Chapter 5. NFV Performance Considerations

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For a network functions virtualization (NFV) solution to be useful, its virtualized functions must meet or exceed the performance of physical implementations. Red Hat’s virtualization technologies are based on the high-performance Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) hypervisor, common in OpenStack and cloud deployments.

5.1. CPUs and NUMA nodes

Previously, all memory on x86 systems was equally accessible to all CPUs in the system. This resulted in memory access times that were the same regardless of which CPU in the system was performing the operation and was referred to as Uniform Memory Access (UMA).

In Non-Uniform Memory Access (NUMA), system memory is divided into zones called nodes, which are allocated to particular CPUs or sockets. Access to memory that is local to a CPU is faster than memory connected to remote CPUs on that system. Normally, each socket on a NUMA system has a local memory node whose contents can be accessed faster than the memory in the node local to another CPU or the memory on a bus shared by all CPUs.

Similarly, physical NICs are placed in PCI slots on the Compute node hardware. These slots connect to specific CPU sockets that are associated to a particular NUMA node. For optimum performance, connect your datapath NICs to the same NUMA nodes in your CPU configuration (SR-IOV or OVS-DPDK).

The performance impact of NUMA misses are significant, generally starting at a 10% performance hit or higher. Each CPU socket can have multiple CPU cores which are treated as individual CPUs for virtualization purposes.


For more information about NUMA, see What is NUMA and how does it work on Linux?

5.1.1. NUMA node example

The following diagram provides an example of a two-node NUMA system and the way the CPU cores and memory pages are made available:

OpenStack NUMA Topology 39825 0416 ADF

Remote memory available via Interconnect is accessed only if VM1 from NUMA node 0 has a CPU core in NUMA node 1. In this case, the memory of NUMA node 1 acts as local for the third CPU core of VM1 (for example, if VM1 is allocated with CPU 4 in the diagram above), but at the same time, it acts as remote memory for the other CPU cores of the same VM.

5.1.2. NUMA aware instances

You can configure an OpenStack environment to use NUMA topology awareness on systems with a NUMA architecture. When running a guest operating system in a virtual machine (VM) there are two NUMA topologies involved:

  • the NUMA topology of the physical hardware of the host
  • the NUMA topology of the virtual hardware exposed to the guest operating system

You can optimize the performance of guest operating systems by aligning the virtual hardware with the physical hardware NUMA topology.

5.2. CPU pinning

CPU pinning is the ability to run a specific virtual machine’s virtual CPU on a specific physical CPU, in a given host. vCPU pinning provides similar advantages to task pinning on bare-metal systems. Since virtual machines run as user space tasks on the host operating system, pinning increases cache efficiency.

For details on how to configure CPU pinning, see Configuring CPU pinning on the Compute node in the Configuring the Compute Service for Instance Creation guide.

5.3. Huge pages

Physical memory is segmented into contiguous regions called pages. For efficiency, the system retrieves memory by accessing entire pages instead of individual bytes of memory. To perform this translation, the system looks in the Translation Lookaside Buffers (TLB) that contain the physical to virtual address mappings for the most recently or frequently used pages. When the system cannot find a mapping in the TLB, the processor must iterate through all of the page tables to determine the address mappings. Optimize the TLB to minimize the performance penalty that occurs during these TLB misses.

The typical page size in an x86 system is 4KB, with other larger page sizes available. Larger page sizes mean that there are fewer pages overall, and therefore increases the amount of system memory that can have its virtual to physical address translation stored in the TLB. Consequently, this reduces TLB misses, which increases performance. With larger page sizes, there is an increased potential for memory to be under-utilized as processes must allocate in pages, but not all of the memory is likely required. As a result, choosing a page size is a compromise between providing faster access times with larger pages, and ensuring maximum memory utilization with smaller pages.

5.4. Port Security

Port security is an anti-spoofing measure that blocks any egress traffic that does not match the source IP and source MAC address of the originating network port. You cannot view or modify this behavior using security group rules.

By default, the port_security_enabled parameter is set to enabled on newly created Neutron networks in OpenStack. Newly created ports copy the value of the port_security_enabled parameter from the network they are created on.

For some NFV use cases, such as building a firewall or router, you must disable port security.

To disable port security on a single port, run the following command:

openstack port set --disable-port-security <port-id>

To prevent port security from being enabled on any newly created port on a network, run the following command:

openstack network set --disable-port-security <network-id>
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