PDL Abstract

Memento: Architectural Support for Ephemeral Memory Management in Serverless Environments

MICRO '23: Proceedings of the 56th Annual IEEE/ACM International Symposium on Microarchitecture. October 2023. Toronto, Canada.

Ziqi Wang, Kaiyang Zhao, Pei Li, Andrew Jacob, Michael Kozuch^, Todd Mowry, Dimitrios Skarlatos

Carnegie Mellon University
^Intel Labs

Serverless computing is an increasingly attractive paradigm in the cloud due to its ease of use and fine-grained pay-for-what-you-use billing. However, serverless computing poses new challenges to system design due to its short-lived function execution model. Our detailed analysis reveals that memory management is responsible for a major amount of function execution cycles. This is because functions pay the full critical-path costs of memory management in both userspace and the operating system without the opportunity to amortize these costs over their short lifetimes.

To address this problem, we propose Memento, a new hardware-centric memory management design based upon our insights that memory allocations in serverless functions are typically small, and either quickly freed after allocation or freed when the function exits. Memento alleviates the overheads of serverless memory management by introducing two key mechanisms: (i) a hardware object allocator that performs in-cache memory allocation and free operations based on arenas, and (ii) a hardware page allocator that manages a small pool of physical pages used to replenish arenas of the object allocator. Together these mechanisms alleviate memory management overheads and bypass costly userspace and kernel operations. Memento naturally integrates with existing software stacks through a set of ISA extensions that enable seamless integration with multiple languages runtimes. Finally, Memento leverages the newly exposed memory allocation semantics in hardware to introduce a main memory bypass mechanism and avoid unnecessary DRAM accesses for newly allocated objects.

We evaluate Memento with full-system simulations across a diverse set of containerized serverless workloads and language runtimes. The results show that Memento achieves function execution speedups ranging between 8–28% and 16% on average. Furthermore, Memento hardware allocators and main memory bypass mechanisms drastically reduce main memory traffic by 30% on average. The combined effects of Memento reduce the pricing cost of function execution by 29%. Finally, we demonstrate the applicability of Memento beyond functions, to major serverless platform operations and long-running data processing applications.