Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sometimes You Just Want It To Be Fast

High Performance SSH/SCP - HPN-SSH
On this page:

* Abstract/Introduction
* Patches
* News and Updates
* Theory and Implementation
* Papers and Presenations
* Contact

(PI) Chris Rapier PSC, Michael Stevens CMU, Benjamin Bennett PSC
Are you using HPN-SSH? Please let us know

SCP and the underlying SSH2 protocol implementation in OpenSSH is network performance limited by statically defined internal flow control buffers. These buffers often end up acting as a bottleneck for network throughput of SCP, especially on long and high bandwith network links. Modifying the ssh code to allow the buffers to be defined at run time eliminates this bottleneck. We have created a patch that will remove the bottlenecks in OpenSSH and is fully interoperable with other servers and clients. In addition HPN clients will be able to download faster from non HPN servers, and HPN servers will be able to receive uploads faster from non HPN clients. However, the host receiving the data must have a properly tuned TCP/IP stack. Please refer to this tuning page for more information.

The amount of improvement any specific user will see is dependent on a number of issues. Transfer rates cannot exceed the capacity of the network nor the throughput of the I/O subsystem including the disk and memory speed. The improvement will also be highly influenced by the capacity of the processor to perform the encryption and decryption. Less computational expensive ciphers will often provide better throughput than more complex ciphers.
Performance Gap
With many high bandwidth connections, there is a performance gap between what SSH is capable of and what the network link has the capacity to do. The difference between these two numbers is the performance gap, or the underutilized portion of your network connection. This gap, in most situations, is the direct cause of undersized receive buffers in the SSH congestion control mechanism. The graph below shows the optimal receive buffer versus the effective SSH channel receive buffer for various round trip times along a 100Mbps path

The difference between the red and blue line is, essentially, wasted throughput potential along the path.
Normal vs. HPN SCP Performance
The effect of raising the SSH buffer sizes can be seen in the following chart. The standard SSH throughput, represented by the red columns, closely matches the expected throughput for this path if the receive buffer was limited to 64KB. By increasing the size of the SSH channel receive buffers throughput, represented by the blue columns, improved by as much as 1000%. The variation now seen is due to the complexity of the cipher and the limits of the hard drive.

Clearly, the HPN patches significantly boost throughput performance. This enhancement is entirely from tuning the SSH buffer sizes.

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