Transferring data over RDMA

In this tutorial, we will learn how to transfer data over RDMA. The class at the core of this tutorial is thallium::bulk. This object represents a series of segments of memory within the current process or in a remote process, that is exposed for remote memory accesses.


Here is an example of a client sending a “do_rdma” RPC with a bulk object as argument.

#include <iostream>
#include <thallium.hpp>

namespace tl = thallium;

int main(int argc, char** argv) {

    tl::engine myEngine("tcp", MARGO_CLIENT_MODE);
    tl::remote_procedure remote_do_rdma = myEngine.define("do_rdma");
    tl::endpoint server_endpoint = myEngine.lookup("tcp://");

    std::string buffer = "Matthieu";
    std::vector<std::pair<void*,std::size_t>> segments(1);
    segments[0].first  = (void*)(&buffer[0]);
    segments[0].second = buffer.size()+1;

    tl::bulk myBulk = myEngine.expose(segments, tl::bulk_mode::read_only);


    return 0;

In this client, we define a buffer with the content “Matthieu” (because it’s a string, there is actually a null-terminating character). We then define segments as a vector of pairs of void* and std::size_t. Each segment (here only one) is characterized by its starting address in local memory and its size. We call engine::expose to expose the buffer and get a bulk instance from it. We specify tl::bulk_mode::read_only to indicate that the memory will only be read by other processes (alternatives are tl::bulk_mode::read_write and tl::bulk_mode::write_only). Finally we send an RPC to the server, passing the bulk object as an argument.


Here is the server code now:

#include <iostream>
#include <thallium.hpp>
#include <thallium/serialization/stl/string.hpp>

namespace tl = thallium;

int main(int argc, char** argv) {

    tl::engine myEngine("tcp://", THALLIUM_SERVER_MODE);

    std::function<void(const tl::request&, tl::bulk&)> f =
        [&myEngine](const tl::request& req, tl::bulk& b) {
            tl::endpoint ep = req.get_endpoint();
            std::vector<char> v(6);
            std::vector<std::pair<void*,std::size_t>> segments(1);
            segments[0].first  = (void*)(&v[0]);
            segments[0].second = v.size();
            tl::bulk local = myEngine.expose(segments, tl::bulk_mode::write_only);
            b.on(ep) >> local;
            std::cout << "Server received bulk: ";
            for(auto c : v) std::cout << c;
            std::cout << std::endl;

In the RPC handler, we get the client’s endpoint using req.get_endpoint(). We then create a buffer of size 6. We initialize segments and expose the buffer to get a bulk object from it. The call to the >> operator pulls data from the remote bulk object b and the local bulk object. Since the local bulk is smaller (6 bytes) than the remote one (9 bytes), only 6 bytes are pulled. Hence the loop will print Matthi. It is worth noting that an endpoint is needed for Thallium to know in which process to find the memory we are pulling. That’s what bulk::on(endpoint) does.

Understanding local and remote bulk objects

A bulk object created using engine::expose is local. When such a bulk object is sent to another process, it becomes remote. Operations can only be done between a local bulk object and a remote bulk object resolved with an endpoint, e.g.,

myRemoteBulk.on(myRemoteProcess) >> myLocalBulk;


myLocalBulk >> myRemoteBulk.on(myRemoteProcess);

The << operator is, of course, also available.

Transferring subsections of bulk objects

It is possible to select part of a bulk object to be transferred. This is done as follows, for example.

myRemoteBulk(3,45).on(myRemoteProcess) >> myLocalBulk(13,45);

Here we are pulling 45 bytes of data from the remote bulk starting at offset 3 into the local bulk starting at its offset 13. We have specified 45 as the number of bytes to be transferred. If the sizes had been different, the smallest one would have been picked.