Scalable hardware priority queue architectures for high-speed packet switches

Sung Whan Moon, Jennifer Rexford, Kang G. Shin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


With effective packet-scheduling mechanisms, modern integrated networks can support the diverse quality-of-service requirements of emerging applications. However, arbitrating between a large number of small packets on a high-speed link requires an efficient hardware implementation of a priority queue. To highlight the challenges of building scalable priority queue architectures, this paper includes a detailed comparison of four existing approaches: a binary tree of comparators, priority encoder with multiple first-in-first-out lists, shift register, and systolic array. Based on these comparison results, we propose two new architectures that scale to the large number of packets (N) and large number of priority levels (P) necessary in modern switch designs. The first architecture combines the faster clock speed of a systolic array with the lower memory requirements of a shift register, resulting in a hybrid design; a tunable parameter allows switch designers to carefully balance the trade-off between bus loading and chip area. We then extend this architecture to serve multiple output ports in a shared-memory switch. This significantly decreases complexity over the traditional approach of dedicating a separate priority queue to each outgoing link. Using the Verilog hardware description language and the Epoch silicon compiler, we have designed and simulated these two new architectures, as well as the four existing approaches. The simulation experiments compare the designs across a range of priority queue sizes and performance metrics, including enqueue/dequeue speed, chip area, and number of transistors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1215-1227
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Computers
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2000
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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