The government agency that gave us the Internet 50 years ago is now looking to drastically increase network speed to address bottlenecks and chokepoints for compute-intensive applications.\nThe Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an arm of the Pentagon, has unveiled a computing initiative, one of many, that will attempt to overhaul the network stack and interfaces that cannot keep up with high-end processors and are often the choke point for data-driven applications.\n\nThe DARPA initiative, Fast Network Interface Cards, or FastNICs, aims to boost network performance by a factor of 100 through a clean-slate transformation of the network stack from the application to the system software layers running on top of steadily faster hardware.\u00a0DARPA is soliciting proposals from networking vendors. .\n\u201cThe true bottleneck for processor throughput is the network interface used to connect a machine to an external network, such as an Ethernet, therefore severely limiting a processor\u2019s data ingest capability,\u201d said Dr. Jonathan Smith, a program manager in DARPA\u2019s Information Innovation Office (I2O) in a statement.\n\u201cToday, network throughput on state-of-the-art technology is about 1014 bits per second (bps) and data is processed in aggregate at about 1014 bps. Current stacks deliver only about 1010 to 1011 bps application throughputs,\u201d he added.\nMany other elements of server design have seen leaps in performance, like memory, meshes, NVMe-over-Fabric, and PCI Express, but networking speed has been something of a laggard, getting minor bumps in speed and throughput by comparison. The fact is we\u2019re still using Ethernet as our network protocol 56 years after Bob Metcalf invented it at Xerox PARC.\nSo DARPA\u2019s program managers are using an approach that reworks existing network architectures. The FastNICs programs will select a challenge application and provide it with the hardware support it needs, operating system software, and application interfaces that will enable an overall system acceleration that comes from having faster NICs.\nResearchers will design, implement, and demonstrate 10 Tbps network interface hardware using existing or road-mapped hardware interfaces. The hardware solutions must attach to servers via one or more industry-standard interface points, such as I\/O buses, multiprocessor interconnection networks and memory slots to support the rapid transition of FastNICs technology.\n\u201cIt starts with the hardware; if you cannot get that right, you are stuck. Software can\u2019t make things faster than the physical layer will allow so we have to first change the physical layer,\u201d said Smith.\nThe next step would be developing system software to manage FastNICs hardware. The open-source software based on at least one open-source OS would enable faster, parallel data transfer between network hardware and applications.\nDetails on the proposal can be found here.