The TL;DR version
Watch this ASCII cast or this video - then come up with any reasons why this is happening. The text description that follows provides more context.
Details of the setup
- Machine 1 is an Arch Linux laptop, on which
sshis spawned, connecting to an Armbian-running SBC (an Orange PI Zero).
- The SBC itself is connected via Ethernet to a DSL router, and has an IP of 192.168.1.150
- The laptop is connected to the router over WiFi - using an official Raspberry PI WiFi dongle.
- There's also another laptop (Machine 2) connected via Ethernet to the DSL router.
Benchmarking the link with iperf3
When benchmarked with
iperf3, the link between the laptop and the SBC is less than the theoretical 56 MBits/sec - as expected, since this is a WiFi connection within a very "crowded 2.4GHz" (apartment building).
More specifically: after running
iperf3 -s on the SBC, the following commands are executed on the laptop:
# iperf3 -c 192.168.1.150 Connecting to host 192.168.1.150, port 5201 [ 5] local 192.168.1.89 port 57954 connected to 192.168.1.150 port 5201 [ ID] Interval Transfer Bitrate Retr Cwnd [ 5] 0.00-1.00 sec 2.99 MBytes 25.1 Mbits/sec 0 112 KBytes ... - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [ ID] Interval Transfer Bitrate Retr [ 5] 0.00-10.00 sec 28.0 MBytes 23.5 Mbits/sec 5 sender [ 5] 0.00-10.00 sec 27.8 MBytes 23.4 Mbits/sec receiver iperf Done. # iperf3 -c 192.168.1.150 -R Connecting to host 192.168.1.150, port 5201 Reverse mode, remote host 192.168.1.150 is sending [ 5] local 192.168.1.89 port 57960 connected to 192.168.1.150 port 5201 [ ID] Interval Transfer Bitrate [ 5] 0.00-1.00 sec 3.43 MBytes 28.7 Mbits/sec ... - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [ ID] Interval Transfer Bitrate Retr [ 5] 0.00-10.00 sec 39.2 MBytes 32.9 Mbits/sec 375 sender [ 5] 0.00-10.00 sec 37.7 MBytes 31.6 Mbits/sec receiver
So basically, uploading to the SBC reaches about 24MBits/sec, and downloading from it (
-R) reaches 32MBits/sec.
Benchmarking with SSH
Given that, let's see how SSH fares. I've first experienced the problems that led to this post when using
borgbackup - both of them using SSH as a transport layer... So let's see how SSH performs on the same link:
# cat /dev/urandom | \ pv -ptebar | \ ssh email@example.com 'cat >/dev/null' 20.3MiB 0:00:52 [ 315KiB/s] [ 394KiB/s]
Well, that's an abysmal speed! Much slower than the expected link speed...
(In case you are not aware of
pv -ptevar: it displays the current and average rate of data going through it. In this case, we see that reading from
/dev/urandom and sending the data over SSH to the SBC is on average reaching 400KB/s - i.e. 3.2MBits/sec, a far lesser figure than the expected 24MBits/sec.)
Why is our link running at 13% of its capacity?
Is it perhaps our
# cat /dev/urandom | pv -ptebar > /dev/null 834MiB 0:00:04 [ 216MiB/s] [ 208MiB/s]
Nope, definitely not.
Is it perhaps the SBC itself? Perhaps it's too slow to process? Let's try running the same SSH command (i.e. sending data to the SBC) but this time from another machine (Machine 2) that is connected over the Ethernet:
# cat /dev/urandom | \ pv -ptebar | \ ssh firstname.lastname@example.org 'cat >/dev/null' 240MiB 0:00:31 [10.7MiB/s] [7.69MiB/s]
Nope, this works fine - the SSH daemon on the SBC can (easily) handle the 11MBytes/sec (i.e. the 100MBits/sec) that it's Ethernet link provides.
And is the CPU of the SBC loaded while doing this?
- network-wise (as per
iperf3) we should be able to do 10x the speed
- our CPU can easily accommodate the load
- ... and we don't involve any other kind of I/O (e.g. drives).
What the heck is happening?
Netcat and ProxyCommand to the rescue
Let's try plain old
netcat connections - do they run as fast as we'd expect?
In the SBC:
# nc -l -p 9988 | pv -ptebar > /dev/null
In the laptop:
# cat /dev/urandom | pv -ptebar | nc 192.168.1.150 9988 117MiB 0:00:33 [3.82MiB/s] [3.57MiB/s]
It works! And runs at the expected - much better, 10x better - speed.
So what happens if I run SSH using a ProxyCommand to use nc?
# cat /dev/urandom | \ pv -ptebar | \ ssh -o "Proxycommand nc %h %p" email@example.com 'cat >/dev/null' 101MiB 0:00:30 [3.38MiB/s] [3.33MiB/s]
Works! 10x speed.
Now I am a bit confused - when using a "naked"
nc as a
Proxycommand, aren't you basically doing the exact same thing that SSH does? i.e. creating a socket, connecting to the SBC's port 22, and then shoveling the SSH protocol over it?
Why is there this huge difference in the resulting speed?
P.S. This was not an academic exercise - my
borg backup runs 10 times faster because of this. I just don't know why :-)
EDIT: Added a "video" of the process here. Counting the packets sent from the output of ifconfig, it is clear that in both tests we are sending 40MB of data, transmitting them in approximately 30K packets - just much slower when not using
ncuses line buffering, whereas
sshhas no buffering. So (or if so) the ssh traffic involves more packets.