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

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The Ixia IxLoad system is designed to provide for multithreaded testing of application-aware systems in what Ixia calls a "multiplay" environment. We've chosen a small subset of its capabilities to allow us to run various synthetic traffic patterns (HTTP, FTP, POP, SMTP) and force the devices to examine the traffic with their rules, as well as to exercise the UTM functions as the data passes through those interfaces. The ability to run simultaneously the same traffic through VPN tunnels created by IxLoad and to see how the volume of VPN traffic affects the overall throughput of the device is new and valuable. And thanks to the dedicated embedded computers behind every interface port of the Ixia test hardware, we could run extremely fast test patterns without bumping up against the limitations normally found on traditional computers. If we were to try to duplicate these functions with banks of stand-alone PCs, we would not be able to generate anywhere near the traffic rates achievable on the Ixia system.

[ Read more about InfoWorld's UTM acid test and the Mu test tool: "How to stress a UTM" | "Mu's Internet attacks in a can." ]

Furthermore, the IxLoad system is not merely a "traffic replay" tool. It doesn't just blast away, but keeps track of state. As such, it is a dramatically better model of the real world than other testing tools we've used. Like a real machine, the IxLoad system pays attention to TCP throttling, allowing us to actually see HTTP traffic get out of the way when FTP traffic starts ramping up. But the IxLoad's most useful trick is integrating so many pieces into a single console. Previously, we had to manually correlate performance metrics from a VPN traffic tool, a Web traffic tool, and yet another tool for miscellaneous traffic. If the clocks were even slightly off, we could only estimate the correlation between the different traffic loads. IxLoad allows us to correlate all the various types of traffic in a single report, eliminating the need to set a ballpark figure as we had in previous tests.

We would be remiss if we didn't mention that the Ixia system is extremely modular; you can pick up new testing features simply by licensing more software features. A direct result of having additional intelligence at each port, the Ixia chassis can run specialized tests (voice, video, data) just by changing the software downloaded to each port. You can easily imagine that, in the near future, multiple test chassis from different vendors could be integrated into a single test to come even closer to providing a complete systems simulation.

With the typical enterprise no longer willing to run a homogenous, single-vendor networking environment, IT shops are discovering the need to confirm how their networks will handle major changes involving heterogeneous gear. We could easily see running a combination of "canned" test scripts from the Ixia library to confirm performance expectations before implementing that next big upgrade, not to mention as a way to choose the truly best of breed instead of just hoping that a single vendor can satisfy all your networking needs. Note that the Ixia iSimCity facility rents access to a huge amount of Ixia gear and can run extremely complex simulations you might not normally be able to afford.

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