Tara van Unen, senior manager of market development at Ixia (www.ixiacom.com), says:

Data centers are undergoing a tremendous evolution in an effort to improve infrastructure efficiency, flexibility and cost-effectiveness, as well as to streamline cloud computing and high performance computing (HPC) services. Key trends include I/O consolidation, server virtualization, integration of higher speed Ethernet, and convergence of Internet storage and HPC traffic over a unified Ethernet network.

Testing next-generation data center switches, servers, CNAs (converged network adapters), and storage using a single unified test platform is critical to ensuring that the infrastructure is reliable, secure and scalable, and that the goal of resource optimization and improved flexibility is actually realized.

Given the nature of the evolving data center, which includes multiple vendors, new paradigms such as virtualization and clould computing, and massive increases in media-rich traffic, testing is one of the top priorities. Network designs that don’t meet end-user needs or included hidden bottlenecks can negatively impact the enterprise bottom line, whether it’s from loss of customers or over-taxing limited resources.

Testing all of a data center’s components and services can be a daunting challenge. In general terms, data center operators must be able to intuit performance and functionality using:

  • Internet and server-to-server traffic using a realistic mixture of north-south and east-west data center traffic
  • Real storage traffic with target and initiator emulation to test I/O performance in a converged environment
  • Heavy data movement between VMs (virtual machines)
  • The functionality, performance, scalability and robustness of key technology protocols
  • Fully integrated energy consumption measurements correlated with network load

Through testing that simulates real-world traffic mixes, user types, and data levels are required to fully stress a network design. Such testing must be done pre-deployment, so that the impact of network upgrades or overhauls aren’t apparent to the user or affect their quality of experience.

Any testing solution must both be simple to configure so that testing doesn’t require an engineer; cast a wide net so that it can morph as user needs change; as well as work from a single platform so that major network upgrades don’t require a forklift testing upgrade as well.

Ixia is a leader in network and services testing, and provides a wide range of test applications and hardware that cover most networking scenarios and speeds.