As shown by eWeek Labs tests of web server load balancers from Radware Inc. and Zeus Technology Inc., Antara.nets FlameThrower II can be a formidable testing tool, capable of generating thousands of HTTP connections to stress the device under fire to the limit.
A single FlameThrower chassis is capable of emulating more than 2 million IP connections, easily replacing a testbed with hundreds of networked PCs.
In addition to letting IT managers know the performance limitations of a device before it is implemented, FlameThrower can also help assess a Web infrastructures potential capabilities before money is spent on upgrades.
The FlameThrower II chassis we used, which costs $144,000, has four media modules housing a total of eight 10/100M-bps Ethernet ports and a single system module. FlameThrower I supports HTTP 1.0/1.1, FTP, SMTP and Post Office Protocol 3 protocols for Web and e-mail server testing. Version II gains Secure Sockets Layer/HTTP Secure transaction emulation and firewall/virtual private network testing capabilities with IP Security support.
However, although FlameThrower can be used to gauge the raw performance of devices such as server load balancers, these tests are performed under closed conditions and do not necessarily represent real-world traffic conditions on the Internet. Although it can emulate many IP addresses and different kinds of TCP connections, the FlameThrower cannot emulate Web client latency and bandwidth limits. For example, a client with a 56K-bps modem connection will behave differently from a client using a T-1 connection. Emulating latency due to packet loss over many networking hops is also beyond FlameThrowers capability.
Antara.net officials said the next release of the product will let network managers add client profiling to the test mix for a closer representation of real-world traffic.