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Hadoop with Enhanced Networking on AWS

  • By Hariharan Iyer
  • March 13, 2015


At Qubole, many of our customers run their Hadoop clusters on AWS EC2 instances. Each of these instances is a Linux guest on a Xen hypervisor. Traditionally each guest’s network traffic goes through the hypervisor, which adds a little bit of overhead to the bandwidth. EC2 now supports Single Root I/O Virtualization (called Enhanced Networking in AWS terminology) on some of the new instance types, wherein each physical ethernet NIC virtualizes itself as multiple independent PCIe Ethernet NICs, each of which can be assigned to a Xen guest.

Many resources on the web (such as this and this) have documented improvements in bandwidth and latency when using enhanced networking. Our helpful partner engineers at AWS also mentioned this as one of the low hanging fruits we should investigate. Hadoop is very network I/O intensive – large amounts of data are transferred between nodes as well as between S3 and the nodes – hence it stands to reason that Hadoop workloads would benefit from this change. However – as someone once said, following recommendations based on someone else’s benchmarks is like taking someone else’s prescribed medicine – so we set out to benchmark our Hadoop offering against instances with Enhanced Networking. This post describes data obtained from this study.

Benchmark Setup

Enabling enhanced networking required us to make the following changes to our machines:

  • Upgrade the Linux kernel to 3.14 from 2.6.

  • Use HVM AMIs for all supported instance types, since enhanced networking is only supported on the HVM AMIs

We designed our test setup to understand the performance difference due to each of these factors: the kernel upgrade, movement from PVM to HVM AMIs and using Enhanced Networking itself.

  1. We used the traditional Hadoop Terasort and testDFSIO benchmarks on clusters ranging in size from 5-20 nodes. Qubole also offers Apache Spark and Presto as a Service – and ideally we would have liked to benchmark them against these upgrades as well (and hopefully will be able to do so in future).

  2. There have been some improvements in the KVM and Xen hypervisor stacks in recent versions of the Linux kernel. To exclude performance improvements due to these changes, we tested the PV AMI with both the 2.6 and 3.14 kernels.

  3. HVM AMIs are supposed to be more performant than PV AMIs in general, and to exclude the possibility of this polluting the benchmarks, we tested PV against HVM AMIs (with both on the 3.14 kernel)

  4. Finally we ran the benchmarks for clusters of similar configuration with and without Enhanced Networking enabled.

Thus we can say with reasonable confidence that the benchmarks we obtained for Enhanced Networking are exclusive of benefits obtained by the collateral changes that we made to support it. For brevity, not all the benchmarks between different instance types are listed here. Only a few are listed – sufficient to demonstrate the benefits of the upgrades.

Benchmark Results

PV kernel upgrade

With the new 3.14 kernel, we saw ~32% improvement in TeraGen and ~5% improvement in TeraSort times.

testDFSIO, 20 files of 10GB each, with 5 m1.xlarge slaves
Benchmark 2.6 kernel 3.14 kernel Change (%)
testDFSIO Write
Throughput MB/sec 14.8215218279145 16.2628995286198 9.72%
Average IO rate MB/sec 15.4801158905029 16.434175491333 6.16%
Time taken (s) 901.817 725.172 -19.59%
testDFSIO Read
Throughput MB/sec 6202.12733 7170.514843 15.61%
Average IO rate MB/sec 7031.760742 8717.21875 23.97%
Time taken (s) 24.7 23.287 -5.72%

PV vs HVM virtualization

In these tests, both the clusters were running instances with the new 3.14 Linux kernel. HVM AMIs gave us ~10.5% improvement in TeraGen and ~13% improvement in TeraSort times as compared to their PV counterparts.


testDFSIO, 20 files of 5GB each, with 5 m3.2xlarge slaves
Benchmark PV AMI HVM AMI Change (%)
testDFSIO Write
Throughput MB/sec 17.53389302 19.31770634 10.17%
Average IO rate MB/sec 18.33335686 20.04224205 9.32%
Time taken (s) 376.843 348.93 -7.41%
testDFSIO Read
Throughput MB/sec 3296.304842 3389.141192 2.82%
Average IO rate MB/sec 4763.108887 5134.731445 7.80%
Time taken (s) 22.513 20.492 -8.98%

Enhanced networking

Enhanced networking only works in VPC environments, so these tests were performed by running one cluster in a VPC, and another in EC2 classic. Also in our testing, we found that the maximum benefit of this feature was obtained in instances that support 10Gb ethernet (c3.8xlarge, r3.8xlarge and i2.8xlarge). Hence we are capturing the benchmark results against c3.8xlarge instance types here:

We found that Enhanced Networking gave us an impressive ~29.2% improvement in TeraGen and ~20.45% reduction in TeraSort times.

testDFSIO, 160 files of 3GB each, with 5 c3.8xlarge slaves
Benchmark Cluster in EC2-Classic Cluster in VPC Change (%)
testDFSIO Write
Throughput MB/sec 11.3076844 26.64146881 135.60%
Average IO rate MB/sec 14.81562042 26.99263 82.19%
Time taken (s) 562.802 152.548 -72.89%
testDFSIO Read
Throughput MB/sec 2086.854901 4705.882353 125.50%
Average IO rate MB/sec 3664.107422 5546.874023 51.38%
Time taken (s) 26.447 18.444 -30.26%


Based on this study we concluded that:

  • The upgraded Linux kernel benefits both PV and HVM AMIs. We have, therefore, upgraded the kernel on all our AMIs.

  • Where supported, the HVM AMI is more performant than the PV AMI for Hadoop workloads. We now use the HVM AMI for m3 and c3-type instances as well. These were earlier using PV AMIs.

  • Enhanced networking offers significant performance benefits for Hadoop workloads on some supported instance types

In other cases – the benchmarks indicated that there were no significant performance improvements:

  • Enhanced networking on instance types that do not support 10Gb ethernet. On these, the improvement in TeraGen/Sort was not significant. Enhanced networking is enabled on these instance types as well, so it is possible that your particular workload may see some benefits.

  • Placement groups – although placement groups are supposed to improve network performance further by offering full-bisection bandwidth and low-latency connections between instances, we did not observe significant benefits to using these over and above enhanced networking. One possible reason for this could be that with smaller cluster sizes, the probability of the nodes being co-located is pretty high anyway.

Enhanced Networking upgrades in QDS

For users of QDS – if you’re using one of the instance types supporting enhanced networking in a VPC for your cluster slaves – good news, you’re already using all these improvements in your Qubole cluster! Note that machine images for all cluster types (Hadoop, Spark and Presto) have been upgraded. For others:

  1. if you’re using one of the older generation instance types that only support PV AMIs, you still get the benefit of the upgraded Linux kernel

  2. if you’re using an instance type that supports enhanced networking, but your cluster is not in a VPC, you can easily configure your cluster to run in a VPC to avail the benefits of enhanced networking.

  3. if you’d like to switch to a newer instance type to use enhanced networking, we recommend you test your workload (partially or completely) against a new cluster before you make the switch. Your Mileage May Vary with respect to the performance benefits.

If you need any help with making any of the above changes, please contact us and we’d be glad to help!

2 thoughts on “Hadoop with Enhanced Networking on AWS”

  1. Sean says:

    Quick question: Where was HDFS for the Terasort? (Instance storage, EBS or S3)

    Thanks for the thorough analysis!


    1. Hariharan Iyer says:

      Hi Sean – HDFS was on instance store for all the tests.

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