In our lab environment, we have now reached up to 28 Mbps on our HW-large machine with a Xeon E3 having 8 MB of cache, by using the Intel DPDK library and drivers. This means about 14 Gbit/s with 64 byte packets, which translates to a theoretical mind-blowing 340 Gbit/s with 1518 byte packets! Note that this is with a standard x86-based server and a software-based test solution.
With these incredible speeds from standard-based PC/server hardware, I believe that the more expensive and tailored hardware-based test instruments will be phased out in the future.
The interest in increasing the performance of standard hardware is mainly driven by the NFV and SDN revolution, where it might not be possible to connect test instruments to physical ports in a chain of virtual switches. At the same time, the need to be able to generate traffic at high speeds to verify a network will of course still remain, making this development necessary.
The speeds we have now seen are therefore of high interest to us, and will form the basis for our future work in the area. The next step is to modify our traffic generation tool with this support, so that we are ready to provide the optimal testing tool as network operators start to evaluate software-based networks in their labs and during field trials.