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High-Capacity Bandwidth Testing Software?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the how-fast-is-your-link dept.

Networking 32

An anonymous reader asks: "I work for an ISP which specializes in high bandwidth (100+ megabit) fiber-based delivery solutions. As with any other ISP we sometimes have to perform troubleshooting with customers who are reporting slow throughput. We currently have a home-grown bandwidth testing server in order to point-to-point test the throughput across our own network. Unfortunately (fortunately), customers have begun purchasing amounts of bandwidth that are capable of exceeding our testing capacity. Given a multi-gigabit network infrastructure and an on-net server with a gigabit Ethernet port, what software packages are available which can reliably test throughput approaching one gigabit? Cross-browser compatibility and 'click-here-to-test' usability should be considerations."

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Easy (5, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 7 years ago | (#18896557)

Given a multi-gigabit network infrastructure and an on-net server with a gigabit Ethernet port, what software packages are available which can reliably test throughput approaching one gigabit?

You need a fast computer with a large hard-disk and a gigabit ethernet card, tcpdump, a shell, and 12000 monkeys to read the logs.

Re:Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18896779)


Re:Easy (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18896899)

You should be using a dedicated test set. Using a PC running what ever software isn't going to produce accurate results due to several factors:

1) Process speed
2) I/O reads and writes
3) OS (swapping)

Look towards a dedicate unit (test head) with remote capabilities.

DISCLAIMER: I work in the Telecom Industry.

Re:Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18900211)

12000 monkeys?

Is that the new name for Perl?

Ok, the usability isn't great (2, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 7 years ago | (#18896591)

But I'd start with something like pchar, which will tell you the effective bandwidth at each hop on the network. That will tell you how severe the blockage is and, more importantly, where. It's not the "best" tool out there, but it's reasonably non-intrusive (unlike most stress-testing tools) and I've not seen any obvious problems with it at gig speeds. It does need patching for Linux, though. I sent a patch to the maintainer who has sworn he'll someday get around to including it. NetBSD has a faster network stack, though, and is more suitable for such tests. Which I hate, as I prefer Linux, but facts don't change themselves to suit a like.

Re:Ok, the usability isn't great (0, Offtopic)

c0d3h4x0r (604141) | more than 7 years ago | (#18898163)

but facts don't change themselves to suit a like.

George W. thinks otherwise.

Re:Ok, the usability isn't great (1)

Blimbo (528076) | more than 7 years ago | (#18898663)

Totally OT, but hey, I enjoyed your great line, and assuming this quote is public domain *crouch*, I plan to use it frequently both here and at home.

This one:
"but facts don't change themselves to suit a like"

I could not find "a Goggle" for it, so thanx for a great line.

Re:Ok, the usability isn't great (1)

rcw-home (122017) | more than 7 years ago | (#18900559)

"facts bein' stubborn and not easy drove!" -- Mrs Gamp

Re:Ok, the usability isn't great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18901607)

"but facts don't change themselves to suit a like"

It sounds like something from Serenity [] or perhaps the Original series, Firefly. But I don't know.

Really easy (5, Funny)

ceroklis (1083863) | more than 7 years ago | (#18896717)

Put a stash of porn at one end of your network and a slashdotter at the other. That should max out the link.

Network Performance Toolkit (2, Interesting)

freebase (83667) | more than 7 years ago | (#18896737)

The End to End Performance Initiative has a knoppix live CD image you can download that includes test tools that may help. I'm in the process of deploying these tools around my network now.

I've not tried to push a full gig with them (yet), but they seem to work better than anything else I've found so far... lkit.html [] is the URL.

Cheap, easy solution... (2, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#18896759)

Cross-browser compatibility and 'click-here-to-test' usability should be considerations.

Clicking on an infected email attachment should saturate the bandwidth and test the infrastructure thoroughly. Cleaning up the post-testing mess can be painful.

TPTest (5, Informative)

EyyySvenne (999534) | more than 7 years ago | (#18896833)

TPTest [] , an open source test suite from "Post och Telestyrelsen" [] , a division of the Swedish goverment. Even a 200 MHz Pentium MMX running Linux could test a 100MBit/s fiber reliably.

TPTest works nicely (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18896869)

The swedish consumer agency has coded a test for bandwidth testing. It works as far as I know up with 1GB connection, but could probably work with much higher speeds. The project is open source. []

It's a great tool that many of the ISP's in Sweden asks there customers to use before reporting in bad *DSL bandwidth.

Spirent - Smartbits & Avalanche (5, Informative)

quarrel (194077) | more than 7 years ago | (#18896989)

If you're serious about it, you basically need to give in and spend serious $.

The main game in town is Spirent [] .

In the IPS & firewall testing world, they're what everyone uses, but even in lots of load balancing applications etc they're what people use.

There are a few software solutions around that do an ok job, but very few that can do much at decent speed (ie > 400Mbit). I have a pretty crack team of devs, and using hand tuned open source, and home-spun apps, we got by for a few years, but should have given in years earlier and just got a set of Spirent gear. You'll save time.

Their Smartbits line are basically hardware based packet generators, able to blast away for a variety of scenarios.

Their Avalanche line are hardware based full session generators, so you can re-create a web server being hammered by thousands of clients. I just signed a cheque for > $100k for a single pair of avalanche boxes however, so bring your cash box...

You'll probably find Spirent's hw based solutions frustrating, but if you work with others doing similar work they're very widely used, and you can exchange scripts etc..

There is an Irish company that was moving in to this space, and had an ok product, but it was a bit immature when I last tried it. Sorry, but their name escapes me- google should know.


Re:Spirent - Smartbits & Avalanche (1)

krist0 (313699) | more than 7 years ago | (#18897139)

I've used some Ixia gear in the past, not to shabby but cost lots of green []

Re:Spirent - Smartbits & Avalanche (1)

wild_berry (448019) | more than 7 years ago | (#18899889)

You have the crack team of devs -- how hard was it to create a packet-cranking FPGA layout on a Xilinx board with an RJ45 connector? Are these FPGA boards simply not fast enough to dump the data (assuming you're creating data-link layer packets) needed to saturate your network?

Re:Spirent - Smartbits & Avalanche (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18900707)

FPGA probably would not have made it to full Gig-E speed, but as a prototype with Gig-E support, it'd be worth the couple grand to get an ASIC made that could possibly pull it off, and hey, if it didn't work out, it's nothing compared to the check he just cut.

Re:Spirent - Smartbits & Avalanche (1)

g-san (93038) | more than 7 years ago | (#18904941)

Products from Ixia and Spirent and Agilent for that matter can fill up a 10Gb Ethernet connection. Keep in mind this is stateless traffic, there are no ACKs to SYNs or anything like that, but you can definitely saturate the pipes with fairly realistic traffic.

Most of those vendors also offer some sort of portable unit and one-way latency tests. One-way latency is hard, to measure latency you need a transmit time and a receive time so you need the same timing reference at two locations. The vendors accomplish this with NTP or CDMA or GPS time sync. So you can use this gear show your customer the bandwidth of the connection and latency in both directions.

Being an ISP it would not be a bad investment to get a low end tester from one of these companies. They can be used for many other purposes. You can use them to do network simulations against potential designs to debug them before they go into production. Want to know how that next version of the router handles the internet BGP feed with flapping and traffic running through the box? These products will tell you just that.

Hardware (2, Informative)

rhythmx (744978) | more than 7 years ago | (#18897173)

BreakingPoint Systems [] makes network test hardware that can go way beyond 1 Gbps simulations. You can also capture and recreate traffic at high speeds to better simulate a specific users load.

I know! (0)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#18897213)



Re:I know! (1)

Wolfrider (856) | more than 7 years ago | (#18903687)

...wait, what?

Slashdot (3, Funny)

davidbrit2 (775091) | more than 7 years ago | (#18898135)

If you had included a link to one of your web sites with your submission, then you'd already be done.

Half Life! (2, Funny)

Res3000 (890937) | more than 7 years ago | (#18898339)

(Found somewhere on
Oy! Maybe my job does rock.
Da Fluke network tester (a $6000 Gameboy wannabe) was broken today since someone took the lithium batteries out of it and neglected to put them back in the case.
We had to test out the connection between floors 2&4, going through floor 3 in the process.
so I tell da b0ss that the Network tester is dead... And I need to generate network traffic so I can see the stats on the switches and routers, make sure no packets are being killed prematurely.
So he sayz "How much is that tester worth?", I say "6K". He says "Great!".
he picks up his office phone, hits the global annoucement button, and says "Floors Two, Three, and Four, our IT Admin requires that you generate network traffic for equipment testing. Grab Half Life off my network share, I'll host". He hangs up and says "Happy?", I say "that works".
The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to a rather large Half Life MP game on Crossfire :).

you aren't going to do it with one browser (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 7 years ago | (#18898643)

and i bet most PCs aren't capable of it either.

your best bet IMO if you don't want to give the customers any special kit is to host a largeish file on a powerfull server with a good server class PCI-X or PCI-E gigabit ethernet card. Then get them to download it from multiple machines at once. You can then measure the traffic going out of the server (either with software on the server or with your existing infrastructure equipment).

ixia Qtest (1)

transporter_ii (986545) | more than 7 years ago | (#18898895)

Just a couple of weeks ago I needed something to just check LAN speeds, not going out on to the Internet at all. I downloaded a free (not open source, though) bandwidth speed test from [] called Qtest. For free, I thought it was awesome. I don't know if it will do gigabit speeds, but if this software is reflective of the rest of the company's products, it may be a company that can help you.

What Qtest does is let you set up a test server at each end of a pipe. Then you can run tests between the two sites. But the kick-ass part is that you can set it up at different locations and run the tests point-to-point from any of the servers to any of the servers. You can also choose the type of test, sending TCP or UDP data.

Only thing that kind of concerned me is security, as you are loading yet another server at multiple locations.


Re:ixia Qtest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18902051)

I don't know if it will do gigabit speeds
It doesn't. It gets iffy at multi-megabit speeds. It was great for quick tests on dialup connections, but that is about it.

Netperf (3, Informative)

toleraen (831634) | more than 7 years ago | (#18899323)

For testing bandwidth I use Netperf. [] It's free, extremely customizable in the type of data sent (TCP/UDP streams, packet size, IPv4/IPv6, etc), and quite accurate. The program has no trouble generating enough traffic for a 1Gb link, and it's worked well over 10Gb links too. There's no GUI to it, but setting up a script to start it and report the results is pretty trivial.

Do background research first (Shameless plug)! (1)

ahodgkinson (662233) | more than 7 years ago | (#18902321)

Performance measurement of large capacity lines is a difficult problem, and a subject of ongoing academic research. Performance is not constant over time and any sensible guarantee or statement of performance implicitly includes some kind of statistical averaging. Unfortunately, I can't offer you any tools for instant measurements, but can give you some background on the problem, as it applies to a commercial enterprise.

As a start, read this paper:

The Spectrum of Internet Performance []

In the paper the authors argue that by dividing the average packet round trip time (e.g. ping time) by the theoretical round trip time required by an electromagnetic signal over the equivalent distance, results in a dimensionless value that measures the quality of your connectivity to a particular point in the Internet. Cleverly averaging these values for a large number of points gives you a measure for how good your Internet connection is.

Admittedly this is not your exact problem. You're more interested in bandwidth measurements. That said, getting an absolute band measurement for a particular instant in time is probably not going to completely satisfy your customers. And worse you probably want to word your client's contracts so that you actually understand and can deliver on the performance guarantee that you make.

You might want to contact Roberto Percacci [] who is one of experts in the field. He started Europe's first (or at least one of the first) bandwidth exchanges and was instrumental in improving the transparency of bandwidth measurements and performance guarantees. I believe he does consulting in the field and if not, he can at least point you in the right direction. (In fairness, I must admit I'm a friend of his, we met in the mid-80s at MIT when he was doing his post-doc there.)

BTW: Googling on 'percacci internet performance' brings up a number of references to papers that cite Percacci's original paper. You might want to read some of them too.

Good luck!

NDT and Ixia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18902769)

For quick testing customer connections I setup an NDT server. []
It works great in Firefox, but requires a real java installation. The last time I checked, it didn't work at all in IE. My laptop with an integrated Gig-E port gets about 800megs in and 200megs out running XP and 800megs in and 600 megs out running linux. On a shared Gig-E connection here in the office it's usually within a meg or two on repeated tests. I figure that's close enough for testing 10-100meg customer connections. At customer sites it can usually give me the link CIR to within a meg or two. And it'll point out probable duplex mis-matches too.

For more extensive testing we have Ixia Chariot and a pair of their chassis. []
It's expensive and has lots of options. The Voip and QoS modules are coming in very handy right now, but we've had a lot of trouble with support since Ixia took over from NetIQ. The hardware is impressive but they've got Windows XP embedded on it to run the embedded linux systems that run the ports. The software endpoints are available for a variety of OS's. The pricing is based on the number of concurrent pairs you want to use for testing. I'm still not happy about how much we spent (and still spend on maintenance) for this stuff, but my PHB likes the pretty graphs so I guess that's all that really matters. We mostly use it for multi-hour validation testing when new sites and links get installed and sometimes when we need to verify that a vendor has in fact upgraded the bandwidth on a circuit.

Gig Testing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18913311)

Well, rather than re-invent the wheel why not use one of the various testing applications out there, like Acterna (now JDSU) T-Berds. That is what you need.

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