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Emmerich, Paul; Ellmann, Simon; Bonk, Fabian; Egger, Alex; Garcia Sanchez-Torija, Esau; Guenzel, Thomas; Di Luzio, Sebastian; Obada, Alexandru; Stadlmeier, Maximilian; Voit, Sebastian; Carle, Georg (2019): The Case for Writing Network Drivers in High-Level Programming Languages. In: 2019 Acm/Ieee Symposium on Architectures for Networking and Communications Systems (Ancs)
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Drivers are written in C or restricted subsets of C++ on all production-grade server, desktop, and mobile operating systems. They account for 66% of the code in Linux, but 39 out of 40 security bugs related to memory safety found in Linux in 2017 are located in drivers. These bugs could have been prevented by using high-level languages for drivers. We present user space drivers for the Intel ixgbe 10 Gbit/s network cards implemented in Rust, Go, C#, Java, OCaml, Haskell, Swift, JavaScript, and Python written from scratch in idiomatic style for the respective languages. We quantify costs and benefits of using these languages: High-level languages are safer (fewer bugs, more safety checks), but run-time safety checks reduce throughput and garbage collection leads to latency spikes. Out-of-order CPUs mitigate the cost of safety checks: Our Rust driver executes 63% more instructions per packet but is only 4% slower than a reference C implementation. Go's garbage collector keeps latencies below 100 mu s even under heavy load. Other languages fare worse, but their unique properties make for an interesting case study. All implementations are available as free and open source at https://github.com/ixy-languages/ixy-languages.