3CX Phone System and ATOM N270 Processor Benchmarking

Many businesses who are adopting VoIP Software PBX Systems are always looking for a way to cut down costs. That’s where the Intel Atom N270 comes in the picture, which is  designed to deliver performance with minimal power usage. In addition many of our partners have requested the ability to put together a low cost dedicated server based on an Intel Atom.  The Intel Atom N270 can be found in many low cost servers and these can be used to create a low cost dedicated 3CX server.  In this post we take a look at such a device, the Allnet FW8888 and run some bench mark tests against it to see how it performs.

Allnet FW8888 Hardware Specifications:

  • CPU: Intel ATOM N270, 1.60 GHz Dual Core (Hyperthreading)
  • North Bridge: Intel 82945GSE, MCH- North bridge Intel 82945GSE, MCH-North bridge
  • South Bridge: Intel 82801GBM, ICH 7M- South bridge Intel 82801GBM, ICH-7M South bridge
  • Expansion: 1xPCI Expansion Card
  • RAM: 2x 1GB DDR
  • Storage: 1x IDE 1x IDE 1x CF 1x CF 2x SATA / Raid 2x SATA / Raid
  • 6 Gigabit LAN controllers: (Yes 6)
  • 1x -Intel 83572EI PCIe GbE Controller miniGBIC (SFP)
  • 3x Intel 82574L PCIe GbE Controller RJ45
  • 2x Intel 825741 PCI GbE Controller RJ45
  • Housing: 19″ Rack / 1HE 19 “Rack / 1U
  • HDD: 250GB SATA
  • PSU: 230V / ATX / 250W Max

We will be focusing on the Atom’s functionality with 3CX, but before doing that, here’s some general information on the Atom’s general performance shown in the Windows Experience Index just to give a quick view of how Windows 7 Enterprise edition rates this device.

Windows 7 Enterprise 32 bit was used instead of Windows XP embedded with which the device shipped. The newer Windows 7 OS is more performant and more flexible because it offers remote access via RDP.

Another thing we did before the start of the test was disable UAC. Reason for this was because every time elevation was required, this spiked up the CPU. Another option is to enable the Administrator account.

CPU usage (IDLE state)
The Idle CPU usage of the Allnet FW8888 with 3CX PBX installed using IIS on Windows 7 Enterprise x86 was fluctuating around 94%-97%.
All 3CX Services at this stage consumed 34Mb of memory. Ultidev Cassini consumed 10Mb of Memory.

Power Consumption
Under normal operation this processor requires only 34 watts. Under full load the device requires 55 watts. In standby mode, the Allnet uses just 1 watt of power.
We have made some benchmarks to see the performance of 3CX on this Atom Processor.

Database messaging/updating Test
First we started testing the management console to see the database processing speed and the communication between the 3CX Configuration service and displaying the end result to Management console/Web interface. To see this we created 1000 extensions, and after deleted them again. This process involves a lot of updates to and from the 3CX Database core informing higher application layers of the changes.
Creating and Deleting 1000 Extensions took 80 seconds.

Registrations involve a high load of processing on any sip server even though we take simple registrations for granted. Registrations involve layers of authentication, re-registrations, keep alives, persistent storage cache, caching of these registrations, registration expiry timeouts etc etc. We were pretty impressed to see that this ATOM processor can handle 1000 extensions re-registering every 3600 seconds. We have increased registrations to 1200 seconds and the CPU spiked badly so it is recommended that the registration interval is set to 3600 seconds.

Call Performance
This benchmark test includes stress testing of Queue Calls, Voip Provider Calls and Normal Extension to Extension calls.
The script was generated as follows – X number of calls were initiated, remained connected passing audio directly between them for 120 seconds and disconnecting all calls at random with an inter-call delay of 10-40 seconds.
Queue Call Performance:

Normal Calls Extension to Extension
Moving on to Normal calls, amazingly enough the Atom managed to reach a staggering 500 simultaneous calls with minimal jittering whilst it could easily do 400 Simultaneous calls with no jitters at all.
NOTE: Features like call recording were not active during these tests and all calls used Re-Invites and Replaces to construct SDP negotiation directly between them. With Recording on, the maximum amount of calls reached were 30 simultaneous calls which is still very impressive.

Incoming/Outgoing calls via a VoIP Provider
Next up are Voip Provider calls. Voip Provider calls are somewhat lightweight and do not take much PBX CPU, the following tests simulated external calls. Due to bandwidth limitations, the calls were restricted to just 20. Also we must keep in mind that VoIP Provider calls are bound to the 3CX Media Server to avoid routing problems and NAT issues. Like this the risk of getting 1 way audio is decreased to 2% only.

20 Simultaneous calls via a VoIP Provider produced no jitters, CPU usage in total was 19% and the total simultaneous calls hit 40.

Theoretically, you would need to make around 90 VoIP Provider calls before the Atom CPU cannot be able to handle the stress anymore and jitters and broken audio symptoms will appear.

Overall, the Allnet FW8888 gave us very good results. The Atom is no match for the Core2Duo however it can still impress.

We can recommend servers with Atom processors for businesses that have a up to 24 Simultaneous Call License.

Please note that there are many types of Atom processors. The older, slower models are NOT suitable!

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  1. Igor Snezhko

    Wow! Thank you! Great info!!

    February 26, 2010 at 8:38 pm
  2. Nice test. We will test a small server with an atom D510 soon. For smaller installation this is a very good way to use a dedicated 3cx server. The server we want to test is silent and has a very small dimension: 300 x 217 x 74mm. And it would be available for under 1500 € with W7 Pro license and 3CX SBS license. So it would be cheeper than other comparbale solutions.

    February 26, 2010 at 8:43 pm
  3. Actually, the N270 is the single core. The 330 is the dual core. Good article though. We use an N270 for our demo kit system.

    February 28, 2010 at 10:57 am

    What tool did you use benchmarking?
    Have you tested with Windows 2008

    March 5, 2010 at 4:45 am
    • There is no need to Windows 2008 and on an ATOM appliance with 2 gig ram its not possible anyway. The point here was to make a server with low cost spec and make it run with a low cost version of Windows

      March 5, 2010 at 12:29 pm
  5. Good point from Sunstate about the difference between N270 vs N330. The N330 and ION chipsets are twice as fast in benchmark tests at tasks like Audio Encoding. And the N330 platform is widely available in mini itx formfactor (example Shuttle X27D) which require ultra-low power. We will be offering this platform with a small SSD drive and Win 7 Pro 32 bit as an cost-effective,eco-friendly, performant, dedicated 3CX solution which is perfect for most of our core SMB/SME clients.

    Excellent article!

    March 8, 2010 at 5:33 am
    • Great, thanks for this feedback

      March 8, 2010 at 12:37 pm
  6. Igor Snezhko

    It would be interesting to see tests of 3CX with Skype gateway on the same Intel Atom machine.

    March 8, 2010 at 4:56 pm