Remote Procedure Call as a Managed System Service


Jingrong Chen, Yongji Wu, and Shihan Lin, Duke University; Yechen Xu, Shanghai Jiao Tong University; Xinhao Kong, Duke University; Thomas Anderson, University of Washington; Matthew Lentz, Xiaowei Yang, and Danyang Zhuo, Duke University


Remote Procedure Call (RPC) is a widely used abstraction for cloud computing. The programmer specifies type information for each remote procedure, and a compiler generates stub code linked into each application to marshal and unmarshal arguments into message buffers. Increasingly, however, application and service operations teams need a high degree of visibility and control over the flow of RPCs between services, leading many installations to use sidecars or service mesh proxies for manageability and policy flexibility. These sidecars typically involve inspection and modification of RPC data that the stub compiler had just carefully assembled, adding needless overhead. Further, upgrading diverse application RPC stubs to use advanced hardware capabilities such as RDMA or DPDK is a long and involved process, and often incompatible with sidecar policy control.

In this paper, we propose, implement, and evaluate a novel approach, where RPC marshalling and policy enforcement are done as a system service rather than as a library linked into each application. Applications specify type information to the RPC system as before, while the RPC service executes policy engines and arbitrates resource use, and then marshals data customized to the underlying network hardware capabilities. Our system, mRPC, also supports live upgrades so that both policy and marshalling code can be updated transparently to application code. Compared with using a sidecar, mRPC speeds up a standard microservice benchmark, DeathStarBench, by up to 2.5× while having a higher level of policy flexibility and availability.

NSDI '23 Open Access Sponsored by
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)

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This content is available to:

@inproceedings {286429,
author = {Jingrong Chen and Yongji Wu and Shihan Lin and Yechen Xu and Xinhao Kong and Thomas Anderson and Matthew Lentz and Xiaowei Yang and Danyang Zhuo},
title = {Remote Procedure Call as a Managed System Service},
booktitle = {20th USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI 23)},
year = {2023},
isbn = {978-1-939133-33-5},
address = {Boston, MA},
pages = {141--159},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = apr,

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