answer networking questions like these are available from world-renowned researchers. The main goal of ICRP is to encourage this research by providing researchers access to a high-speed P4 hardware target and to facilitate academic/industry collaboration.

ICRP Has Long History of Research

From the early days of the development of the Intel® Tofino™ product family, we understood the importance of supporting forward-looking academic research. Jump ahead several years and we’re now expanding the ICRP and taking it to a new level.

Today, the ICRP unites researchers from more than 240 different organizations located all over the world. Indeed, you can find ICRP members on all continents, except Antarctica. While most of them work for universities and other traditional research institutions, many representatives from commercial companies have joined the program as it allows them to better collaborate with their university partners.

Learn from a Wide Variety of Research Papers

Over the past two-and-a-half years ICRP reviewers had the privilege to review more than 120 articles spanning more than 1,300 pages and provided more than 2,000 comments ranging from noticing an occasional spelling mistake or clarifying terminology to suggesting a more optimal algorithm, resulting in significant performance improvements.

Recently we reached out to the authors to ask about what happened to their papers and got an overwhelmingly positive response. Over 60 papers were accepted and published by industry journals and conferences; in addition, the authors created presentation slides, gave video talks, and published the code for many of the projects thanks to the opening of interfaces to the Intel® Tofino™ Native Architecture (TNA) (see this blog post for more information).

This activity was initiated and supported by ICRP staff and volunteers in response to the needs of the program members. Not only that, but some of the papers even won awards! And, of course, it was so heart-warming to see ICRP and individual reviewers being acknowledged (and occasionally even included as co-authors).

Most importantly, we came to realize that organizing this trove of information and presenting it in one place has the potential to serve not only as a useful research tool, but also as a demonstration of the power of the P4 language, the diversity of data plane programmability research and its practical applicability. To make them easy to access by the ICRP community, the papers are now collected on a dedicated webpage, which we plan to update regularly.

ICRP Membership is Free; Offers Research, Training and Software

You, too, can get involved and make your own contributions to the P4 treasure trove of research papers and articles.  Program membership is free and signing up can be done online using a simple click-through agreement that facilitates free exchange of information as is expected in the academic world, while still allowing Intel to protect its intellectual property. Once registered and approved, program participants gain free access to the Intel® P4 Studio Software Development Environment (Intel® P4 Studio SDE) and related documentation.

The program helps researchers to get the necessary training and equipment by providing generous academic discounts for its members to attend Intel Connectivity Academy sessions and by working with several prominent system vendors to establish special academic discount programs for Intel Tofino-based systems. Whenever researchers have questions, need support, or would like to collaborate, they can utilize a private ICRP Forum to get help from Intel volunteer engineers and community members.

Since its founding, ICRP has become a leading source for innovation in networking and I invite you to join and participate. You can start by visiting the ICRP Papers page and check it out – you will be amazed by the ingenuity of the network research powered by Intel Tofino!



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