Traditionally, the processing demands of network policy control (e.g., stateful packet processing, complex decision-making, etc.) required proprietary hardware solutions, but technology advances mean that virtualization now provides a commercially viable alternative.
Transitioning from a purpose-built, proprietary hardware component – a model in which a vendor likely controls every aspect – to a virtualized commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) model is a formidable challenge.
In March 2015, Sandvine detailed how the PTS Virtual Series had achieved 155 Gbps in a single system Dell R730x with Intel Xeon® E5-2699 v3 processor. This was an important milestone, as it showed that virtualization could deliver the same performance density, at scale, as proprietary equipment.
However, real-world carrier deployments often demand many hundreds of gigabits per second of performance. To achieve this scale, many hardware elements must be clustered and load-balanced together, cooperating to achieve the singular objective of implementing network policy control.
It is this performance milestone – a policy control VNF of several hundred Gbps – that remained uncrossed…until now.
Today, Sandvine, Dell®, and Intel®, announced that using standards-based virtualization technologies, we have achieved data plane performance scale and efficiency within a policy control virtual network function (VNF) that exceeds those of proprietary network appliances.
So what do these figures look like? We think, they’re pretty impressive.
These figures are all superior to those provided by network appliance vendors, and should effectively put to rest any concerns or questions surrounding the practical and commercial viability of network functions virtualization for policy control use cases.
To have practical relevance in the real world, the test must be as realistic as possible. From the outset, Sandvine felt that it was important to break the 1 Tbps barrier in a manner that would replicate a real-world deployment as much as possible.
To ensure this, Sandvine deployed a traffic mix that uses various packet sizes and flow-types which is representative of real-world network conditions. Additionally, each Dell™ PowerEdge™ M630 Blade Server utilized only one of its dual sockets, with the Intel® Xeon processor utilizing approximately 60% of its processing capability. This extra compute room ensures that it is possible for operators to implement the same advanced traffic measurements and intelligent broadband use cases that they have previously done on purpose built hardware.
While 1.1 Tbps is breakthrough topline performance for a VNF, scale without efficiency is insufficient. So how did this demonstration fare in terms of efficiency, and how does the achieved efficiency compare to existing commercial network policy control appliances?
Combining the achieved scale with the observed power consumption, we see that compute note power efficiency is an impressive 4.6 W/Gbps of policy control function.
The chart above compares the impressive 4.6 W/Gbps of policy control function achieved by Sandvine in this test to competing hardware appliance vendors in the network policy control space. Other policy control vendors who have pursued large appliance-based solutions deliver best-case scenario performance between 8.3 W/Gbps and 21.6 W/Gbps, depending upon the vendor and the particular appliance, with variable maximum scalability.
For the sake of comparison, we have also included in the chart Sandvine’s PTS 32000, a two rack unit 100 GbE unit capable of intersecting 400 Gbps. With its inclusion it is clear that whether an operator is looking for a purpose built hardware appliance, or a virtual solution using COTS hardware, Sandvine provides the lowest power cost in the industry.
Sandvine believes that our 1.1 Tbps demonstration proves that network functions virtualization is a cost effective alternative to proprietary network appliances, and that virtualized policy control deployments can meet the scale, efficiency, and business objectives of communications service providers.
Over the coming weeks and months, we will be posting a number of updates on NFV.net documenting the challenges and triumphs of breaking the 1Tbps barrier.
For those wanting to learn more about configuration details, testing methodology, and detailed results of Sandvine’s record-setting performance, we have published a Technology Showcase which you can download entitled “Breaking the Terabit Barrier: A One Terabit per Second Policy Control Virtual Network Function”.