Threat Research

Faster than the speed of steam?

By Darren Turnbull | August 26, 2009

A team of British eccentrics has broken the 103-year-old record for a steam-powered car, previously standing at 127mph. The record now stands at close to 140mph, but with the super heated steam being injected into the turbine at more than twice the speed of sound, there is clearly more to the speed of the car than the speed of the steam.

The good news about all this is that it does give us an excuse to look at the speed of security devices. Picking up your favourite data sheet, you can see speeds quoted based on link speeds, up to values of throughput and maybe even some hint at the packet per second numbers. Of course, these numbers are based on test cases -- and RFC2544 does a good job at defining how to navigate around these claims for network devices introducing the idea of testing based on differing packet sizes. It even suggests packet sizes to use when testing 4M token ring. It was written in 1999, not quite the same longevity as our steam powered car, but not bad.

Complex environments generate increasingly complex test cases and of course with more and more features being consolidated in to a single device the ability to predict the likely performance of that device in all cases can become a real headache, particularly if you are reliant on a general purpose CPU. Providing dedicated hardware elements to offload the more intensive aspects of the performance helps greatly when generating test cases and solution designs. This is not a new idea, but can sometimes be lost in the feature race. Take a look at how hot your steam is....

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