Shunra's network-testing crystal ball gets better
VE 4.0 adds much-needed automation, new features to WAN simulation engine
For IT, playing the “what if” game to predict how a new CRM application would behave over the corporate intranet used to require a stack of equipment and load of patience. With Version 4.0 of Shunra Virtual Enterprise (formerly Shunra Storm) much of the tedious trial and error is handled for the tester.
This version of Shunra’s hardware and software bundle wraps some much-needed testing automation around its excellent WAN simulation engine, providing an easier way to test application response across a wide range of WAN scenarios. Also new is a reporting module that does a great job of showing detailed information about each test run, and stellar integration with load testing tools.
I’ve had the luxury of running a Shunra appliance in my lab for a couple of years, and I can attest to how absolutely useful it is when reviewing network hardware or applications. Most recently, I used Shunra Storm 3.5 to test WAN optimization/acceleration appliances, and the emulation consistency is superb. I could create various WAN links with all of their link faults and simply load them up whenever I need them. One thing that was lacking in the old version was a way to automate testing over a range of test conditions, so I was happy to see this addressed in the 4.0 release.
Installing the 3U Shunra VE appliance is straightforward: Connect the management port to your local network, and your test clients and servers to the other available interfaces. My test unit came equipped with four 10/100Mbps copper Ethernet ports and two 1Gb Fiber SC ports. (You can also get the software on its own, as Shunra VE Desktop, which may be an alternative for small companies with simple WAN simulation needs.)
New to this release, Shunra’s software requires MySQL to keep track of test results. It’s included as part of the software installation, but I had trouble installing it on a Windows XP Pro PC that had a previous MySQL driver. I finally got it installed on a clean XP PC without any trouble.
Shunra’s magic starts with VE Modeler. VE Modeler uses Microsoft Visio as its drawing board for the test topology, and has custom Visio shapes to define end points, multi-network gateways, QoS gateways, and WAN clouds. All of these symbols have user-definable properties so that they accurately represent each part of the WAN to be tested. For instance, the WAN cloud defines latency, packet loss and other link faults, and the gateways define link speeds, queuing options, and bandwidth utilization. IT can link any number of symbols to create as simple or complex a WAN simulation as needed.
This release features a couple of new shapes that really spice up WAN simulation. The Packet Modifier shape dynamically changes the contents of the data packets as they pass through the Shunra VE. Settings in Packet Modifier, like MAC (media access control) address, IP address, and port, allow IT to test for data integrity as well as application performance.