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The Benefits of Network Virtualization Offload Technologies to Optimize Performance for VXLAN

Posted August 26th, 2013 by Brandon Hoff

You may have seen my previous post regarding performance for Emulex Virtual Network eXceleration™ (VNeX) stating how hardware offloads can significantly improve network throughput while reducing CPU overhead for Virtual Network Fabrics (VNFs).  Today, at VMworld 2013, Emulex announced forthcoming VNeX support for vSphere 5.5 to provide offloads for VXLAN based VNF.

As we have discussed before, VXLAN or Virtual eXtensible Local Area Network (as defined in RFC) defines how to build virtual networks in vSphere environments.  VNFs create virtual network infrastructure where a virtual machine (VM) can be created and moved without any limitations that would be imposed by the legacy network infrastructure.

VNFs create a new data center networking paradigm that is a game changer in terms of unlocking the flexibility and adaptability of server virtualization and making the network as easy to manage and configure as a virtual server.  This is great news!

The innovation that Emulex brings to the table is the first hardware offloads that will be integrated into the new vSphere 5.5.  This is important because we need to ensure that virtual networks run as fast as possible, while freeing up memory and CPU resources to support more VMs.

Emulex has done early engineering testing on the performance improvements of hardware offloads for VXLAN.  The data is shown in the table below:

Traffic Type VXLAN Traffic Performance Improvement
VXLAN Offload Enabled Disabled
Tx (Gbps) 9.16 7.83 20%
Rs (Gbps) 9.34 6.00 56%
Bi-Di (Gbps) 14.8 6.41 130%

Note:  These test results are illustrative in nature and will vary based on VM density, server configuration, and other test parameters.  Formal test results will be provide at at a later date.

Given the traffic pattern, VM workload, and CPU utilization for the server in this test, we saw up to a 130% improvement in throughput.  Much of the improvement in throughput was due to lower CPU utilization when the VXLAN processing was offloaded to stateless offloads in the Emulex VNeX technology.

In my previous blog, we showed that when NIC offloads are turned off, network throughput is reduced by 27%.  This means that VM density may be reduced by 27%, which is significant.  Therefore, Emulex and VMware have been working together to solve this performance issue.  The solution is to add additional NIC offloads to improve system performance.  Emulex has announced our forthcoming VNeX technology that solves these problems and provides optimal performance for virtual networks.  Emulex virtual network offload technology provides the following:

  1. Send
    1. Checksum computation for IPv4/IPv6 and TCP payload (inner and outer)
    2. LSO V1 and V2
  2. Receive
    1. RSS/VMQ
    2. Checksum validation for IPv4/IPv6 and TCP payload (inner and outer)
  3. And specific Emulex virtual network offload technology integration for VXLAN

An illustration of Emulex’s virtual network offload technology is shown below:

Bottom line:  NIC optimizations for VXLAN significantly improves performance.  VXLAN is a great solution to build VNFs and Emulex’s virtual network offload technology delivers the following benefits:

  1. Improved VM density for vSphere 5.5 Environments
  2. Better network throughput
  3. Lower CPU utilization when implementing VXLAN

Emulex leads in technologies for VNFs for vSphere 5.5 and the VMware vSwitch.  We look forward to providing more proof points to illustrate the benefits of virtual network offload technologies in additional vSwitches that are available in vSphere 5.5.

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