Serval: An end-host stack for service-centric networking

Erik Nordströ, David Shue, Prem Gopalan, Robert Kiefer, Matvey Arye, Steven Y. Ko, Jennifer Rexford, Michael J. Freedman

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Internet services run on multiple servers in different locations, serving clients that are often mobile and multihomed. This does not match well with today's network stack, designed for communication between fixed hosts with topology-dependent addresses. As a result, online service providers resort to clumsy and management-intensive work-arounds-forfeiting the scalability of hierarchical addressing to support virtual server migration, directing all client traffic through dedicated load balancers, restarting connections when hosts move, and so on. In this paper, we revisit the design of the network stack to meet the needs of online services. The centerpiece of our Serval architecture is a new Service Access Layer (SAL) that sits above an unmodified network layer, and enables applications to communicate directly on service names. The SAL provides a clean service-level control/data plane split, enabling policy, control, and instack name-based routing that connects clients to services via diverse discovery techniques. By tying active sockets to the control plane, applications trigger updates to service routing state upon invoking socket calls, ensuring up-to-date service resolution. With Serval, end-points can seamlessly change network addresses, migrate flows across interfaces, or establish additional flows for efficient and uninterrupted service access. Experiments with our high-performance in-kernel prototype, and several example applications, demonstrate the value of a unified networking solution for online services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages14
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012
Event9th USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation, NSDI 2012 - San Jose, United States
Duration: Apr 25 2012Apr 27 2012


Conference9th USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation, NSDI 2012
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Jose

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Control and Systems Engineering


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