Suricata and PCRE performance

Update: Will Metcalf pointed out I was missing the –enable-utf8 –enable-unicode-properties flags from PCRE, so added these & updated the numbers. Thanks Will.

In the Emerging Threats community the following if often heard: “PCRE is evil”. With this people refer to signatures that use “pure” PCRE matches, meaning without anchoring it to a content pattern match.

A while ago Will Metcalf initiated work to get Suricata to support a new PCRE feature by Herczeg Zoltán: SLJIT. Since then, support for this has found it’s way into the official PCRE release, currently at version 8.20-RC3.

I decided to run a quick benchmark to see how much difference there would be. The results are quite amazing. In my test I used an older Intel Core2 E6600 2.4Ghz on Ubuntu 10.10, a 416MB pcap full of badness (sandnet traffic) and a slightly older ruleset of 11.972 signatures.

The results:

suricata, OS default pcre (8.02)...................: 78s
suricata, pcre-8.20-RC3 (no jit), -O2..............: 80s
suricata, pcre-8.20-RC3 (no jit), -O3 -march=native: 72s
suricata, pcre-8.20-RC3 (jit), -O2.................: 53s

I played some more with GCC 4.6.1 and various optimization levels, but this was the best result so far. Quite surprising because in the past I saw some improvements from using the newer GCC over the OS default of 4.4.5.

Want to try the new PCRE without messing up your system?
./configure --prefix=/opt/pcre-8.20-RC3/ --enable-jit --enable-utf8 --enable-unicode-properties
sudo make install

Then recompile Suricata as well:
./configure --enable-pcre-jit --with-libpcre-libraries=/opt/pcre-8.20-RC3/lib/ --with-libpcre-includes=/opt/pcre-8.20-RC3/include/
sudo make install

You’ll need the Suricata code from git to take advantage of this.

Please give it a try, it’s free performance!