Network Simulation

Network simulation encompasses a variety of concepts, but it mainly involves two types of simulators: software programs that simulate the interaction of network devices and equipment to create a network with real data, and software programs that test the end-to-end application behavior on different network designs.
 
The former type of simulator is commonly used to study the real-world effects on an application or device in a lab environment by emulating various wide area network conditions. Meanwhile, the latter type of simulator, also known as network emulation, is used to test application performance with real data.
 
To ensure a complete network simulation, several equipment pieces are necessary, including a stream replicator, network emulator, and VoIP/video generator and analyzer. The stream replicator accepts multiple input streams, replicates them, modifies their header fields, and outputs them up to line rate capacity, allowing for the emulation of different types of streams. The network emulator, the core element of network simulation, has several functions, including interfaces, filtering, impairments, network metrics, and routing, which help to simulate the effects at the edge of the network. The VoIP/Video generator and analyzer generates a range of traffic types, performs stateful generation to stress the targeted device in an actual interaction, and conducts network analysis to measure the quality of VoIP or video conferencing calls impacted by the emulated network.
 
Overall, the goal of network simulation is to test as close to the real world as possible, in order to minimize deployment issues and maximize revenues. Examples of network simulator applications include enterprise networks, satellite networks, networks with remote data centers, service provider networks, networks with cloud-based elements, and application-based networks such as video delivery services.
 
On the right are two diagrams: a typical multi-play (voice, data, video) network and some of the elements to provide a complete network simulation.
 
The network simulator diagram includes the following simulation elements: stream replicator, network emulator, and video/VoIP generator and analyzer. There are certain key aspects of each piece of equipment to ensure a complete network simulation.
 
The stream replicator must provide the following capabilities: accept multiple input streams, replicate the streams, modify the streams, and output up to line rate capacity. Being able to accept multiple input streams allows a mixture of different types of streams in the network simulator. Stream replication must be performed exactly to retain the stream characteristics of the input streams. Modification of the stream header fields makes replicated streams as totally different to other network devices even though the payload is the same. Lastly, the main purpose of the stream replicator is to load down the targeted network devices and stress the devices to the highest level.
 
The network simulator, also referred as a latency simulator or latency generator, is the core element to network simulation. The network simulator can be separated into the following functions: interfaces, filtering, impairments, network metrics, and routing. Using the actual interfaces of the real network in the simulator helps to simulate the effects at the edge of the network. Filtering allows multiple networks to be emulated even between the same two ports. Impairments represent the lumped model of the real network characteristics. Core impairments include delay, jitter, loss, throttle, and fragment. Network metrics include the functions that make the network simulation much closer portrayal of the real network. Network metrics functions include the capability to re-create the delay and loss characteristics of the real network, mesh network emulation where any packet from any port can go to any other port, dynamic emulation which emulates the changing condition of the network, and flexible user interface architecture that can re-construct any network topology. The routing function determines the delivery destination of the packets and should be able to look transparent or like other network devices to the test network.

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