In the 1990s, the monopoly on wired telecommunications infrastructure in South Africa created an army of die-hard network engineers who were well known as the masters of squeezing the last byte out of a Diginet line. These were the days of hardware compression systems to maximise the use of the limited resource and network emulators to verify how applications would perform across the same constrained network links.
Those days were quickly forgotten once high-scale network bandwidth became widely available, eventually even to home users via fibre (FTTH). Which begs the question: whether there is still a use case for network emulators. Interestingly, as network capacity has grown, so has network complexity and, with it, the number of use cases for network emulation.
To begin with, the traditional use case of testing user experience of applications in locations where users don’t have access to a decent network connection still very much exists. Banks, for example, have been on a huge drive to reach the “unbanked”. While those in urban areas with 3G, 4G or 5G speeds enjoy banking on their mobiles from the comfort of their armchair, millions of users are keeping their hard-earned cash under the proverbial mattress because such mobile banking services just weren’t tested over lower-speed connections and are thus rendered unusable to potential users in rural areas.
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Similarly, army, air force and government departments, including tax and port authorities, require systems to be available in remote locations where at times the only available connectivity is high-latency satellite communications. Online gaming manufacturers also need to know that they can attract users all over the world even when the gaming service isn’t hosted in-country – and again, the performance of such user experiences over high-latency connections can be tested utilising network emulators.
There are so many other last-mile use cases, but clearly the pandemic and working from home has further created the need to test minimum requirements for online services and VPN sessions.
Therefore, if an application provider of any online service wants to ensure it works for users connected over less-than-ideal connectivity options, then such providers need to test those applications for such conditions and network impairments. The Calnex NE-ONE Professional network emulator is the ideal candidate for QA teams to test these use cases. It allows network novices and network experts alike to quickly and easily recreate a wide range of realistic networks, including LAN, WAN, Internet, cloud, Wi-Fi, (A)DSL, mobile and satellite in order to verify application performance.
The decentralisation of services has brought with it requirements to understand users’ experience, not just to centralised services anymore either. Understanding performance of applications hosted in distributed data centres and those in cloud-hosted services is imperative for any successful data centre or cloud migration project. Besides the user experience that needs to be as good or better after a data centre move, east-west traffic and the impact of network impairments on such traffic also needs to be considered by network engineers.
Lastly, network technology and architecture has undergone multiple iterations of change to enable a more cost-effective and flexible use of the network resource, while establishing mechanisms to provide higher quality of service. Many South African corporate networks have moved from static Diginet lines to Frame Relay, then to Asynchronous Transfer Mode, then to Multiprotocol Label Switching, and ultimately to a mix of network technologies, overlayed with software-defined networking (SDN). Most organisations will make use of SDN providers these days, but testing their applications over such networks remains elusive as most providers don’t have a sufficiently representative test network. Similarly, selecting appropriate edge SDN equipment is usually done by means of a proof of concept of such equipment, but such testing should never be done in the production network. Hence a virtual test network is once again required to provide a repeatable set of test network conditions and impairments so that network engineers can objectively compare different network devices that underwent the same set of tests with the same range of conditions. This is where the Calnex NE-ONE Enterprise comes into its own.
Leading the way
Backed by ISO 9001:2015 certification for the development and provision of software-defined test network products and associated support, the redesigned NE-ONE Enterprise edition is leading the way in network emulation.
The complete range of NE-ONE network emulators provides easy setup, sample configuration templates, saving of custom setups to templates for future use, and a host of different impairment capabilities including bandwidth constraints, packet loss, high latency or packet delay variation. An intuitive graphical interface makes setups of emulated networks a breeze and numerous form factors of physical emulators with various feeds and speeds, as well as a Certified Virtual Appliance for ESXi Server emulator, are available.
Clearly, the use cases for network emulation by both QA and network teams has only grown. Fortunately, so has the range of solutions underpinned by support and services from IT Ecology.
About IT Ecology
Founded in 2004, IT Ecology made it its mission to provide technical testing and monitoring competencies to the sub-Saharan African market that excel at delivering against unique customer requirements. Our low staff turnover ensures that vital experience and IP remains in the organisation while fostering a culture of learning for newer team members. Coupled with a can-do attitude, our team has delighted our customers again and again, exceeding expectations. Customers call upon IT Ecology as the solution thinkers and advisers.
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