Stress Management for Large Networks

eLABorations: With detailed client profiles and a battery of real-world tests, the WebAvalanche 4.0 covers new ground

As my recent tests showed, Caw Networks WebAvalanche 4.0 appliance stands out from competing network stress testers because it can simulate real-world testing scenarios better than the rest.

The WebAvalanche appliance creates client profiles that mimic Internet problems such as packet loss, connection resets and bandwidth limitations. In doing so, it provides IT managers with a more accurate assessment than its competition of how a given Internet infrastructure would react to real-world situations.

The WebAvalanche 4.0, released in April, is a useful tool but it doesnt come cheap: The base price is $19,500 and pricing can go up to $39,500 as streaming media and FTP testing options are added. However, this is an instance where you get what you pay for: The appliance enables sites to perform comprehensive tests without the need for multiple test clients to generate workloads, which can be quite costly to set up.

In addition, this easy-to-use appliance doesnt require software to be installed on test systems, enabling IT managers to configure and launch tests easily using a Web interface.

Caw Networks extended the WebAvalanches testing capability in Version 4.0 by adding support for RTSP (Real Time Streaming Protocol), RTP (Real-time Transport Protocol) and FTP. With the addition of RTSP/RTP support, the WebAvalanche can be used to test large server clusters running streaming media applications such as Apple QuickTime or Real System.

Although the WebAvalanche does not support Microsofts Windows Media Server, another streaming media format, support for Windows Media Server should be available in the next release, Caw officials said.

The WebAvalanche is capable of generating workloads in excess of 20,000 HTTP requests per second with support for HTTP 1.0 and 1.1 persistent connections. It can also simulate SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) transactions and cookie requests.

Caw Networks Inc. is not the only stress-testing hardware vendor, of course. Antara.Net, Ixia and Spirent Communications also provide networking testing devices. Antaras FlameThrower appliance is the most direct competitor to the WebAvalanche in that it targets Web infrastructure testing. Ixias and Spirents products are targeted at testing network hardware such as routers and switches, although both vendors have begun to develop tools to test other things, including SANs. Technical Analyst Francis Chu can be reached at