Ixia IxLoad's multithreaded testing

Providing flexible traffic generation and simultaneous firewall and VPN testing, the Ixia test tool laid the foundation for our scenario-based test

The reason you can plug in a modern Ethernet switch and expect it to connect to another Ethernet switch of a different brand is a result of the standards created by the IEEE and the IETF. However, it is due to companies like Ixia that network equipment manufacturers are able to test their new products against those standards in a consistent manner. Ixia and its competition (companies like Spirent and Agilent) have spent an amazing amount of time and money developing test systems that can consistently generate repeatable patterns and varying amounts of traffic to test standards compliance. Through these tests, network device vendors can assure their customers that there will be interoperability between their new purchases and legacy equipment.

But it is the ways those tests are configured and run that separate one piece of test equipment from another. Although a network equipment manufacturer may be satisfied with testing a single function at a time, we're not, and neither should buyers of that network equipment. That's why, in the scenario-based testing of network devices conducted for InfoWorld at the Advanced Network Computing Laboratory (ANCL), we run lots of different traffic patterns all at once to more closely simulate the traffic found on a modern enterprise network.

[ When is a UTM not a UTM? Read the overall results of the InfoWorld Test Center's great UTM challenge. Read the reviews: Astaro Security Gateway 425 | SonicWall NSA E7500 | WatchGuard Firebox Peak X5500e | ZyXel ZyWall USG1000 | Compare the UTMs feature by feature. ]

The concept behind these real-world tests is to base traffic patterns on network statistics harvested from ANCL partners around the globe; these are then used as the foundation for traffic rates and patterns in our tests, as in our evaluation of the Astaro, SonicWall, WatchGuard, and ZyXel UTMs. Traditionally, comparative reviews have tested single features in isolation, one at a time. Standard RFC throughput tests were used for LAN to WAN, WAN to DMZ, and LAN to DMZ. Then a second tool was used to measure raw throughput over the VPN tunnels, and finally malware tools were pointed at the firewall. This unrealistic style of testing allowed the firewall to dedicate 100 percent of its resources at each single task. Not surprisingly, the results would overestimate both throughput and the firewall's ability to fend off malware.

Ixia proposed a new tool to us that matches our overall concept of testing many major pieces all at once, allowing us to correlate changes in traffic patterns based upon how the UTM, in our case, manages its resources.

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