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Navigating the Evolution of DPDK: A Spotlight on Akhil Goyal

By February 6, 2024Blog

Introduction

In the dynamic and ever-evolving world of the Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK), developers and contributors play a pivotal role in shaping its future. One such influential figure is Akhil Goyal, whose journey through the realms of DPDK has not only contributed to its growth but also exemplifies the spirit of open-source collaboration. This spotlight delves into his role as a crypto tree maintainer, exploring his contributions, challenges, and visions for the future.

Early Beginnings

Akhil’s adventure with DPDK began in 2016, a pivotal moment that marked his transition from working on networking and radio frequency device drivers at Freescale (now NXP) to diving into the world of high-performance packet processing. His initial foray into DPDK centered around crypto drivers, laying the groundwork for his future contributions.

In early 2021, he embarked on a new professional chapter with Marvell, delving into areas that involved both networking and crypto processing like Inline IPsec processing, along with IP reassembly techniques. Akhil’s expertise further extended to introducing inline MACsec processing, showcasing his ability to navigate the complex landscape of network security. His contributions also included the development of TLS record processing, underscoring his role in enhancing Marvell’s capabilities in secure data communication.

Contributions to DPDK

Akhil’s contributions to DPDK are both substantial and transformative. Early in his DPDK journey, he focused on bringing the NXP DPAA crypto drivers into the DPDK ecosystem. His efforts were instrumental in introducing a new library to DPDK, which, for the first time, included protocol support alongside crypto functionalities. He also reviewed other crypto subsystem patches in the community, paving the way to becoming a maintainer of the crypto sub-tree.

This inclusion of a security library was a significant milestone, enabling DPDK to support various crypto offloads for security protocols like IPSec, PDCP, MACsec, and, more recently, TLS. Akhil’s work has significantly broadened DPDK’s capabilities, making it a more versatile and powerful tool for developers.

Challenges and Overcoming Them

Like any journey of innovation and development, Akhil’s path was not without its challenges. One of the most significant hurdles was the introduction of the security library, which initially faced performance issues. However, through dedication and technical acumen, Akhil and his team were able to dramatically enhance the performance numbers, exemplifying the impact of hardware offloading on protocol processing. This achievement not only showcased his problem-solving skills but also his commitment to advancing DPDK’s performance and capabilities.

Vision for the Future

Looking ahead, Akhil sees a fusion of technologies as the future of DPDK. With the convergence of AI, machine learning, and enhanced security protocols, he envisions a landscape where DPDK continues to play a crucial role in the networking domain. His anticipation of machine learning libraries being integrated into DPDK highlights a forward-thinking approach to evolving network technologies and their applications.

As networking speeds increase, he foresees an increasing need to protect the confidentiality and authenticity of networking data. This will pave the way for offloading more security protocols to hardware to achieve line-rate processing of secured data. As a result, programming hardware is becoming increasingly complex.

Collaborations and Community

Akhil’s journey is also a testament to the power of community and collaboration in open-source projects. His interactions with other community members, such as Pablo de Lara from Intel and Thomas Monjalon from NVIDIA, have been pivotal in his growth and contributions to DPDK. These experiences helped him transition from being a contributor to DPDK to a maintainer of the crypto subsystem. These collaborations underline the essence of open-source projects, where sharing knowledge and working together propels the technology forward.

Advice to New Contributors

For those looking to contribute to DPDK, Akhil emphasizes the importance of understanding the project’s core, starting with resources like the DPDK Summit videos and the mailing list. He encourages new contributors to engage with the community, understand the coding guidelines, and start contributing, highlighting the transition from kernel space to user space as a potential area for significant contributions. He also recommends that people review patches in their areas of interest on the mailing list and post comments. This will help improve their understanding and also help the community grow.

Personal Insights

Beyond his professional accomplishments, Akhil offers valuable insights into achieving a work-life balance, particularly in the era of remote work that became prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic. His adeptness at managing professional duties while making time for family activities, such as playing cricket with his son, reveals the personal dimension of navigating a challenging career as a developer. This insight underscores the importance of maintaining personal connections and well-being amidst the demands of the tech industry.

Conclusion

Akhil’s developer spotlight shines a light on the journey of a dedicated individual who has contributed significantly to DPDK’s growth and evolution. His story is one of dedication, collaboration, and forward-thinking, driving innovations that extend DPDK’s capabilities and applications. As DPDK continues to evolve, contributors like Akhil play a critical role in shaping its direction, ensuring it remains at the forefront of networking technology advancements.

Check out Akhil’s presentation on rte_security: support for inline MACsec at latest DPDK Summit here.