Virtualization changes everything in telecom -- even the way technology is tested.
So when Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) wanted to get the performance of its Vyatta virtual router independently tested, that set up some new challenges.
The company turned to Roy Chua, a former director of product marketing at test systems specialist Spirent Communications plc , who is now a partner at SDN Central. Chua and his team quickly identified some particular considerations that would be needed for a virtual element.
Instead of a straightforward test of a router, which involves plugging in cables, running test traffic and assessing performance, Chua's crew had a number of variables to get straight before they even tried testing Brocade's Vyatta virtual router.
"It doesn't come with a hardware platform, so you have to figure out which server to use and what are the characteristics of that server: how many CPUs; how much memory; what kind of architecture on the bus; what is the I/O; and what NICs [network interface cards] do you put in there?" Chua says.
Once the hardware component is settled, there is still the hypervisor and operating system to be chosen and configured.
To Brocade's credit, Chua says, the company didn't just specify using the fastest server around and tuning everything else for total speed. The company wanted credible results, even though it already had a performance endorsement from one of its customer's labs: Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) announced its results in August. (See Telefónica Proves Brocade Router Performs for NFV.)
"Instead, we worked with Spirent, which had the beginnings of a cloud test platform and had partnered with cloud service providers," Chua says. "We decided to take a server that is popular in cloud circles -- in other words, let the market decide what is appropriate from a server perspective."
Ultimately the tests were conducted using a KVM hypervisor -- the default choice in an OpenStack configuration -- running with Linux in what Chua describes as a "PCI pass-through" that connected the NICs directly into a virtual machine.
The test results exceeded even Telefonica's lab results. The Vyatta 5600 vRouter was able to achieve 80Gbit/s bi-directional traffic, 70 million packets per second with 64-byte frames, and maintained its performance with up to 2 million flows.
"We were surprised at what we saw with the platform," Chua admitted. "We didn't expect to see that many packets per second with packets that small. I'm not saying it's feature-compatible with more expensive routers, but it is good enough, pretty decent for many of the use cases within a service provider data center."
There is no guarantee of this level of performance on all use cases, but the tests showed that the virtual router handled L3 forwarding, route scalability and a virtual firewall. Full details of the test are available in this free-to-download report.
NFV performance testing remains complicated, however, and Chua warns that the shared environment of virtualization, where many apps are hosted on a server, will require its own testing, in the appropriate timeframe. This test, though, is a good indication of where the industry can get started on NFV.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading