eHDL: Turning eBPF/XDP Programs into Hardware Designs for the NIC

Scaling network packet processing performance to meet the in-creasing speed of network ports requires software programs to carefully leverage the network devices’ hardware features. This is a complex task for network programmers, who need to learn and deal with the heterogeneity of device architectures, and re-think their software to leverage them.

In this paper we make first steps to reverse this design process, enabling the automatic generation of tailored hardware designs starting from a network packet processing program. We introduce eHDL, a high-level synthesis tool that automatically generates hardware pipelines from unmodified Linux’s eBPF/XDP programs. eHDL is designed to enable software developers to directly define and implement the hardware functions they need in the NIC. We prototype eHDL targeting a Xilinx Alveo U50 FPGA NIC, and evaluate it with a set of 5 eBPF/XDP programs.

Our results show that the generated pipelines are efficient in terms of required hardware resources, using only 6.5%-13.3% of the FPGA, and always achieve the line rate forwarding throughput with about 1 microsecond of per-packet forwarding latency. Compared to other network-specific high-level synthesis tool, eHDL enables software programmers with no hardware expertise to describe stateful functions that operate on the entire packet data. Compared to alternative processor-based solutions that perform eBFP/XDP offloading to a NIC, eHDL provides 10-100x higher throughput.


  • Alessandro Rivitti, Axbryd.
  • Roberto Bifulco, NEC Laboratories Europe.
  • Angelo Tulumello, Axbryd.
  • Marco Bonola, Consorzio Nazionale Interuniversitario per le Telecomunicazioni.
  • Salvatore Pontarelli, Sapieza University of Rome.


You can also read this article in Zenodo.