Upcloud Cloud IaaS performance tests and initial thoughts

Upcloud General Settings Upcloud Backup Settings Upcloud Firewall Settings

I’ve signed up for Upcloud, a new cloud service provider, and thought I’d put together my initial thoughts into a blog post.

First I, tried to launch trial server with 2GB of RAM, found I could only use 512MB as I was using a free account. That’s fair enough, but still a shame.

On the server creation page, I was presented with a few Linux images I could choose from. I selected Ubuntu 12.04, launched the server and it was available almost instantly.

I logged in as root using supplied password, ran apt-get update and saw using Finnish servers and 140 packages out of date. apt-get upgrade then ran, slowish downloads (<1MB/sec), so took a few minutes to download all the updates, longer than the server took to deploy!

Apt-get upgrade output for download section:
Fetched 134 MB in 2min 47s (800 kB/s)

It then took another few minutes to apply all the updates, as you’d expect, but it does mean an Upcloud server will take a bit longer than you’d think it would to get up and running. There really should be an option to deploy an already updated image.

While that was running, I took a look at the various settings screens (see the screenshots), and noticed the network connection speed details:

Public network connection: 100/100 Mbit/s
Private network connection: 1000/1000 Mbit/s

About 10 minutes after I’d created my upcloud account, the server was running and everything was complete and up to date.

I started testing the server by building wordpress following my own 10 million hits a day with wordpress though these days I prefer using MariaDB instead of default MySQL.

When installing MariaDB, I noticed an error saying “Unable to resolve perftest1”, so I checked /etc/hosts and noticed that the file does not get populated with node’s custom hostname, so I added it there manually.

I was unable to run the command to add a trusted key to APT, the command just hung. After some investigation, this is because upcloud block all but a few destination ports from their trial account, which includes the keyserver. Because of this, I just ignored the security warning when installing MariaDB.

After getting WordPress running without caching, I did a simple blitz.io test of 10 – 100 users over 60 seconds. The CPU maxed out immediately, and I ended up aborting the run at around 80 concurrent users. I don’t know if it’s a shared process usage cap from Upcloud that crippled me, or something else (denial of service prevention?) but performance was worse than I’d expect from even an Amazon Micro instance.

Because of this, I moved on to installing the Varnish cache software, and I retried the same blitz of 10 – 100 users over 60 seconds. There were no problems at all, so I retried with 100 – 250 users, no problems again, 2312.9KB/sec peak network output with 250 concurrent users and 0 errors.

The blitz.io results were:

This rush generated 9,768 successful hits in 1.0 min and we transferred 97.97 MB of data in and out of your app. The average hit rate of 150/second translates to about 13,021,426 hits/day.

The average response time was 59 ms.

This suggests to me that the initial problems I had are some kind of CPU cap on shared processor machines. That’s fair enough, but something you need to be aware of if you’re building on them.

I then moved onto doing some network checks. Upcloud don’t mention their location but the IP address I was given to routes into telecity-edge1-1.uk-lon1.ipv4.upcloud.com. Given that Telecity are one of the best data center operators out there, this is a much more positive sign than I expected, I was worried Upcloud were either running in their own very small building, or had outsourced it to the cheapest provider they could find.

SSD performance check

Testing the SSD performance, I ran the fairly standard simple commands:

hdparm -Tt /dev/vda1

Timing cached reads:   4930 MB in  2.00 seconds = 2465.65 MB/sec
Timing buffered disk reads: 454 MB in  3.01 seconds = 150.75 MB/sec

dd if=/dev/zero of=tempfile bs=1M count=1024 conv=fdatasync,notrunc
1073741824 bytes (1.1 GB) copied, 4.32663 s, 248 MB/s

Next, I cleared the buffer-cache to accurately measure read speeds directly from the device:

echo 3 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches
dd if=tempfile of=/dev/null bs=1M count=1024

1073741824 bytes (1.1 GB) copied, 6.89949 s, 156 MB/s

Now that the last file is in the buffer, repeat the command to see the speed of the buffer-cache:

dd if=tempfile of=/dev/null bs=1M count=1024

1073741824 bytes (1.1 GB) copied, 6.56313 s, 164 MB/s

I’m pretty happy with 150MB/sec, a comparable run on an SSD based server I use with Hetzner gets a very similar result of 170MB/sec.


I manually made a payment of £10, the process was as simple as you get, and was immediately credited to my account, no hanging around, no telephone authorisation steps, etc.

Resizing the server

I decided to upgrade the server to 2GB of RAM, so I could test a dual core machine with 4GB of RAM. I had to shutdown the server before resizing it, but the process itself was immediate. In the future it would be good if you could specify the new size, then trigged an automatic reboot to enable the resizing.

On reboot, I realised I had lost the root password (silly mistake by me!), and there’s no “System Recovery” option, just a VNC console. So I opened the console, rebooted the server, and used grub to enter single user mode, which asked for a root password… I’m sure there’s a way around this, but it escapes my memory for now, so I simply deleted that server and build a second one.

The new larger server came up straight away, I re-installed MariaDB, Nginx, and WordPress as before, and re-ran the blitz test. CPU usage was still 100% after about 50 users, but the response time remained under my defined limit of 5 seconds throughout the test, and no errors were created, a significant improvement over the shared processor server, and a very good result for uncached and untuned WordPress in general!

I then re-installed Varnish, and tested 100 – 500 users over 60 seconds, and was impressed with the network throughput, with no errors and an average response time of 97ms. While that server would be relatively expensive at £53 a month plus bandwidth charges, the performance was very good when compared to a lot of the other cloud providers I’ve tried out.


There’s lots more to picking an IaaS provider than a few quick benchmarks (resilience, on going support, distributed data centers, price, and so on, all come to mind), but I like the fact that Upcloud are taking a different approach of mixing the open-source KVM hypervisor with high-end equipment (the Infinband connects are not going to be cheap).

It may not be the approach for everyone, and it’s not what Amazon are doing, but there’s nothing wrong with looking at things differently, especially if you’re much smaller than your main competition.

Nominet put on hold plans to launch .uk domains

I can’t find a web source for this (Update, very wordy PDF here) , but I just received this email on the Nominet Announce mailing list, announcing they are withdrawing the current proposal to launch bare “.uk” domains, alongside the existing “org.uk”, “.co.uk”, and so on.

Here’s the full email:

Following our Board meeting yesterday, we are not proceeding with our original proposal on ‘direct.uk’ but we will respond to feedback by looking at whether a revised proposal will address issues raised in the recent consultation.

We received extensive feedback from a wide range of stakeholders including formal and informal responses. We listened and carefully considered all the points made. All responses were available to the board, along with a report on the feedback that contained a summary of responses and analysis of the data, which can be seen on our website: http://www.nominet.org.uk/how-participate/policy-development/current-policy-discussions-and-consultations.

It was clear from the feedback that there was not a consensus of support for the direct.uk proposals as presented, with some concerns cutting across different stakeholder groups. Although shorter domains (e.g. nominet.uk rather than nominet.org.uk) were considered desirable, many respondents felt that the release mechanism did not give enough weighting to existing registrants, and could lead to confusion if they could not obtain the corresponding domain.

The objective of raising trust/security was welcomed, but many disagreed with the proposed approach, suggesting that standards should be raised across the whole of the namespace. On individual security features, there was qualified support for options such as DNSSEC, but scepticism about whether the proposed trustmark would be effective. There was significant support for address validation, though some would like us to do more, and others would like us to do the validation process differently. There was clear support that the sale of domain names should be only through registrars who could meet a level of service and data quality.

As a result, we are going to explore whether it is possible to present a revised proposal that meets the principles of increasing trust and security and maintaining the relevance of the .uk proposition in a changing landscape.

Over the coming months, this work will explore:
o A revised phased release mechanism based largely on the prior registrations of domains in existing third levels within .uk and in which contention between different applicants for the same domain name should be reduced or eliminated.
o Measures to improve security across the whole of the .uk namespace. This would include increased focus on encouraging the adoption of DNSSEC.
o A firm focus on registrant verification and some form of UK presence.
o Further investigations into the impact on the SME sector.
o An appropriate pricing model.

The Board plans to review progress at their June meeting, where they would decide whether there is an alternative option that addresses the concerns raised in the consultation. This would be subject to further consultation prior to any final decision being made.

Personally I think this is good news, the current plans were simply too flawed, though I do like the idea of domains like “ewan.uk” in general.

Could Intel licence Atom to Samsung, Apple and others?

Intel Atom Z520 vs1 Cent

The Intel Atom Z520 processor

For years, Intel have dominated the desktop PC processor market, and with it, they’ve taken almost the entire server market, turning their volume manufacturing into a strategic advantage where they can build processors that are faster, cheaper, and more reliable than anyone else.

But today, Intel have a problem. ARM designed processors don’t try to be faster than high-end Intel chips, but they are much cheaper, and consume a lot less power than Intel’s designs have ever needed to before, something becoming crucial in the world of smart phones, tablets, and massive data centers.

Intel have refocused, producing a new generation of Atom chips code named Valleyview, out in early 2014, designed to fight back against these ARM chips in the areas of power usage, performance, and price.

The problem for Intel is that the companies using these new ARM chips don’t buy the completed chips from ARM, they just licence a design, and can build the entire chip themselves, or buy it from a number of different suppliers. For the largest of manufacturers, like Samsung and Apple, this means chips made exactly how they want them, to their own specifications, all built in their own dedicated factories or through suppliers which operate on extremely low profit margins.

For example, the new Google Nexus 10 tablet is built by Samsung, and consists of almost entirely Samsung built components, including the ARM designed processor, the memory, and the storage, giving them the ability to bring costs down to previously unheard of levels.

So how do Intel compete against this? The last thing Intel want is to start selling what used to be a $100 Intel manufactured processor and chipset for $20, but perhaps if they were willing to licence the newest Atom designs to Samsung and Apple, they could cut ARM out of some of the profitable suppliers they’ve picked up recently, and regain the initiative in low powered processor designs.

This would be a big step for Intel, but if there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that the status quo can not remain for long, Intel either have to change, because the world is changing around them.