In Focus Magazine

perfSONAR, the ever evolving performance toolkit

Words: A. Delvaux, I. Golub, Sz. Trocha (PSNC)

The perfSONAR project celebrates 20 years of international collaboration this year. Since the first line of code written in 2001 it has become a world-wide network performance monitoring infrastructure thanks to a successful collaboration of international partners (ESnet, GÉANT, Indiana University, Internet2 and University of Michigan). Recently RNP (the Brazilian NREN) rejoined the development efforts.

Chosen for its flexibility, modularity and continuous support, perfSONAR is extensively used by multiple communities including the WLCG to measure performance of the networking infrastructure used for CERN experiments, GÉANT to measure core network performance and NRENs to asses their connections.

The GN4 project not only participates in this open source software development but also delivers the Performance Measurement Platform (PMP) service based on low-cost hardware nodes with pre-installed perfSONAR software and deployed in GÉANT collaborating organisations in Europe and Africa. The project is also contributing to global training and documentation efforts and providing users’ support and expert consultancy.

With its modular architecture and a key component called pScheduler, used for scheduling, supervising and archiving measurements, new test types, tools or archiving mechanisms can be easily integrated. Extensions can be added by the community to support specific use cases, even without extensive knowledge of perfSONAR internals. Latest new plugins include DNS and HTTP tests to measure DNS lookup and HTTP request time, helping administrators control the reachability of such services. Among coming developments we can enumerate tools for scanning WiFi’s SSIDs or testing 802.1x network authentication.

Global map of the perfSONAR project
Global map of the perfSONAR project

On our Performance Measurement Platform we use these features to perform regular testing and provide historical data visualization available at The platform is open to NRENs and partners, giving a starting point in performance testing and verification between PMP service instances in NRENs and GÉANT PoPs, as well as stimulating deployment of new perfSONAR infrastructure and measurements. PMP is also continuously exploring new hardware types, currently with Raspberry Pi 4 deployments and automation techniques to effectively manage such a distributed infrastructure.

Aiming at reducing maintenance work and shifting to well established components, the next major version of perfSONAR, 5.0, will be running with an ElasticSearch backend. This move will enable users to build versatile dashboards containing information coming from different monitoring sources, thereby facilitating correlation of data and events for improved performance troubleshooting. Version 5.0 will be available running on CentOS 7, Debian 10 and Ubuntu 18, while the developers are working on supporting newer operating systems like Alma, Rocky Linux and Ubuntu 20. The currently released production level perfSONAR software is 4.4.1, from early September 2021.

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