Designing heavy-hitter detection algorithms for programmable switches

Ran Ben Basat, Xiaoqi Chen, Gil Einziger, Ori Rottenstreich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Programmable network switches promise flexibility and high throughput, enabling applications such as load balancing and traffic engineering. Network measurement is a fundamental building block for such applications, including tasks such as the identification of heavy hitters (largest flows) or the detection of traffic changes. However, high-throughput packet processing architectures place certain limitations on the programming model, such as restricted branching, limited capability for memory access, and a limited number of processing stages. These limitations restrict the types of measurement algorithms that can run on programmable switches. In this paper, we focus on the Reconfigurable Match Tables (RMT) programmable high-throughput switch architecture, and carefully examine its constraints on designing measurement algorithms. We demonstrate our findings while solving the heavy hitter problem. We introduce PRECISION, an algorithm that uses Partial Recirculation to find top flows on a programmable switch. By recirculating a small fraction of packets, PRECISION simplifies the access to stateful memory to conform with RMT limitations and achieves higher accuracy than previous heavy hitter detection algorithms that avoid recirculation. We also evaluate each of the adaptations made by PRECISION and analyze its effect on the measurement accuracy. Finally, we suggest two algorithms for the hierarchical heavy hitters detection problem in which the goal is identifying the subnets that send excessive traffic and are potentially malicious. To the best of our knowledge, our work is the first to do so on RMT switches.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9069311
Pages (from-to)1172-1185
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • Software defined networking
  • measurement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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