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Cisco virtual router targets the cloud

Joel Snyder | Feb. 26, 2013
CSR 1000V works flawlessly, but beware of hardware requirements, licensing issues

Compared to alternative software router technologies, the CSR 1000V is fairly heavyweight. The requirement for so many physical cores and the newer CPUs may limit the options for deploying CSR 1000V in clouds running older hardware or ones without quad-core CPUs.


We looked at performance on the CSR 1000V and found that it meets its requirements, but they're pretty modest. Cisco technical staff told us that they've gotten up to 1Gbps out of the CSR 1000V, but the official data sheet cuts that number considerably, to 50Mbps. Cisco told us to expect higher throughput (in the 1Gbps range, depending on hardware, of course) in future versions later in 2013.

Cisco may be shooting low here for some reason, but we think that network managers might be disappointed with this level of performance in cloud deployments. After all, one of the reasons for using cloud service providers is to get extra bandwidth at lower cost. The performance we saw would be fine for typical management and off-site database applications, but you wouldn't want to put the CSR 1000V in front of an Internet-facing Web server unless the bandwidth requirements were very low.

With the CSR 1000V in pure routing mode and sending and receiving packets from external devices outside of the VMware environment, we were able to push about 48Mbps through it before it started dropping packets, just about hitting that 50Mbps number. While the overall system CPU wasn't really breaking a sweat at that level, one of the four cores was flat-lined at nearly 100%. Either Cisco is wasting cycles as part of its bandwidth cap, or the virtual appliance was topped out. We confirmed this suspicion by turning on firewall and NAT features, and got the same within-data-sheet performance, although with a higher CPU load spread across more cores.

We validated that the VMware hardware we were using (a Dell R610 server) was not the problem by loading up the open source Vyatta router on the same hardware and pushing a hefty 500Mbps (input) through the hardware, using only a single CPU core and a single external Gigabit Ethernet port. We also tested the CSR 1000V and the Vyatta router on Cisco's own UCS Express hardware, with the same results.

With Cisco pushing the AppNav-XE technology into the CSR 1000V, the low throughput may inhibit adoption in Internet-facing applications.

AppNav is Cisco coming backward into the load balancer world no one wants to compete head-on with F5, not even Cisco with a coordinated technology that handles distribution of traffic from the WAN into application servers, such as instant messaging, file sharing, Web traffic and Microsoft Exchange.

AppNav is officially "complementary" to Cisco's older WCCP (Web Cache Communication Protocol), the much-maligned load distribution and redirection technology Cisco took on when it purchased ArrowPoint Communications in 2000. But many network managers will discover that with AppNav they can do away with ugly and complicated WCCP deployments.


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