Mia Primorac, Edouard Bugnion, Katerina Argyraki
Datacenter-networking research requires tools to both generate traffic and accurately measure latency and throughput. While hardware-based tools have long existed commercially, they are primarily used to validate ASICs and lack flexibility, e.g. to study new protocols. They are also too expensive for academics. The recent development of kernel-bypass networking and advanced NIC features such as hardware timestamping have created new opportunities for accurate latency measurements.
This paper compares these two approaches, and in particular whether commodity servers and NICs, when properly configured, can measure the latency distributions as precisely as specialized hardware.
Our work shows that well-designed commodity solutions can capture subtle differences in the tail latency of stateless UDP traffic. We use hardware devices as the ground truth, both to measure latency and to forward traffic. We compare the ground truth with observations that combine five latency-measuring clients and five different port forwarding solutions and configurations. State-of-the-art software such as MoonGen that uses NIC hardware timestamping provides sufficient visibility into tail latencies to study the effect of subtle operating system configuration changes. We also observe that the kernel-bypass-based TRex software, that only relies on the CPU to timestamp traffic, can also provide solid results when NIC timestamps are not available for a particular protocol or device.