Wont You Buy Me a Stress-Test Machine?

By Francis Chu  |  Posted 2001-05-21

At Networld+Interop earlier this month—where the shiny cars in the Mercedes-Benz booth lured attendees away from real technology and attracted far more attention than they should have—I met with a couple of vendors who do their darnedest to bring your Web site and its supporting infrastructure to its knees. With the network stress-testing hardware I saw from Antara.net and Caw Networks, IT managers can assess whether the Web sites they are responsible for can handle real-world Internet traffic, whether firewalls can withstand DoS attacks and whether trouble spots in the infrastructure are limiting network performance.

Antara reps talked about its second-generation product, FlameThrower Version 2.0. Antara was the first vendor to come to market with a Web-traffic emulation appliance that can stress-test Web sites with DoS attacks and HTTP traffic. FlameThrower 2.0 can also emulate FTP traffic and support tests with e-mail protocols such as POP3 and SMTP.

Caw Networks demonstrated how its WebAvalanche system can emulate real-world Web scenarios by simulating problems such as packet loss and connection timeouts and can create client profiles with different connection bandwidths.

By using hardware network testing tools such as FlameThrower or Web-Avalanche, IT managers can stress-test their infrastructure without installing software or setting up multiple test client systems, and they can conduct performance evaluations with a few clicks of the mouse.

I am not saying that every IT manager should rush out and buy these products, because these systems require a significant initial investment and are still in their infancy. However, the ability to assess network capacity with a product you just take out of the box is a great idea. In uncertain economic times, companies that can maintain a robust Internet infrastructure will have an edge, and as these systems mature, they have the potential to help IT managers get closer to that goal.

But Mercedes-Benz at N+I? Give me a break—the dot-com boom has gone bust.

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