Network Testing QFabric: The Industry’s Largest 10GbE Network Test
Mar 5, 2012
“Many devices which work on a small scale do not work on a large scale.” – Galileo
Although spoken several centuries ago, this observation uniquely applies to networks today. Scalability depends on the strength of the underlying network architecture. Recently, I had a chance to work with Network Test’s David Newman, one of the best in the business when it comes to network assessment tests. David and my colleagues put a QFabric System through a series of standardized tests under the most stringent data center conditions, across 1,536 10GbE ports—an unprecedented scale that has never been seen before (at least, not in my 13 years of experience). The results prove that QFabric delivers impressive performance at very large scale, provides operational simplicity with a single switch model and seamlessly interoperates with existing data center and network infrastructure.
The QFabric test pushed millions of traffic flows across the 1,536 of 10GbE ports—a scale four times greater than any previous public Ethernet switch test. Traditionally, to simulate such demanding environment we need: 1) a network made up of many switches and 2) test equipment with lots of ports and the ability to simulate traffic for stress conditions. In this particular instance, designing a network with 1,536 ports was simple with QFabric, since that number represents just 25 percent of its 6144 port capacity. To conduct the test, Juniper partnered with Spirent to design a high-density solution capable of simulating more than two million simultaneous traffic flows. It was amazing to see that entire test bed (including test equipment) installed in just four racks, with everything centrally managed from two consoles: one for the QFabric System and one for Spirent (see photo).
Typically, customers will validate network requirements by performing functionality and performance tests on an individual switch or small networks. Ideally, though, customers should also test the scalability of the network under a variety of conditions to ensure the network can handle not only current business demands but can scale seamlessly to support future demands. Independent (or customer performed) scalability tests are often not possible because of the many resources needed and the high costs involved. For these reasons, Juniper enlisted Network Test (an independent test specialist) to conduct large-scale testing to demonstrate QFabric’s predictable behavior under extreme conditions.
The results speak for themselves. Below are my interpretations:
Near wire-speed Layer 2/Layer 3 throughput and low latency across any-to-any port: This fundamentally means improved bandwidth between compute and storage resources, enabling application traffic to traverse the network much faster and improving overall application performance. More importantly, performance gains are predictable even at massive scale.
The entire data center network can be managed as a single switch: A single QFabric System is essentially an entire data center network. This single switch abstraction reduces the number of managed devices, which in turn reduces administrative complexity. The familiar operational model of a single switch also significantly reduces staff training needs and improves productivity.
Seamless interoperability with network equipment from Cisco (Catalyst 6500 & Nexus 7000): Why is this important? Because the test demonstrates that QFabric doesn’t require wholesale replacement of existing equipment; it can interoperate quite well with legacy network equipment. QFabric provides standards-based interfaces and protocols for interoperating with third-party network equipment (routers, switches, firewalls etc.).
Enterprise customers involved in financials, predictive analytics and data modeling need high-performance computing environments. Other enterprises involved in public or private clouds require high levels of elasticity; for many other enterprises, operational simplicity is absolutely critical. To build a scalable network infrastructure that has the potential to enable speed, elasticity and agility requires a fundamental re-think of the network architecture. These test results prove QFabric delivers that new network.