Tester Stresses Web Sites

Spirent gear mimics real trouble.

Spirent Communications LLCs latest WebAvalanche appliance/ software combo provides an easy-to-use way for ISPs and enterprise Web sites to test Web performance in Layers 4 to 7.

The upgraded WebAvalanche 2200 capacity assessment appliance is priced from $19,500 and gains a new, streamlined form factor. The 2200 runs a hardened edition of the FreeBSD operating system and offers new testing capabilities and clustering features. The WebAvalanche 5.0 software supports most standard Web protocols.

eWEEK Labs tests showed the WebAvalanche system will enable network equipment vendors, ISPs and large enterprises to assess device, application and overall infrastructure performance using client loads that simulate real-world conditions—without the need to set up arrays of client PCs or test servers.

A single WebAvalanche setup can simulate 1 million simultaneous users and can generate more than 50,000 Web requests per second using HTTP 1.1 with persistent connections.

In tests, we could create client profiles that replicate real-world error conditions, such as packet loss, client-side bandwidth limits and HTTP aborts. We could also create granular, flexible testing methodologies to gauge the way Web sites handle complex Web transactions.

The WebAvalanche 2200 appliance comes in a 2U (3.5-inch) chassis and has dual Intel Corp. 1.4GHz Pentium III processors, 2GB of synchronous dynamic RAM and dual Fibre Channel Gigabit Ethernet ports. It doesnt support copper Gigabit Ethernet ports.

The WebAvalanche 5.0 software supports Microsoft Corp.s Microsoft Media Server, the streaming protocol for Windows Media Server; ISPs can also use WebAvalanche to assess the streaming capacity of server farms running Apple Computer Inc.s QuickTime servers, RealNetworks Inc.s RealSystem Servers or Windows Media Servers.

For even more punishing tests, Spirent offers the Avalanche CL controller, starting at $14,500, which can control 24 WebAvalanche and 24 WebReflector appliances to simulate more than 24 million connected users or more than 1.2 million requests per second with HTTP 1.1—enough mayhem to bring down almost any site.

WebAvalanche 5.0 includes Avalanche Analyzer, a Java-based data-crunching tool that allows testers to easily generate reports and graphs. Analyzer made data analysis much easier in tests; previous versions generated data reports only in Excel.

For testing raw throughput, solutions from Antara.net LLC and Ixia Inc. might be better choices. Antara.nets comparably priced FlameThrower appliance assesses Layers 4 to 7 performance, and the company claims it can simulate 2 million users and 20 million concurrent connections.

Ixias products, including Real World Traffic tester, test Gigabit Ethernet optical and electrical equipment and can assess storage area network performance. Ixia uses a chassis with load module blades to provide a flexible tool that is better for testing network hardware components.
WebAvalance Executive Sumamry

Technical Analyst Francis Chu can be reached at francis_chu@ziffdavis.com.