Light Reading
Extensive testing of new 400 Gbit/s systems is critical for network operators if they are to save themselves from post-deployment performance and opex pressures.

Are You Really Getting 400 Gbit/s Performance?

Sterling Perrin
9/11/2013
0%
100%

Driven by continuing IP traffic growth, a new generation of 400 Gbit/s network processors is beginning to emerge. Such processors have been announced by a handful of vendors, with more to come.

However, scaling from 100 Gbit/s to 400 Gbit/s processors is not an easy feat. Recently, we witnessed some 400 Gbit/s network processor performance testing in a lab and were surprised by some of the results. Based on this data, we believe that there may be some wide variations between what is claimed on spec sheets and the real world performance that is achievable.

We believe that service providers evaluating new higher capacity systems must perform extensive testing on their own in order to ensure that the high-end systems perform as advertised under a variety of conditions that mirror real-world traffic mixes and traffic growth. Otherwise, service providers may be stuck with true performance that is far below the advertised 400G sticker. In fact, under certain conditions, true performance may not even be better than the legacy routers that are being replaced.

One important test is the packet sweep test. The packet sweep tests router performance over a spectrum of different packet sizes, from small (64 bytes) to large (1,500 bytes or greater), in order to ensure consistent performance across the full range of incoming packet variants. It is somewhat counterintuitive, but the greatest demands on the processor occur at the smallest packet sizes. The reason is that small packet sizes force greater amounts of table look-ups per second, and this burdens the processor.

The test we reviewed showed a 400 Gbit/s processor consistently dropping packets at all sizes, both small and large. As the packet size increased, the performance did not improve. On a few occasions, packets dropped by as much as 50 percent, and we never saw more than 80 percent throughput at any point in the test.

A second test, known as the Internet mix (or IMIX) test, was reviewed. Just as there is no typical packet size, there is no typical service provider IP traffic mix. It varies greatly from provider to provider. The test we reviewed used a couple of different real-world IMIX samples provided by service providers, based on their network scenarios. The results showed poor performance across a range of IMIX profiles. The processor appeared to suffer from problems related to storing packets for lookup, which resulted in severe performance impact on all traffic types tested. Significantly, when comparing two generations of processor performance, the new 400 Gbit/s processor demonstrated anywhere from 20 percent to 50 percent less performance based on serviceable bandwidth.

A third test measured the performance of a processor while enabling service level agreements (SLAs). Here, the results showed that enabling SLAs on connections reduced the actual throughput of the processor from 400 Gbit/s to 100 Gbit/s, meaning that only 50 percent of the advertised 100 GigE ports would be available with SLAs turned on.

The tests above are tied closely to the conventional views of scale, meaning the ability to handle more and more bits through the processor and on the network. As the Internet evolves from person-to-person communications to the machine-to-machine dominated Internet of things, another component of scale is becoming increasingly important: the ability to handle more and more flows through the network.

For next-generation routers, this means they must not only process massive amounts of bits, but they must also be able to process massive numbers of flows. Routers equipped with 400 Gbit/s processors must be tested in their abilities to handle tens of thousands of flows. As a rule of thumb, a 10 GigE port will typically serve 500 customers. If we assume just four classes of service per customer (a low assumption), this creates 2,000 different flows per 10 GigE port. With 20 x 10 GigE ports per line card (the state-of-the-art in existing designs), this creates 40,000 different flows per card. As we move to an Internet of things, it is very possible that these next-gen routers could hit performance limits on supported flows long before they hit their maximum capacities in bit/s. It is another dimension of scale that must be accounted for and tested in evaluating core routers.

The final point we will touch upon is efficiency in power consumption and footprint. It is well understood that these opex factors are of critical importance to service providers. In some regions, where power costs are well above global averages or where equipment is deployed in dense urban areas where space is severely limited, power and space requirements may make or break a buying decision. Even in the US, however, we have had discussions with large service providers who place power and space at the top of their lists.

Here again, service providers need to dig deeper than the power and space requirements that are advertised. To get a true understanding of space and power, these advertised specs must be placed in the context of the overall performance of the system -- as determined by packet sweep tests, IMIX tests, flow limitations, and any other tests that are performed on the system.

For example, if performance testing and evaluations show that a system will perform at 80 percent of its capacity limits under real-world network conditions, then this needs to be taken into account for space and power consumption. In this case, 20 percent more space and 20 percent greater power consumption would be needed to achieve 400 Gbit/s of capacity. Failing to account for any performance limitations sets service providers up for unwelcome opex surprises when these new systems start to fill up in the network.

In summary, vendors rolling out new 400 Gbit/s silicon promise routers that are smarter, faster, and greener than previous generations, but some in-depth test results we've seen indicate that this may not be the case. Service providers cannot afford to rely on vendor claims in this area. Rather, extensive testing -- of the kind we’ve described in this article -- is a must. The added time and costs of upfront testing will pay dividends for years to come.

This blog was commissioned by Cisco Systems. The blog was created independently of Cisco, and Heavy Reading is wholly responsible for its contents.

— Sterling Perrin, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading


Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to Ethernet & SDN Expo, a Light Reading Live event that takes place on October 2-3, 2013 at the Javits Center in New York City. Co-located with Interop, Light Reading's Ethernet & SDN Expo will focus on how the convergence of Carrier Ethernet 2.0 with emerging carrier software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) technologies could change the whole telecom landscape for service providers. For more information, or to register,
click here
.


(15)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
mfaisalk
50%
50%
mfaisalk,
User Rank: Lightning
9/14/2013 | 11:05:32 PM
400G performance
We need to be careful with our judgements here. It is one vendor testing another vendor. What good you can expect here ?

 

Faisal
David Burns
50%
50%
David Burns,
User Rank: Light Beer
9/13/2013 | 2:05:16 PM
Check the math
Quote (snipped for conciseness):
if performance testing and evaluations show that a system will perform at 80 percent of its capacity limits under real-world network conditions ... 20 percent more space and 20 percent greater power consumption would be needed to achieve 400 Gbit/s of capacity.

Wrong. If actual performance is 20% lower, you need to provision 25% more equipment to achieve the targeted performance. Simple example: 8 x 400 Gbit/s should give you 3200 Gbit/s. If processors perform at 80%, actual performance of one processor is 320 GBit/s, so you need 10 to reach your target - 25% more than 8.
desiEngineer
50%
50%
desiEngineer,
User Rank: Light Beer
9/13/2013 | 1:17:08 PM
Re: Which network processor tests?
Sterling,

If you can guarantee that the tests were fair and impartial, then yes, enquiring minds want to know.

If not, don't attach your name (and LightReading's), and then hide behind some "this is newsworthy" BS.  And I don't care how sophisticated and expensive the lab is, I am not ingenuous enough to believe that the lab was created for the purpose of the general public.  Clue#1: I haven't seen one report come out of that lab that showed a single Cisco product in a negative light.

No vendor has a vested interest in impartiality.  Knowing how much marketing is attached to all claims, it behooves the operators to do their due diligence, but to pretend that Cisco can do that due diligence for all of us is naive at best.

-desi
Surfer Blue
50%
50%
Surfer Blue,
User Rank: Light Beer
9/13/2013 | 12:54:07 PM
Re: Which network processor tests?
Service providers do extensive testing before deploying any new hardware in their networks.  FP3 cards have been available for a couple of years and are widely deployed – clearly they have been thouroughly vetted in the field.  Personally I'd take real world testing and deployment experience over contrived competitor lab testing any day.  

 
sterlingperrin
50%
50%
sterlingperrin,
User Rank: Lightning
9/13/2013 | 9:36:34 AM
Re: Which network processor tests?
Yarn,

You are correct - I have no interest in standing in the middle. Here's the thing. Cisco has a test lab that would be the envy of all but the very largest tier 1 operators. They conduct very thorough and very expensive testing of their competitors' products, which they've been doing for 13 years (probably not something they want publicized). In this case, they came to us - and some other media as well - with information from their labs that was compelling and newsworthy.

Are we saying that Cisco's results are conclusive about ALU, or any particular competitor? Absolutely not!! But we do believe there was enough in there to raise broad questions and write this piece.

I have received calls from people at ALU who are understandably upset. They are getting calls from customers who are asking questions. It's not an easy thing to go through, I'm sure, but as media, it is our job to bring the right topics of debate to the forefront and spark the dialogue. We made a judgment that 400G performance testing is a legitimate topic and that questions should be asked of all 400G NP players - ALU, Cisco, Huawei, Juniper, and any other market entrants that emerge.

Sterling

 
mendyk
50%
50%
mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/12/2013 | 7:28:34 PM
Re: Which network processor tests?
We note the sponsorship of the blog for full-disclosure purposes. We also note that Heavy Reading is wholly responsible for the content. The post by Sterling calls attention to the fact that performance claims often do not pass scrutiny, which means operators should do their own evaluations before making purchase decisions.
tb100
50%
50%
tb100,
User Rank: Moderator
9/12/2013 | 6:01:11 PM
Re: Which network processor tests?
Wait a minute. Did you just say, and I quote: "It is Cisco's testing of Alcatel-Lucent's 400G processor"? (and 'blog was commissioned by Cisco Systems')?

So Cisco paid you to write an article that shows the 'results' of their testing of a competitor's product? Aren't the results pretty much predetermined, no matter what the capabilities of the product?

 

I am at a loss for words....
yarn
100%
0%
yarn,
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/12/2013 | 2:06:22 PM
Re: Which network processor tests?
Sterling,

Why lend your name to help Cisco get credibility for this type of quasi-technical FUD bs articles they're so well known for? Now you're caught in the middle and have to stand up for their crap, and tarnish your own credibility in the process.  
mendyk
50%
50%
mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/12/2013 | 11:53:53 AM
Re: Which network processor tests?
All product testing -- including tests from independent labs -- should come with a big "grain of salt" warning. And in the case of vendor-run tests, results are clearly subject to question, especially from competing suppliers who had no influence on how the testing was done. From the point of view of prospective customers, though, it's important to understand when performance claims come with an asterisk or two.
sterlingperrin
50%
50%
sterlingperrin,
User Rank: Lightning
9/12/2013 | 11:11:34 AM
Re: Which network processor tests?
Manish,

Correct, we thought there was value in the piece as a call for due diligence.

If service providers are testing these systems at their limits across scenarios applicable to their network (including growth and possible changes to traffic patterns, etc.) then they are covered.

400 Gbit/s is very new. I don't how much testing has been done by anyone yet.

Sterling

 
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
More Blogs from Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
The latest highly integrated silicon components are enabling a massive acceleration of LTE worldwide.
WebRTC has the potential to enable armies of developers to create their own real-time communications apps in previously unheard-of ways.
As Release 10 and 11 of the 3GPP's LTE standards are being turned on, operators are seeking features that offer the biggest bang for their buck.
Cable and over-the-top (OTT) providers are striking up an unusual friendship, yet this unexpected pairing may lead to profitability for both sides, once some significant challenges are hurdled.
As M2M matures into the Internet of Things (IoT), the technology and network requirements are becoming much more complex.
Flash Poll
LRTV Custom TV
Driving the Network Transformation

7|23|14   |   4:29   |   (0) comments


Intel's Sandra Rivera discusses network transformation and how Intel technologies, programs, and standards body efforts have helped the industry migration to SDN and NFV.
LRTV Custom TV
Distributed NFV-Based Business Services by RAD

7|18|14   |   5:38   |   (0) comments


With the ETSI-approved Distributed NFV PoC running in the background, RAD's CEO, Dror Bin, talks about why D-NFV makes compelling sense for service providers, and about the dollars and cents RAD is putting behind D-NFV.
LRTV Custom TV
MRV – Accelerating Packet Optical Convergence

7|15|14   |   6:06   |   (0) comments


Giving you network insight to make your network smarter.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV-Enabled Ethernet for Generating New Revenues

7|15|14   |   5:49   |   (0) comments


Cyan's Planet Orchestrate allows service providers and their end-customers to activate software-based capabilities such as firewalls and encryption on top of existing Ethernet services in just minutes.
LRTV Custom TV
Symkloud NVF-Ready Video Transcoding, Big Data

7|9|14   |   3:41   |   (0) comments


Kontron and ISV partner Vantrix demonstrate high-performance video transcoding and data analytic solutions on same 2U standard platform that is ready for SDN and NFV deployments made by mobile, cable and cloud operators.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
The Evolving Role of Hybrid Video for Competitive Success

7|4|14   |   4:09   |   (0) comments


At Huawei's Global Analysts Summit in Shenzhen, China, Steven C. Hawley from TV Strategies speaks to us about the evolving role of hybrid video for competitive success.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
How CSPs Leverage Big Data in the Digital Economy

7|4|14   |   4:48   |   (2) comments


Justin van der Lande from Analysys Mason shares with us his views on how telecom operators can leverage customer asset monetization with big data. His discusses the current status of big data applications and the challenges and opportunities for telecom operators in the digital economy era.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Accelerator for Digital Business – Future Oriented BSS

7|4|14   |   3:08   |   (0) comments


Mobile and internet are becoming intertwined; IT and CT are integrating; and leading CSPs have begun to transform to information service and entertainment providers. How should the BSS system evolve to enable this transformation? Karl Whitelock, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan, shares his views.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Orange Tunisia Discusses Multi-Band Antenna With EasyRET Solution

7|4|14   |   2:45   |   (0) comments


As new site acquisition becomes more difficult, Orange Tunisia has requested multi-band antenna to support UMTS and LTE innovation. Some things considered include reducing the cost of antenna maintenance and having high reliability antenna and EasyRET solution.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
How Telefonica Spain Considers Antenna Selection for LTE Network Deployment

7|4|14   |   2:19   |   (0) comments


Tony Conlan, Global CTO of RAN, Telefonica, shares his opinion on antennas in LTE network deployment: Tower space is the premier requirement on antennas; reliability is important to reduce OPEX; and EasyRET solution will be helpful for antenna maintenance.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
dtac Thailand: Multi-band Antenna & Capacity Solution for a Better MBB Experience

7|3|14   |   3:45   |   (0) comments


With the development of LTE, tower space and load are limited for new antenna, but users' capacity requirements are growing fast. To provide a better MBB experience, Panya Vechbanyongratana from dtac Thailand shared his experiences and antenna requirements.
LRTV Documentaries
BTE Panel: Network of the Future

7|2|14   |   1:00:57   |   (0) comments


Full-length video of the ATIS Panel Discussion: 'How Far Away Is the Network of the Future & What Does It Look Like?' from the Big Telecom Event (BTE) in Chicago.
Upcoming Live Events!!
September 16, 2014, Santa Clara, CA
September 16, 2014, Santa Clara, CA
October 29, 2014, New York City
November 11, 2014, Atlanta, GA
December 9-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
Allot's latest MobileTrends Charging Report shows that value-based pricing plans are up from 35% in 2011 to 85% in 2014.
Today's Cartoon
Vacation Special Caption Competition Click Here
Latest Comment
Hot Topics
Microsoft to Axe 12,500 Ex-Nokia Employees
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 7/17/2014
The Municipal Menace?
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Utility Communications/IoT, 7/22/2014
GM: 10 Car Models on Road With AT&T's LTE
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 7/18/2014
Apple Earnings: Strong iPhone Sales, iPad Sales Slump, $7.8B Profit
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 7/22/2014
Cisco Puts a Fog Over IoT
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 7/23/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed