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Understanding WAN Simulation and Network
Testing Tool Alternatives
Gartner RAS Core Research Note G00144685, Will Cappelli, Debra Curtis, 2 April 2007 R2280 04242008
Proactive use of WAN simulation and network testing
technologies early in the development life cycle of new Web-
based and composite applications can better predict “real world”
• New Web-based application architectural styles make it more likely that different
application components will wind up on different ends of a WAN link and that the
execution of the application’s logic will require a complex pattern of network link
• Centralization of applications increases the likelihood that end users will experience WAN
latency as transactions traverse continents and oceans during the course of their
• The testing and quality assurance phase of the application development life cycle has
become more important, and there is a premium on any technology that can do more to
reveal the real-world performance characteristics of applications being tested in a
virtualized test bed.
• Use WAN simulation and network testing technologies to accurately predict how
applications will perform once they are released on the production network.
• Network engineering and capacity planners should get involved earlier in the application
life cycle, and introduce WAN simulation and network testing to the quality assurance lab.
Although the prospect of new network traffic types, such as voice over IP (VoIP) and IP
television (IPTV), have fueled a slow but steady growth in the demand for WAN simulation and
network testing technology during the past two years, a recent acceleration in that growth
has been sparked by a convergence of application architecture and testing trends. We,
however, anticipate a significant acceleration in demand growth as a result of the following
four trends: modular architectures, globalized applications, increasing importance of testing
and quality assurance (QA) and virtualized test labs.
Application Architecture Trends
• Modular architectures. New Web-based architectural styles, such as service-oriented
architecture (SOA), representational state transfer and Ajax, are encouraging the
hyperfragmentation of application code. The more modular a given architecture, the more
likely that different components will wind up on different ends of a WAN link and that the
execution of the application’s logic will require a complex pattern of network link traversals.
network architects, network planners and QA/test professionals to The Future
profile the application and examine how network behavior and The WAN emulators for application testing most directly provide
application performance change in the model when new users or answers to the forces driving the new acceleration in demand for
new applications are added or when different network technologies WAN simulation and network testing functionality, although all three
with different latency characteristics are inserted. Model-based tools types of tools are being deployed in application QA settings.
are most often used to examine high-impact, mission-critical Indeed, we anticipate that, during the next year to 18 months,
applications and to judge the broader impact of planned vendors of the other types of tools will take some steps toward
infrastructure changes or application restructuring. Opnet’s IT Guru integration with application testing tool suites and that the
software is a representative and market-share-leading product of analytical modeling packages will add application data types to
this description. Compuware’s Vantage Predictor is another their metamodels. In addition, we expect that vendors in one
example. At the low end, Network Instruments Observer can category will expand their functionality to cover other categories in
perform some limited “what if” analysis for a very reasonable price. an integrated suite-style solution. We have mentioned the vendors
in their primary categories, but there are already some that have
Network traffic generators – Tools of this type are focused on begun the migration to cover additional categories.
testing network devices and the end-to-end performance of
networks, within which WANs make up a significant percentage of Beyond the need for WAN simulation technologies, the
the fabric. They work by generating actual network traffic load hyperfragmentation of application architectures signals the need for
according to scripted protocol or application messages. They can a new culture that integrates the disciplines of application
mimic existing network conditions or create high-traffic conditions development and network architecture design. Although there will
in the safety of a controlled lab environment to assess always be design processes and testing routines that are purely
performance and predict the impact of change. Tools of this type oriented toward network architecture and those that are purely
are sometimes found in conjunction with network protocol analyzer oriented toward applications, there is a gray area in between that,
products, but there are also more-sophisticated, specialized thanks to SOA and other Web-oriented architectural styles, is
products that can generate hundreds of network and application growing rapidly. This will place an increased emphasis on tools that
protocols, sending test messages to network devices to assess can be used in the test lab and then move to the production
their performance characteristics under load and error conditions. environment, providing data that compares pre-deployment
The traffic generator can be configured to generate specific baseline estimates and predictions to actual performance
volumes of network or application traffic, including voice traffic to measurements taken from the live infrastructure where there are
measure end-to-end voice quality across IP networks. other applications fighting over the same resources. This will
require the ability for test data to be integrated with and used by IT
The more-sophisticated (and expensive) products in this category are operations monitoring tools in the production environment.
most often used by network equipment manufacturers and
telecommunications carriers to load-test their network hardware
What You Need to Know
devices, as well as verify the devices’ responses to specific network Network engineers generally bear the brunt of blame when end-
protocol messages. Enterprise network engineers can use traffic user application performance suffers. However, the problem is
generators to stage new network devices in the lab, perform stress often a poorly designed application that doesn’t take into account
testing, measure the response to protocol and application changes the impact of deployment on a global WAN. To prevent the “blame
before they are implemented, and assess the impact on the game” after deployment, it would benefit the network engineer to
infrastructure caused by a mix of applications. This type of tool get involved earlier in the application life cycle and champion the
requires that the actual network devices run in the lab or in production use of WAN simulation and network testing technologies to
to receive the simulated network and application traffic. Example successfully deploy new networked applications with accurate
products in this category include Candela’s LANforge Fire, ClearSight business service-level expectations for performance and availability.
Packet Generator, Fluke Networks’ OptiView Traffic Generation, Ixia
IxChariot, Network Instruments Observer Traffic Generator, Simena’s
Traffic Generator, SolarWinds WAN Killer and Spirent’s SmartBits.
InterWorking Labs’ Maxwell product also has some capabilities in this
category, although it is primarily in the WAN emulation category.
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