Network Working Group                                          A. Morton
Internet-Draft                                                 AT&T Labs
Intended status: Informational                             June 19, 2016
Expires: December 21, 2016

  Considerations for Benchmarking Virtual Network Functions and Their


   Benchmarking Methodology Working Group has traditionally conducted
   laboratory characterization of dedicated physical implementations of
   internetworking functions.  This memo investigates additional
   considerations when network functions are virtualized and performed
   in general purpose hardware.

   See the new version history section for updates.

Requirements Language

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119 [RFC2119].

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   This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
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   This Internet-Draft will expire on December 21, 2016.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2016 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

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Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
   2.  Scope . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
   3.  Considerations for Hardware and Testing . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     3.1.  Hardware Components . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     3.2.  Configuration Parameters  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     3.3.  Testing Strategies  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     3.4.  Attention to Shared Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
   4.  Benchmarking Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     4.1.  Comparison with Physical Network Functions  . . . . . . .   7
     4.2.  Continued Emphasis on Black-Box Benchmarks  . . . . . . .   8
     4.3.  New Benchmarks and Related Metrics  . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     4.4.  Assessment of Benchmark Coverage  . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
     4.5.  Power Consumption . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
   5.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
   6.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
   7.  Acknowledgements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
   8.  Version history . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
   9.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
     9.1.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
     9.2.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
   Author's Address  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15

1.  Introduction

   Benchmarking Methodology Working Group (BMWG) has traditionally
   conducted laboratory characterization of dedicated physical
   implementations of internetworking functions (or physical network
   functions, PNFs).  The Black-box Benchmarks of Throughput, Latency,
   Forwarding Rates and others have served our industry for many years.
   [RFC1242] and [RFC2544] are the cornerstones of the work.

   An emerging set of service provider and vendor development goals is
   to reduce costs while increasing flexibility of network devices, and
   drastically accelerate their deployment.  Network Function
   Virtualization (NFV) has the promise to achieve these goals, and
   therefore has garnered much attention.  It now seems certain that

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   some network functions will be virtualized following the success of
   cloud computing and virtual desktops supported by sufficient network
   path capacity, performance, and widespread deployment; many of the
   same techniques will help achieve NFV.

   In the context of Virtualized Network Functions (VNF), the supporting
   Infrastructure requires general-purpose computing systems, storage
   systems, networking systems, virtualization support systems (such as
   hypervisors), and management systems for the virtual and physical
   resources.  There will be many potential suppliers of Infrastructure
   systems and significant flexibility in configuring the systems for
   best performance.  There are also many potential suppliers of VNFs,
   adding to the combinations possible in this environment.  The
   separation of hardware and software suppliers has a profound
   implication on benchmarking activities: much more of the internal
   configuration of the black-box device under test (DUT) must now be
   specified and reported with the results, to foster both repeatability
   and comparison testing at a later time.

   Consider the following User Story as further background and

   "I'm designing and building my NFV Infrastructure platform.  The
   first steps were easy because I had a small number of categories of
   VNFs to support and the VNF vendor gave HW recommendations that I
   followed.  Now I need to deploy more VNFs from new vendors, and there
   are different hardware recommendations.  How well will the new VNFs
   perform on my existing hardware?  Which among several new VNFs in a
   given category are most efficient in terms of capacity they deliver?
   And, when I operate multiple categories of VNFs (and PNFs)
   *concurrently* on a hardware platform such that they share resources,
   what are the new performance limits, and what are the software design
   choices I can make to optimize my chosen hardware platform?
   Conversely, what hardware platform upgrades should I pursue to
   increase the capacity of these concurrently operating VNFs?"

   See for
   more background, for example, the white papers there may be a useful
   starting place.  The Performance and Portability Best Practices
   [NFV.PER001] are particularly relevant to BMWG.  There are documents
   available in the Open Area
   Latest_Drafts/ including drafts describing Infrastructure aspects and
   service quality.

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2.  Scope

   BMWG will consider the new topic of Virtual Network Functions and
   related Infrastructure to ensure that common issues are recognized
   from the start, using background materials from industry and SDOs
   (e.g., IETF, ETSI NFV).

   This memo investigates additional methodological considerations
   necessary when benchmarking VNFs instantiated and hosted in general-
   purpose hardware, using bare-metal hypervisors or other isolation
   environments such as Linux containers.  An essential consideration is
   benchmarking physical and virtual network functions in the same way
   when possible, thereby allowing direct comparison.  Also,
   benchmarking combinations of physical and virtual devices and
   functions in a System Under Test.

   A clearly related goal: the benchmarks for the capacity of a general-
   purpose platform to host a plurality of VNF instances should be
   investigated.  Existing networking technology benchmarks will also be
   considered for adaptation to NFV and closely associated technologies.

   A non-goal is any overlap with traditional computer benchmark
   development and their specific metrics (SPECmark suites such as

   A continued non-goal is any form of architecture development related
   to NFV and associated technologies in BMWG, consistent with all
   chartered work since BMWG began in 1989.

3.  Considerations for Hardware and Testing

   This section lists the new considerations which must be addressed to
   benchmark VNF(s) and their supporting infrastructure.  The System
   Under Test (SUT) is composed of the hardware platform components, the
   VNFs installed, and many other supporting systems.  It is critical to
   document all aspects of the SUT to foster repeatability.

3.1.  Hardware Components

   New Hardware devices will become part of the test set-up.

   1.  High volume server platforms (general-purpose, possibly with
       virtual technology enhancements).

   2.  Storage systems with large capacity, high speed, and high

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   3.  Network Interface ports specially designed for efficient service
       of many virtual NICs.

   4.  High capacity Ethernet Switches.

   Labs conducting comparisons of different VNFs may be able to use the
   same hardware platform over many studies, until the steady march of
   innovations overtakes their capabilities (as happens with the lab's
   traffic generation and testing devices today).

3.2.  Configuration Parameters

   It will be necessary to configure and document the settings for the
   entire general-purpose platform to ensure repeatability and foster
   future comparisons, including but clearly not limited-to the

   o  number of server blades (shelf occupation)

   o  CPUs

   o  caches

   o  memory

   o  storage system

   o  I/O

   as well as configurations that support the devices which host the VNF

   o  Hypervisor (or other forms of virtual function hosting)

   o  Virtual Machine (VM)

   o  Infrastructure Virtual Network (which interconnects Virtual
      Machines with physical network interfaces, or with each other
      through virtual switches, for example)

   and finally, the VNF itself, with items such as:

   o  specific function being implemented in VNF

   o  reserved resources for each function (e.g., CPU pinning)

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   o  number of VNFs (or sub-VNF components, each with its own VM) in
      the service function chain (see section 1.1 of [RFC7498] for a
      definition of service function chain)

   o  number of physical interfaces and links transited in the service
      function chain

   In the physical device benchmarking context, most of the
   corresponding infrastructure configuration choices were determined by
   the vendor.  Although the platform itself is now one of the
   configuration variables, it is important to maintain emphasis on the
   networking benchmarks and capture the platform variables as input

3.3.  Testing Strategies

   The concept of characterizing performance at capacity limits may
   change.  For example:

   1.  It may be more representative of system capacity to characterize
       the case where Virtual Machines (VM, hosting the VNF) are
       operating at 50% Utilization, and therefore sharing the "real"
       processing power across many VMs.

   2.  Another important case stems from the need for partitioning
       functions.  A noisy neighbor (VM hosting a VNF in an infinite
       loop) would ideally be isolated and the performance of other VMs
       would continue according to their specifications.

   3.  System errors will likely occur as transients, implying a
       distribution of performance characteristics with a long tail
       (like latency), leading to the need for longer-term tests of each
       set of configuration and test parameters.

   4.  The desire for elasticity and flexibility among network functions
       will include tests where there is constant flux in the number of
       VM instances, the resources the VMs require, and the set-up/tear-
       down of network paths that support VM connectivity.  Requests for
       and instantiation of new VMs, along with Releases for VMs hosting
       VNFs that are no longer needed would be an normal operational
       condition.  In other words, benchmarking should include scenarios
       with production life cycle management of VMs and their VNFs and
       network connectivity in-progress, as well as static

   5.  All physical things can fail, and benchmarking efforts can also
       examine recovery aided by the virtual architecture with different
       approaches to resiliency.

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3.4.  Attention to Shared Resources

   Since many components of the new NFV Infrastructure are virtual, test
   set-up design must have prior knowledge of inter-actions/dependencies
   within the various resource domains in the System Under Test (SUT).
   For example, a virtual machine performing the role of a traditional
   tester function such as generating and/or receiving traffic should
   avoid sharing any SUT resources with the Device Under Test DUT.
   Otherwise, the results will have unexpected dependencies not
   encountered in physical device benchmarking.

   Note: The term "tester" has traditionally referred to devices
   dedicated to testing in BMWG literature.  In this new context,
   "tester" additionally refers to functions dedicated to testing, which
   may be either virtual or physical.  "Tester" has never referred to
   the individuals performing the tests.

   The shared-resource aspect of test design remains one of the critical
   challenges to overcome in a way to produce useful results.
   Benchmarking set-ups may designate isolated resources for the DUT and
   other critical support components (such as the host/kernel) as the
   first baseline step, and add other loading processes.  The added
   complexity of each set-up leads to shared-resource testing scenarios,
   where the characteristics of the competing load (in terms of memory,
   storage, and CPU utilization) will directly affect the benchmarking
   results (and variability of the results), but the results should
   reconcile with the baseline.

   The physical test device remains a solid foundation to compare with
   results using combinations of physical and virtual test functions, or
   results using only virtual testers when necessary to assess virtual
   interfaces and other virtual functions.

4.  Benchmarking Considerations

   This section discusses considerations related to Benchmarks
   applicable to VNFs and their associated technologies.

4.1.  Comparison with Physical Network Functions

   In order to compare the performance of VNFs and system
   implementations with their physical counterparts, identical
   benchmarks must be used.  Since BMWG has already developed
   specifications for many network functions, there will be re-use of
   existing benchmarks through references, while allowing for the
   possibility of benchmark curation during development of new
   methodologies.  Consideration should be given to quantifying the
   number of parallel VNFs required to achieve comparable scale/capacity

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   with a given physical device, or whether some limit of scale was
   reached before the VNFs could achieve the comparable level.  Again,
   implementation based-on different hypervisors or other virtual
   function hosting remain as critical factors in performance

4.2.  Continued Emphasis on Black-Box Benchmarks

   When the network functions under test are based on Open Source code,
   there may be a tendency to rely on internal measurements to some
   extent, especially when the externally-observable phenomena only
   support an inference of internal events (such as routing protocol
   convergence observed in the dataplane).  Examples include CPU/Core
   utilization, Network utilization, Storage utilization, and Memory
   Comitted/used.  These "white-box" metrics provide one view of the
   resource footprint of a VNF.  Note: The resource utilization metrics
   do not easily match the 3x4 Matrix.

   However, external observations remain essential as the basis for
   Benchmarks.  Internal observations with fixed specification and
   interpretation may be provided in parallel (as auxilliary metrics),
   to assist the development of operations procedures when the
   technology is deployed, for example.  Internal metrics and
   measurements from Open Source implementations may be the only direct
   source of performance results in a desired dimension, but
   corroborating external observations are still required to assure the
   integrity of measurement discipline was maintained for all reported

   A related aspect of benchmark development is where the scope includes
   multiple approaches to a common function under the same benchmark.
   For example, there are many ways to arrange for activation of a
   network path between interface points and the activation times can be
   compared if the start-to-stop activation interval has a generic and
   unambiguous definition.  Thus, generic benchmark definitions are
   preferred over technology/protocol specific definitions where

4.3.  New Benchmarks and Related Metrics

   There will be new classes of benchmarks needed for network design and
   assistance when developing operational practices (possibly automated
   management and orchestration of deployment scale).  Examples follow
   in the paragraphs below, many of which are prompted by the goals of
   increased elasticity and flexibility of the network functions, along
   with accelerated deployment times.

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   o  Time to deploy VNFs: In cases where the general-purpose hardware
      is already deployed and ready for service, it is valuable to know
      the response time when a management system is tasked with
      "standing-up" 100's of virtual machines and the VNFs they will

   o  Time to migrate VNFs: In cases where a rack or shelf of hardware
      must be removed from active service, it is valuable to know the
      response time when a management system is tasked with "migrating"
      some number of virtual machines and the VNFs they currently host
      to alternate hardware that will remain in-service.

   o  Time to create a virtual network in the general-purpose
      infrastructure: This is a somewhat simplified version of existing
      benchmarks for convergence time, in that the process is initiated
      by a request from (centralized or distributed) control, rather
      than inferred from network events (link failure).  The successful
      response time would remain dependent on dataplane observations to
      confirm that the network is ready to perform.

   o  Effect of verification measurements on performance: A complete
      VNF, or something as simple as a new poicy to implement in a VNF,
      is implemented.  The action to verify instantiation of the VNF or
      policy could affect performance during normal operation.

   Also, it appears to be valuable to measure traditional packet
   transfer performance metrics during the assessment of traditional and
   new benchmarks, including metrics that may be used to support service
   engineering such as the Spatial Composition metrics found in
   [RFC6049].  Examples include Mean one-way delay in section 4.1 of
   [RFC6049], Packet Delay Variation (PDV) in [RFC5481], and Packet
   Reordering [RFC4737] [RFC4689].

4.4.  Assessment of Benchmark Coverage

   It can be useful to organize benchmarks according to their applicable
   life cycle stage and the performance criteria they were designed to
   assess.  The table below provides a way to organize benchmarks such
   that there is a clear indication of coverage for the intersection of
   life cycle stages and performance criteria.

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   |               |             |            |               |
   |               |   SPEED     |  ACCURACY  |  RELIABILITY  |
   |               |             |            |               |
   |               |             |            |               |
   |  Activation   |             |            |               |
   |               |             |            |               |
   |               |             |            |               |
   |  Operation    |             |            |               |
   |               |             |            |               |
   |               |             |            |               |
   | De-activation |             |            |               |
   |               |             |            |               |

   For example, the "Time to deploy VNFs" benchmark described above
   would be placed in the intersection of Activation and Speed, making
   it clear that there are other potential performance criteria to
   benchmark, such as the "percentage of unsuccessful VM/VNF stand-ups"
   in a set of 100 attempts.  This example emphasizes that the
   Activation and De-activation life cycle stages are key areas for NFV
   and related infrastructure, and encourage expansion beyond
   traditional benchmarks for normal operation.  Thus, reviewing the
   benchmark coverage using this table (sometimes called the 3x3 matrix)
   can be a worthwhile exercise in BMWG.

   In one of the first applications of the 3x3 matrix in BMWG
   [I-D.ietf-bmwg-sdn-controller-benchmark-meth], we discovered that
   metrics on measured size, capacity, or scale do not easily match one
   of the three columns above.  Following discussion, this was resolved
   in two ways:

   o  Add a column, Scale, for use when categorizing and assessing the
      coverage of benchmarks (without measured results).  Examples of
      this use are found in
      [I-D.ietf-bmwg-sdn-controller-benchmark-meth] and
      [I-D.vsperf-bmwg-vswitch-opnfv].  This is the 3x4 Matrix.

   o  If using the matrix to report results in an organized way, keep
      size, capacity, and scale metrics separate from the 3x3 matrix and
      incorporate them in the report with other qualifications of the

   Note: The resource utilization (e.g., CPU) metrics do not fit in the
   Matrix.  They are not benchmarks, and omitting them confirms their

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   status as auxilliary metrics.  Resource assignments are configuration
   parameters, and these are reported seperately.

   This approach encourages use of the 3x3 matrix to organize reports of
   results, where the capacity at which the various metrics were
   measured could be included in the title of the matrix (and results
   for multiple capacities would result in separate 3x3 matrices, if
   there were sufficient measurements/results to organize in that way).

   For example, results for each VM and VNF could appear in the 3x3
   matrix, organized to illustrate resource occupation (CPU Cores) in a
   particular physical computing system, as shown below.

   Core 1    |__|__|__|__|
             |  |  |  |  |
   Cores 2-5 |__|__|__|__|
             |  |  |  |  |
                 VNF#3             VNF#4             VNF#5
             .-----------.    .-----------.     .-----------.
             |__|__|__|__|    |__|__|__|__|     |__|__|__|__|
   Core 6    |__|__|__|__|    |__|__|__|__|     |__|__|__|__|
             |__|__|__|__|    |__|__|__|__|     |__|__|__|__|
             |  |  |  |  |    |  |  |  |  |     |  |  |  |  |
             '-----------'    '-----------'     '-----------'
   Core 7    |__|__|__|__|
             |  |  |  |  |

   The combination of tables above could be built incrementally,
   beginning with VNF#1 and one Core, then adding VNFs according to
   their supporting core assignments.  X-Y plots of critical benchmarks
   would also provide insight to the effect of increased HW utilization.
   All VNFs might be of the same type, or to match a production
   environment there could be VNFs of multiple types and categories.  In

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   this figure, VNFs #3-#5 are assumed to require small CPU resources,
   while VNF#2 requires 4 cores to perform its function.

4.5.  Power Consumption

   Although there is incomplete work to benchmark physical network
   function power consumption in a meaningful way, the desire to measure
   the physical infrastructure supporting the virtual functions only
   adds to the need.  Both maximum power consumption and dynamic power
   consumption (with varying load) would be useful.  The IPMI standard
   [IPMI2.0] has been implemented by many manufacturers, and supports
   measurement of instantaneous energy consumption.

   To assess the instantaneous energy consumption of virtual resources,
   it may be possible to estimate the value using an overall metric
   based on utilization readings, according to

5.  Security Considerations

   Benchmarking activities as described in this memo are limited to
   technology characterization of a Device Under Test/System Under Test
   (DUT/SUT) using controlled stimuli in a laboratory environment, with
   dedicated address space and the constraints specified in the sections

   The benchmarking network topology will be an independent test setup
   and MUST NOT be connected to devices that may forward the test
   traffic into a production network, or misroute traffic to the test
   management network.

   Further, benchmarking is performed on a "black-box" basis, relying
   solely on measurements observable external to the DUT/SUT.

   Special capabilities SHOULD NOT exist in the DUT/SUT specifically for
   benchmarking purposes.  Any implications for network security arising
   from the DUT/SUT SHOULD be identical in the lab and in production

6.  IANA Considerations

   No IANA Action is requested at this time.

7.  Acknowledgements

   The author acknowledges an encouraging conversation on this topic
   with Mukhtiar Shaikh and Ramki Krishnan in November 2013.  Bhavani
   Parise and Ilya Varlashkin have provided useful suggestions to expand

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   these considerations.  Bhuvaneswaran Vengainathan has already tried
   the 3x3 matrix with SDN controller draft, and contributed to many
   discussions.  Scott Bradner quickly pointed out shared resource
   dependencies in an early vSwitch measurement proposal, and the topic
   was included here as a key consideration.  Further development was
   encouraged by Barry Constantine's comments following the IETF-92 BMWG
   session: the session itself was an affirmation for this memo.  There
   have been many interesting contributions from Maryam Tahhan, Marius
   Georgescu, Jacob Rapp, Saurabh Chattopadhyay, and others.

8.  Version history

   (This section should be removed by the RFC Editor.)

   Version 02:

   New version history section.

   Added Memory in section 3.2, configuration.

   Updated ACKs and References.

   Version 01:

   Addressed Ramki Krishnan's comments on section 4.5, power, see that
   section (7/27 message to the list).  Addressed Saurabh
   Chattopadhyay's 7/24 comments on VNF resources and other resource
   conditions and their effect on benchmarking, see section 3.4.
   Addressed Marius Georgescu's 7/17 comments on the list (sections 4.3
   and 4.4).

   AND, comments from the extended discussion during IETF-93 BMWG

   Section 4.2: VNF footprint and auxilliary metrics (Maryam Tahhan),
   Section 4.3: Verification affect metrics (Ramki Krishnan);
   Section 4.4: Auxilliary metrics in the Matrix (Maryam Tahhan, Scott
   Bradner, others)

9.  References

9.1.  Normative References

              "Network Function Virtualization: Performance and
              Portability Best Practices", Group Specification ETSI GS
              NFV-PER 001 V1.1.1 (2014-06), June 2014.

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   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997,

   [RFC2544]  Bradner, S. and J. McQuaid, "Benchmarking Methodology for
              Network Interconnect Devices", RFC 2544,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2544, March 1999,

   [RFC4689]  Poretsky, S., Perser, J., Erramilli, S., and S. Khurana,
              "Terminology for Benchmarking Network-layer Traffic
              Control Mechanisms", RFC 4689, DOI 10.17487/RFC4689,
              October 2006, <>.

   [RFC4737]  Morton, A., Ciavattone, L., Ramachandran, G., Shalunov,
              S., and J. Perser, "Packet Reordering Metrics", RFC 4737,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC4737, November 2006,

   [RFC7498]  Quinn, P., Ed. and T. Nadeau, Ed., "Problem Statement for
              Service Function Chaining", RFC 7498,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC7498, April 2015,

9.2.  Informative References

              Vengainathan, B., Basil, A., Tassinari, M., Manral, V.,
              and S. Banks, "Benchmarking Methodology for SDN Controller
              Performance", draft-ietf-bmwg-sdn-controller-benchmark-
              meth-01 (work in progress), March 2016.

              Krishnan, R., Figueira, N., Krishnaswamy, D., Lopez, D.,
              Wright, S., Hinrichs, T., Krishnaswamy, R., and A. Yerra,
              "NFVIaaS Architectural Framework for Policy Based Resource
              Placement and Scheduling", draft-krishnan-nfvrg-policy-
              based-rm-nfviaas-06 (work in progress), March 2016.

              Tahhan, M., O'Mahony, B., and A. Morton, "Benchmarking
              Virtual Switches in OPNFV", draft-vsperf-bmwg-vswitch-
              opnfv-02 (work in progress), March 2016.

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   [IPMI2.0]  "Intelligent Platform Management Interface, v2.0 with
              latest Errata",
              update.html, April 2015.

   [RFC1242]  Bradner, S., "Benchmarking Terminology for Network
              Interconnection Devices", RFC 1242, DOI 10.17487/RFC1242,
              July 1991, <>.

   [RFC5481]  Morton, A. and B. Claise, "Packet Delay Variation
              Applicability Statement", RFC 5481, DOI 10.17487/RFC5481,
              March 2009, <>.

   [RFC6049]  Morton, A. and E. Stephan, "Spatial Composition of
              Metrics", RFC 6049, DOI 10.17487/RFC6049, January 2011,

Author's Address

   Al Morton
   AT&T Labs
   200 Laurel Avenue South
   Middletown,, NJ  07748

   Phone: +1 732 420 1571
   Fax:   +1 732 368 1192

Morton                  Expires December 21, 2016              [Page 15]