The maturity level reached by today’s commodity platforms makes even low-cost PCs viable alternatives to dedicated hardware to implement real network functions without sacrificing performance. Indeed, the availability of multi-core processing packages and multi-queue network interfaces that can be managed by accelerated I/O frameworks, provides off-the-shelf servers with the necessary power capability for running a broad variety of network applications with near hardware-class performance. At the same time, the introduction of the Software Defined Networks (SDN) and the Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) paradigms call for new programming abstractions and tools to allow this new class of network devices to be flexibly configured and functionally repurposed from the network control plane. The paper presents the ongoing work towards Enif-Lang (Enhanced Network processIng Functional Language), a functional language for programming network functions over generic middleboxes running the Linux operating system. The language addresses concurrent programming by design and is targeted at developing simple stand-alone applications as well as pre-processing stages of packet elaborations. Enif-Lang is implemented as a Domain Specific Language embedded in the Haskell language and inherits the main principles of its ancestor, including the strong typedness and the concept of function compositions. Complex network functions are implemented by composing a set of elementary operations (primitives) by means of a compact yet expressive language grammar. Throughout the paper, the description of the design principles and features of Enif-Lang are accompanied by examples and use cases. In addition, a preliminary performance assessment is carried out to prove the effectiveness of the language for developing practical applications with the performance level required by 5G systems and the Tactile Internet.
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