Elmo: Source Routed Multicast for Public Clouds

Muhammad Shahbaz, Lalith Suresh, Jennifer Rexford, Nick Feamster, Ori Rottenstreich, Mukesh Hira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


We present Elmo, a system that addresses the multicast scalability problem in multi-tenant datacenters. Modern cloud applications frequently exhibit one-to-many communication patterns and, at the same time, require sub-millisecond latencies and high throughput. IP multicast can achieve these requirements but has control- and data-plane scalability limitations that make it challenging to offer it as a service for hundreds of thousands of tenants, typical of cloud environments. Tenants, therefore, must rely on unicast-based approaches (e.g., application-layer or overlay-based) to support multicast in their applications, imposing bandwidth and end-host CPU overheads, with higher and unpredictable latencies. Elmo scales network multicast by taking advantage of emerging programmable switches and the unique characteristics of data-center networks; specifically, the hypervisor switches, symmetric topology, and short paths in a datacenter. Elmo encodes multicast group information inside packets themselves, reducing the need to store the same information in network switches. In a three-tier data-center topology with 27,000 hosts, Elmo supports a million multicast groups using an average packet-header size of 114 bytes (max. 325 bytes), requiring as few as 1,100 multicast group-table entries on average in leaf switches, and having a traffic overhead as low as 5% over ideal multicast.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9203873
Pages (from-to)2587-2600
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


  • Multicast
  • P4
  • PISA
  • bitmap encoding
  • source routing


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