Intel® Intelligent Storage Acceleration Library: Cryptographic Hashes for Cloud Storage

ID 659673
Updated 12/29/2016
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Today’s new devices generate data that requires centralized storage and access everywhere, thus increasing the demand for more and faster storage. Once data arrives in the storage system, whether that is in the cloud or on-premises, improvements in data processing performance become important. Due to the ever-growing scale of data being stored, applying storage efficiency technologies like compression and deduplication are required. However, these techniques require significant raw processing power to keep up with the influx of data.

The Intel® Intelligent Storage Acceleration Library (Intel® ISA-L) provides storage developers building deduplication software the ability to generate cryptographic hashes extremely fast, which can radically improve deduplication performance. Intel® ISA-L uses a novel technique called multi-buffer hashing, which takes maximum advantage of the Intel Architecture and the inherent parallelism of the execution pipeline to compute several hashes at once within a single core. However, obtaining best performance requires software to keep all the “lanes” full: if the software can compute four hashes for the computational price of one, then benefits only become visible when multiple chunks are submitted for hashing at once. Due to the high throughput of the algorithms (on the order of multiple gigabytes per second per core), keeping all the “lanes” full may pose a challenge from a threading perspective.

This article describes a sample application (including downloadable source code) to demonstrate the utilization of the Intel® ISA-L cryptographic hash feature. The threading model here demonstrates a design pattern similar to the “producer-consumer” or “reactor” patterns which can be used keep the “lanes” full. The sample application produces output to help characterize the level of parallelism necessary to saturate the single core computing the hashes. The sample application has been tested on the hardware and software configuration presented in the table below. Depending on the platform capability, Intel ISA-L can run on various Intel® processor families. Improvements are obtained by speeding up computations through the use of the following instruction sets:

Hardware and Software Configuration

CPU and Chipset

Intel® Xeon® processor E5-2699 v4, 2.2 GHz

  • # of cores per chip: 22 (only used single core)
  • # of sockets: 2
  • Chipset: Intel® C610 chipset, QS (B-1 step)
  • System bus: 9.6 GT/s Intel® QuickPath Interconnect
  • Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology off
  • Intel® Speed Step Technology enabled
  • Intel® Turbo Boost Technology disabled

Platform: Intel® Server System R2000WT product family (code-named Wildcat Pass)

  • BIOS: GRRFSDP1.86B.0271.R00.1510301446 ME:V03.01.03.0018.0 BMC:1.33.8932
  • DIMM slots: 24
  • Power supply: 1x1100W

Memory size: 256 GB (16X16 GB) DDR4 2133P

Brand/model: Micron* – MTA36ASF2G72PZ2GATESIG


Brand and model: 1 TB Western Digital* (WD1002FAEX)

Plus Intel® SSD P3700 Series (SSDPEDMD400G4)

Operating System

Ubuntu* 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus)

Linux kernel 4.4.0-21-generic

Why Use Intel® ISA-L?

Intel ISA-L has the capability to generate cryptographic hashes fast by utilizing the Single Instruction Multiple Data (SIMD). The cryptographic functions are part of a separate collection within Intel ISA-L and can be found in the GitHub repository 01org/isa-l_crypto. To demonstrate this multithreading hash feature, this article simulates a sample “producer-consumer” application. A variable number (from 1-16) of “producer” threads will fill a single buffer with data chunks, while a single “consumer” thread will take data chunks from the buffer and calculate cryptographic hashes using Intel ISA-L’s implementations. For this demo, a developer can choose the number of threads (producers) submitting data (2, 4, 8, or 16) and the type of hash (MD5, SHA1, SHA256, or SHA512). The example will produce output that shows the utilization of the “consumer” thread and the overall wall-clock time.

Prerequisites: Building the sample application (for Linux):

Intel ISA-L is tested on Linux* and Microsoft Windows* but is, in principle, completely OS agnostic. A full list of prerequisite packages can be found here.

  1. Install the dependencies:
    • a c++14 compliant c++ compiler
    • cmake >= 3.1
    • git
    • autogen
    • autoconf
    • automake
    • yasm and/or nasm
    • libtool
    • boost's "Program Options" library and headers

    &code"code-simple">sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install gcc g++ make cmake git autogen autoconf automake yasm nasm libtool libboost-allcodev

  2. Also needed is the latest versions of isa-l_crypto. The get_libs.bash script can be used to get it. The script will download the library from its official GitHub repository, build it, and install it in ./libs/usr.
    bash ./libs/get_libs.bash
  3. Build from the `ex3` directory:
    mkdir <build-dir>
    cd <build-dir>
    cmake -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release $OLDPWD

Getting Started with the Sample Application

The download button for the source code is provided at the beginning of the article. The sample application contains the following:

Contents of Sample ISA-L application

This example will go through the following steps at a high level work flow and only focus in detail on the consumer code found inside “consumers.cpp and the “hash.cpp” files:


1. In the “main.cpp” file, we first parse the arguments coming from the command line and display the options that are going to be performed.

int main(int argc, char* argv[]) 
     options options = options::parse(argc, argv);

2. From the “main.cpp” file, we call the shared_data routine to process the options from command line.

shared_data data(options);

In the “shared_data.cpp”, we create the `shared_data` that is the shared buffer that is going to be written to by the producers and read by the consumer, as well as the means to synchronize those reads and writes.

Parsing the option of the command line

3. In the options.cpp file, the program parses the command line arguments using: `options::parse()`.

Create the Producer

4. In the “main.cpp” file, we then create the producers and then call their `producer::run()` method in a new thread (`std::async` with the `std::launch::async` launch policy is used for that).

for (uint8_t i = 0; i < options.producers; ++i) 
            std::async(std::launch::async, &producer::run, &producers[i]));

In the “producer.cpp” file, each producer is assigned one chunk 'id' (stored in m_id ) in which it will submit data.

On each iteration, we:

  • wait until our chunk is ready_write , then fill it with data.
  • sleep for the appropriate amount of time to simulate the time it could take to generate data.

The program generates only very simple data: each chunk is filled repeatedly with only one random character (returned by random_data_generator::get() ). See the “random_data_generator.cpp” file for more details.

5. In the “main.cpp” file, the program stores data to the `std::future` object for each producer’s thread. Each std::future object holds a way to access the results of the thread once it’s done and wait synchronously for the thread o be done. The thread does not return any data.

std::vector<std::future<void>> producers_future_results;

Create the Consumer and start the hashing for the data

6. In the “main.cpp” file, the program then creates only one consumer and calls it's `consumer::run()` method

consumer consumer(data, options);;

In the “consumer.cpp” file, the consumer will repeatedly:

  • wait for some chunks of data to be ready_read ( ).
  • submit each of them to be hashed ( m_hash.hash_entire ).
  • mark those chunks as ready_write ( m_data.mark_ready_write ).
  • wait for the jobs to be done ( m_hash.hash_flush ).
  • unlock the mutex and notify all waiting threads, so the producers can start filling the chunks again

When all the data has been hashed we display the results, including the thread usage. This is computed by comparing the amount of time we waited for chunks to be ready and read to the amount of time we actually spent hashing the data.

consumer::consumer(shared_data& data, options& options) 
    : m_data(data), m_options(options), m_hash(m_options.function) 
void consumer::run() 
    uint64_t hashes_submitted = 0; 

    auto start_work    = std::chrono::steady_clock::now(); 
    auto wait_duration = std::chrono::nanoseconds{0}; 
    while (true) 
        auto start_wait = std::chrono::steady_clock::now(); 

        std::unique_lock<std::mutex> lk(m_data.mutex()); 

        // We wait for at least 1 chunk to be readable 
        auto ready_in_time = 
  , std::chrono::seconds{1}, [&] { return m_data.ready_read(); }); 
        auto end_wait = std::chrono::steady_clock::now(); 
        wait_duration += (end_wait - start_wait); 
        if (!ready_in_time) 
        while (hashes_submitted < m_options.iterations) 
            int idx = m_data.first_chunck_ready_read(); 

            if (idx < 0) 

            // We submit each readable chunk to the hash function, then mark that chunk as writable 
            m_hash.hash_entire(m_data.get_chunk(idx), m_options.chunk_size); 

        // We unlock the mutex and notify all waiting thread, so the producers can start filling the 
        // chunks again 
        // We wait until all hash jobs are done 
        for (int i = 0; i < m_options.producers; ++i) 

        display_progress(m_hash.generated_hashes(), m_options.iterations); 

        if (hashes_submitted == m_options.iterations) 
            auto end_work      = std::chrono::steady_clock::now(); 
            auto work_duration = (end_work - start_work); 

            std::cout << "[Info   ] Elasped time:          "; 
            std::cout << "\n"; 
            std::cout << "[Info   ] Consumer thread usage: " << std::fixed << std::setprecision(1) 
                      << (double)(work_duration - wait_duration).count() / work_duration.count() * 
                      << " %\n"; 
            uint64_t total_size = m_options.chunk_size * m_options.iterations; 
            uint64_t throughput = total_size / 
                                      work_duration - wait_duration) 

            std::cout << "[Info   ] Hash speed:            " << size::to_string(throughput) 
                      << "/s (" << size::to_string(throughput, false) << "/s)\n"; 

The “hash.cpp” file provides a simple common interface to the md5/sha1/sha256/sha512 hash routines.

hash::hash(hash_function function) : m_function(function), m_generated_hashes(0) 
    switch (m_function) 
        case hash_function::md5: 
            m_hash_impl = md5(&md5_ctx_mgr_init, &md5_ctx_mgr_submit, &md5_ctx_mgr_flush); 
        case hash_function::sha1: 
            m_hash_impl = sha1(&sha1_ctx_mgr_init, &sha1_ctx_mgr_submit, &sha1_ctx_mgr_flush); 
        case hash_function::sha256: 
            m_hash_impl = 
                sha256(&sha256_ctx_mgr_init, &sha256_ctx_mgr_submit, &sha256_ctx_mgr_flush); 
        case hash_function::sha512: 
            m_hash_impl = 
                sha512(&sha512_ctx_mgr_init, &sha512_ctx_mgr_submit, &sha512_ctx_mgr_flush); 

void hash::hash_entire(const uint8_t* chunk, uint len) 
    submit_visitor visitor(chunk, len); 
    if (boost::apply_visitor(visitor, m_hash_impl)) 

void hash::hash_flush() 
    flush_visitor visitor; 
    if (boost::apply_visitor(visitor, m_hash_impl)) 

uint64_t hash::generated_hashes() const 
    return m_generated_hashes; 

7. Once `consumer::run` is done and returned to the main program, the program waits for each producer to be done, by calling `std::future::wait()` on each `std::future` object xx.

for (const auto& producer_future_result : producers_future_results) 

Execute the Sample Intel ISA-L Application

In this example, the program generated data in N producer threads, and hashed the data using a single consumer thread. The program will show if the consumer thread can keep up with N producer threads.

Configuring the tests

Speed of data generation

Since this is not a real-world application, the data generation can be almost as fast or slow as we want. The “—speed” argument is used to choose how fast each producer is generating data.

ster the speed, the less time the consumer thread will have to hash the data before new chunks are available. This means the consumer thread usage will be higher.

Number of producers

The “—producers” argument is used to choose the number of producer threads to concurrently generate and submit data chunks.

Important note: On each iteration, the consumer thread will submit at most that number of chunks of data to be hashed. So, the higher the number, the more opportunity there is for “isa-l_crypto” to run more hash jobs at the same time. This is because of the way the program measures the consumer thread usage.

Chunk size

The size of the data chunks is being defined by each producer for each iteration and then the consumer submits the data chunk to the hash_function.

The “--chunk-size” argument is used to choose that value.

This is a very important value, as it directly affects how long each hash job will take.

Total size

This is the total amount of data to be generated and hashed. Knowing this and the other parameters, the program knows hcodell need to be gecodeated in total, and how many hash jobs will be submitted in total.

Using the “--total-size” argument, it is important to pick a large enough value (compared to the chunk-size) that we will submit a large enough numcodeo cancel some of the noise in measuring the time taken by those jobs.

The results

tasksetcode 3,4 ./ex3 –producers 1
[Info ] Elasped time: 2.603 s
[Info ] Consumer thread usage: 42.0 %
[Info ] Hash speed: 981.7 MB/s (936.2 MiB/s) 

Elapsed time

This is the total time taken by the whole process

Consumer thread usage

We compare how long we spent waiting for chunks of data to be available to how long the consumer thread has been running in total.

Any value lower than 100% shows that the consumer thread was able to keep up with the producers and had to wait for new chunks of data.

A value very close to 100% shows that the consumer threads were consistently busy, and were not able to outrun the producers.

Hash speed

This is the effective speed at which the isa-l_crypto functions hashed the data. The clock for this starts running as soon as at least one data chunk is available, and stops when all these chunks have been hashed.

Running the example

Running this example “ex3” with the taskset command to cores number 3 and 4 should give the following output:

Output for the command taskset -c 3,4 ./ex3 –producers 1
Output for the command taskset -c 3,4 ./ex3 –producers 1

The program runs as a single thread on cores number 3 and 4. ~55% of its time is waiting for the producer to submit the data.

Running the program with the taskset command for core 3 to 20 for the 16 threads (producers) should give the following output:

Output for the command taskset –c 3-20 ./ex3 –producers 16
Output for the command taskset –c 3-20 ./ex3 –producers 16

The program runs as sixteen threads on cores number 3 to 20. Only ~2% of its time is waiting for the producer to submit the data.

Notes: 2x Intel® Xeon® processor E5-2699v4 (HT off), Intel® Speed Step enabled, Intel® Turbo Boost Technology disabled, 16x16GB DDR4 2133 MT/s, 1 DIMM per channel, Ubuntu* 16.04 LTS, Linux kernel 4.4.0-21-generic, 1 TB Western Digital* (WD1002FAEX), 1 Intel® SSD P3700 Series (SSDPEDMD400G4), 22x per CPU socket. Performance measured by the written sample application in this article.


As demonstrated in this quick tutorial, the hash function feature can be applied to any storage application. The source code for the sample application is also for provided for your reference. Intel ISA-L has provided the library for storage developers to quickly adopt to your specific application run on Intel® Architecture.

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Thai Le is a Software Engineer who focuses on cloud computing and performance computing analysis at Intel.

Steven Briscoe is an Application Engineer focusing on Cloud Computing within the Software Services Group at Intel Corporation (UK).


System configurations, SSD configurations and performance tests conducted are discussed in detail within the body of this paper. For more information go to

This sample source code is released under the Intel Sample Source Code License Agreement.