Workshop: RDMA vs. RPC for Implementing Distributed Data Structures
Abstract: Distributed data structures are key to implementing scalable applications for scientific simulations and data analysis. In this paper we look at two implementation styles for distributed data structures: remote direct memory access (RDMA) and remote procedure call (RPC). We focus on operations that require individual accesses to remote portions of a distributed data structure, e.g., accessing a hash table bucket or distributed queue, rather than global operations in which all processors collectively exchange information. We look at the trade-offs between the two styles through microbenchmarks and a performance model that approximates the cost of each. The RDMA operations have direct hardware support in the network and therefore lower latency and overhead, while the RPC operations are more expressive but higher cost and can suffer from lack of attentiveness from the remote side. We also run experiments to compare the real-world performance of RDMA- and RPC-based data structure operations with the predicted performance to evaluate the accuracy of our model, and show that while the model does not always precisely predict running time, it allows us to choose the best implementation in the examples shown. We believe this analysis will assist developers in designing data structures that will perform well on current network architectures, as well as network architects in providing better support for this class of distributed data structures.