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What Are Jumbo Frames and Why Is Jumbo Frame Rate Important?

What Are Jumbo Frames and Why Is Jumbo Frame Rate Important?

Network optimization is an endless pursuit. There’s always another way to squeeze a little more performance out of your hardware or lower power consumption just a bit.

In that infinite endeavor, gaining tools and techniques is always important.

If you’re looking for the next way to push your network a little further, then consider using jumbo frames.

Jumbo Frames in a Nutshell

Before we dig into jumbo frames, it might be better to start by explaining frames in general. When digital devices communicate, they send information in little chunks. Typically, those chunks are called packets.

The thing is, a packet is fairly complicated and has a lot of extra information in it to help it get to the right destination and filed correctly and a whole lot more. You can actually break a packet into components, and the component that contains the core information is known as the frame. Frames still have extra information, like a header, but they remove some of the information (mostly the preamble) that you find in a whole packet.

The thing is, the amount of data in a frame can actually vary. You can have larger and smaller frames, and with Ethernet, the standard frame contains up to 1542 bytes in total. But, as you read earlier, some of that information helps to direct the frame. Of the 1542 bytes in a standard frame, only 1500 bytes are really usable. The rest is reserved for essential networking data.

With all of that covered, we can get into jumbo frames. These are any frames that hold more than 1500 bytes of usable data, and generally speaking, they can get up to 9000 bytes in size.

What’s the point of making the frames bigger? It’s pretty simple. You can send more data in fewer frames, allowing you to adjust the frame rate of your connection.

What About Jumbo Frame Rates?

That brings us to the next important point. Jumbo frames carry more data in each frame, so if your transmission runs at the same frame rate, then the jumbo frame setup is effectively a faster connection.

Then again, “faster” is a complicated notion in networking. By some measures, jumbo frames don’t speed up the network because they don’t increase the frame rate. In fact, sometimes the frame rate will go down a little to compensate for the larger frames.

Yet, the larger frames do ultimately send more data per second (as long as your frame rate doesn’t collapse), so the effective bandwidth goes up when you use jumbo frames.

Ultimately, the jumbo frame rate is just the number of frames sent each second when you’re using jumbo frames. The primary reason you even care about this metric is that it can help you keep track of the functionality and efficiency of your network. If you can raise the frame size and lower the frame rate, you can make the network more efficient for data-heavy applications.

When to Use Jumbo Frames

In fact, a closer look at applications will clarify the importance of jumbo frames and frame rates. Jumbo frames shine when overall throughput demand is high, but they struggle when you need faster frame rates, or when there are potential issues with frame size uniformity. You’ll see examples of both below.

High Bandwidth

If you simply need to send as much data as possible each second, jumbo frames can really help. They shine in applications like video streams, file transfers, and backups. These are all applications where the larger frame helps you send a huge volume of data as quickly as possible.

Because each type of connection can use the same frame size and tends to maintain a direct connection with a single device for a long period of time, the potential pitfalls of jumbo frames don’t really emerge.

Low Latency

Those pitfalls do emerge in applications that rely on low latency above all else. These are applications that require real-time responses, such as AI controllers, video games, and safety monitoring equipment.

Jumbo frames don’t necessarily increase latency. In plenty of cases, they can lower it. That said, the larger data totals in jumbo frames exacerbate issues with latency and jitter when they do arise.

Uniform Systems

The last use case has to do with uniform frame sizes. Networks that don’t have dedicated switches often struggle with jumbo frames because some equipment might not support the larger frames. That creates bottlenecks as the frames have to be split into additional packets.

If you keep all of that in mind, you can leverage jumbo frames when the environment is right, and your network will run faster and more efficiently as a result.

Additional Learning Center Resources