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  1. #1
    Untanglit ixeous's Avatar
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    Default Realtec vs Intel

    Given the animosity to Realtec nics on this board, this will probably pick a fight, but that's not the intent. After reading multiple entries about Realtec, I wanted to do some testing and this is the results. It is ONE data point to put into the public realm.

    Setup:

    client<--->gateway<--->server

    Gateway is running Vyatta 6.2 live disc (not Untangle, but a Debian derivative). It is issuing an IP to the client and NATting from the client to the server.

    The hardware:

    CPU: Pentium D 3.4 GHz hyperthread
    RAM: 1 GB
    Onboard NIC: Broadcom NetXtreme BCM5751

    The NICs being tested:

    1. Startech ST1000BT32 (RTL8110SC)
    2. Intel 82544EI

    Each NIC was placed into the same PCI slot for the respective test (did not use PCI-X).

    Test:
    iperf -c (server) -t 300 -P 5

    Results:

    Reltec NIC: [SUM] 0.0-300.8 sec 18.2 GBytes 520 Mbits/sec
    Intel NIC: [SUM] 0.0-300.9 sec 19.7 GBytes 563 Mbits/sec

    Other runs showed similar results.

  2. #2
    Untangle Ninja sky-knight's Avatar
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    Default

    The problem with realtek, I believe, is the memory needed by the kernel module to process traffic. It works fine on Vyatta and other router based distros because they don't need ram for much. Untangle however, needs ram for the UVM.

    At least that is my theory, in Untangle bypassed traffic over a realtek interface will go at wirespeed as well. However, once you put the UVM under load, they simply break down.

    We have one appliance in our line up that uses an RTL8111 on board interface. That device cannot push more than 20mbit. This is the Untangle One appliance, we keep that thing around because it is inexpensive, but I still have to warn people about the limits of the device.

    The same platform CPU / RAM wise is in our NG-25 series server. The NG series servers are operating Intel Pro1000GT interfaces. These servers have been able to perform at 800mbit done with local testing.

    And I'm not talking about lame iperf crap either, I'm talking about a full blown AJAX stress test against a local web server. Specifically tweaked to download files and access the web service as fast as possible. This process fires every module in untangle with the exception of the spam blocker.

    I do not know why the Intel interfaces work better. I simply know that they do. Untangle has indicated at some point they will perform a more scientific study of the "soft" interfaces to see if they can figure out what feature of the interface is causing this. It may be possible given this information to adjust Untangle to make the Realtek interfaces work as well as the Intels. I'm all for it! They are certainly cheaper.

    But for now, I stand by my mantra... Go Intel, or go home.
    Rob Sandling, BS:SWE, MCP
    NexgenAppliances.com
    Phone: 866-794-8879 x201
    Email: support@nexgenappliances.com

  3. #3
    Untangle Ninja Solignis's Avatar
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    Default

    Is it really the ram is needed for processing the actual traffic? Or is the ram needed for things like the checksums and calculations. Because one thing I have noticed is the hardware nics have features like TCP checksum offload.
    “Most good programmers do programming not because they expect to get paid or get adulation by the public, but because it is fun to program.” - Linus Torvalds

  4. #4
    Untangle Ninja sky-knight's Avatar
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    All I remember is some old *nix head from ages ago telling me that all the packet pushing code in the kernel is done in real mode. Which means it has to happen in physical ram, it cannot be paged.

    So if that is true, when you add in the memory hog of the java VM that is the core of Untangle... thing can get messy.

    However, if it was just memory, realtek users could get around the bandwidth limits by simply installing more ram. We've shown that isn't the case... so the why remains a mystery.
    Rob Sandling, BS:SWE, MCP
    NexgenAppliances.com
    Phone: 866-794-8879 x201
    Email: support@nexgenappliances.com

  5. #5
    Untangler
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    Default

    Go to iscsi forums and you will get the same advice as sky is giving. I have not seen a good explanation there either but many seem to confirm it. Some times you just have to believe something if it shows up everywhere the same. The intels are worth a small premium even if it is only for piece of mind. And I don't even like intel usually. I don't have time to waste testing things that work. But I would like to see what Untangle comes up with in their testing.

    Don

  6. #6
    Untangle Ninja sky-knight's Avatar
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    Default

    Yeah, well here's one that will throw you for a loop...

    Most of the Intel branded switches, the unmanaged layer 2 ones? Those use REALTEK INTERFACES!

    I tore one apart once and my eyes just about fell out of my head.
    Rob Sandling, BS:SWE, MCP
    NexgenAppliances.com
    Phone: 866-794-8879 x201
    Email: support@nexgenappliances.com

  7. #7
    Untangle Ninja
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    Default

    Realtek interfaces can't be so bad, given that they are used in a LOT of pretty serious hardware. But this is one area where I decided to just go with the prevailing wisdom. I ended up making my standard business UT box a little pricier than it had to be by sticking with Intel only, though my UT@home box will use Realtek (if I ever convince any of my clients that they need a $249 firewall router at home).

  8. #8
    Untangle Ninja sky-knight's Avatar
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    Right, and can that unit you have at home keep up with a DOCSIS 3.0 cable line?
    Rob Sandling, BS:SWE, MCP
    NexgenAppliances.com
    Phone: 866-794-8879 x201
    Email: support@nexgenappliances.com

  9. #9
    Master Untangler
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by sky-knight View Post
    Right, and can that unit you have at home keep up with a DOCSIS 3.0 cable line?
    It would probably fall over if I was to download at full speed at home. 50mb cable line

  10. #10
    Untangle Ninja YeOldeStonecat's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by ixeous View Post
    Test:
    iperf -c (server) -t 300 -P 5

    Results:

    Reltec NIC: [SUM] 0.0-300.8 sec 18.2 GBytes 520 Mbits/sec
    Intel NIC: [SUM] 0.0-300.9 sec 19.7 GBytes 563 Mbits/sec

    Other runs showed similar results.
    But what happens in you put a real load on it? Just passing a speed test traffic like it's some Stinksys or Nutgear home grade router doesn't do much for testimony of a WinNIC. Mix in lots of different web traffic, e-mail scanning, QoS being applied to various traffic, bidirectional traffic, in other words...."real world loads of a decent sized business network"...done in layer 7.

    The other part...raise your hand if you like to have your appliances run problem free for at least a year...without the need to reboot them. //looks at all the hands raised around the room.

    Now...raise your hand if you don't mind a call that "the internet is down" every other month or two..and you have to reboot the appliance to bring it back online. //notices that less hands are raised

    Here's a hint...based on experience from building lots of various Untangle boxes....the cheaper NICs....sometimes they'll sorta...like.."fall asleep"...and stop working, and rebooting Untangle is the way to wake them up again. Stick with the good Intels or higher server grade Broadcoms ....and they'll run 24x7x365 for ya!

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