MAY 30, 2007 By Meghan Fuller -- Spirent Communications plc (search for Spirent) today introduced a new testing architecture, dubbed 'Inspire,' along with the launch of Spirent TestCenter 2.0. Both the new product and architecture are very much customer-driven, says Spirent. Both were designed from the ground up to increase productivity at each stage of product development and service creation.
Today, service providers and equipment vendors alike face test challenges that tax their current resources, reports Chris Bohrson, Spirent's vice president of marketing. Increasingly concerned about the erosion of their voice revenues, service providers are pushing new services that are several orders of magnitude more complex--and they must deploy them in about a third of the time they used to three or four years ago, says Bohrson. Meanwhile, the equipment vendors are struggling with what Bohrson calls "technology velocity." Like the semiconductor folks, they are trying to integrate more functionality into a smaller footprint at a lower cost with a higher level of quality--and they must do this quickly, often with fewer or less skilled technicians.
For this reason, the TestCenter 2.0 product and Inspire architecture were purpose-built to increase productivity among network vendors and service providers. "The analogy I use is that we had to design a new car," says Bohrson. "The sports cars are designed from the ground up to be different from a sedan. We had to think about it that way. How do we rethink the entire architecture, both hardware and software, in order to really shorten the amount of time it takes people to test and diagnose the problems with network elements or in networks that service providers deploy inside their R&D centers?" he muses.
Spirent's answer is the Inspire Architecture, which features a parallel processing architecture to enable the simulation of large amounts of traffic using multiple protocols. "With all the analysis and testing that has to happen with large, complex devices, [the new architecture] enables us to do things in parallel and not be, essentially, 'tester limited,'" explains Bohrson. "A lot of current generation systems--and I'll put our own and our competitors in that category--are in some ways limited by the ability of the tester to do the test and analyze the results, and we're removing that as a bottleneck."
Based on preliminary work with customers currently using the product in Beta, Spirent believes it can achieve a 50% to 60% reduction in the time it takes to automate and run a test.
The Inspire Architecture features four key capabilities that enable this productivity increase, says the company.
• Extreme Automation: In the past, test engineers had to be experts in a particular software language to write automated scripts or programs. With Inspire's Extreme Automation, engineers can write programs via the graphical user interface (GUI), and that program is then converted into a script through "kind of a one-button process," says Bohrson. As a result, Spirent reports a 40% increase in the speed of execution of tests.
• Hyper Filters: When an engineer runs a test, millions of streams are pumped into network devices to see if it will work properly in real network environments. Is it switching properly? Is it routing properly? Is it performing at the right speed with correctly latency? Spirent's Hyper Filters enable test engineers to analyze data more efficiently.
"In the past, people fumbled around for a long time trying to figure out the best way to look at the data, and these hyper filters allows someone with some expertise to set up a series of filters for less experienced people to say, 'Here's the kind of data you should be looking at,'" explain Bohrson. "The system will give you only that data rather than the millions and millions of streams that come back."
• Real-time control: Using the new architecture, test engineers can modify traffic headers, traffic rates, and size 'on the fly' without having to terminate and restart the test. Moreover, engineers can capture and debug live traffic while tests are running.
• Scalability: According to Spirent, more concurrent users can share a system to run more tests; the multi-threading capability of the Inspire software enables more ports, streams, and protocol sessions to run simultaneously on the system.
The Spirent TestCenter 2.0 is now generally available.
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