Performance beyond Numbers – Stephen Curry Style Server I/O

Adapters, Data Center, ,

This is an eventful season for NBA; with the Golden State Warriors making history with 73 wins out of an overall 82 games in an NBA season, and Kobe Bryant retiring from the LA Lakers. But one man is stealing all the thunder, and that is Stephen Curry, the NBA’s first unanimously-voted MVP.


Figure 1: Stephen Curry amazes while Paul Allen expresses incredulity.


Why do people love Curry? Because he can perform, and the numbers prove it. Curry is the first player in NBA history at any position to average 30 ‎points per game in less than 35 minutes per game over a full season. In the Warriors game against the Oregon Trail Blazers, Curry set a new NBA record when he scored 17 out of 21 points in overtime, leading the Warriors team to beat the Blazers 132 over 125. That itself has caused social media buzz when Blazer’s owner Paul Allen was caught on camera showing jaw-dropping disbelief.

In server I/O, numbers also speak louder than words, and that is one of the key reasons that Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) is working with Mellanox Technologies to lead server networking to the 25G/100G era. In this week’s HPE Discover in Vegas, HPE is showcasing impressive throughput performance for its Proliant DL380 Gen 9 Servers with the Mellanox ConnectX-4 and ConnectX-4 Lx series of server Network Interface Cards (NICs) that support 10/25/40/50/100Gb/s interface speeds. As seen in the following chart, full line rate throughput is achieved at every interface speed, even for 100Gb/s interfaces. (The gap between the interface speed and TCP throughput is due to the TCP header overhead).



Figure 2: HPE Proliant DL380 Gen 9 Server with Mellanox ConnectX-4 NICs achieve full TCP line-rate performance with 25, 40, and 100Gb Ethernet links.

But the performance numbers don’t stop here, because for Telco and NFV applications, how fast a server and its NIC can process packets is extremely important. For example, Voice over LTE (VoLTE) media packets are small, around 100 bytes, which means, for the same interface speed, you are going to see a lot more packets per second when the packet is 100 bytes as opposed 9K bytes. This small packet performance as defined by RFC 2544 is a true test of how solid your server I/O system is. And for that, the HPE-Mellanox combination also provides jaw-dropping numbers that would inspire even Paul Allen to come up with a new Twitter-worthy facial expression. Take a 25Gb/s port as an example: the theoretical maximum small packet throughput is 37.2 million packets per second (The minimum packet size is 84 bytes consisted of 46 payload, 4 CRC, 2 MAC type, 6 MAC source address, 6 MAC destination address, 8 preamble, 12 inter frame gap. Thus 25Gb/s is converted to 25,000,000,000/(84 bytes * 8 bits/byte)/1,000,000=37.2 Mpps), and Mellanox ConnectX-4 Lx is achieving 34 million pps for the smallest 64 Byte traffic, with zero packet loss. This is done through a combination of running the Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK) library and Mellanox Poll Mode Driver (PMD) with bi-directional traffic from IXIA traffic generator.


Figure 3: HPE-Mellanox NICs excel at small packet performance.

But the Mellanox DPDK support advantages go beyond pure throughput performance numbers.

In terms of security, Mellanox NICs leverage hardware-based memory protection and translation. The Mellanox DPDK solution registers the process memory and the NIC performs Direct Memory Access (DMA) only to and from memory pages which are owned by this process, enforcing security without additional overhead.

In terms of transparency and troubleshooting, the Mellanox PMD, OFED and DPDK are separate packages and we allow for co-existence with the kernel NIC driver. The end result is that HPE customers can run Mellanox DPDK while managing the Ethernet port as opposed the competing solutions that require different drivers for DPDK and non-DPDK applications.

Together, HPE and Mellanox are bringing jaw-dropping, Steph Curry-style performance to a new generation of server I/O with 25GbE and beyond. If you happen to be in Vegas, do check us out in both the Mellanox booth and HPE booth at HPE Discover.





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