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network testing

Why I Built KMAX – The World’s Best Network Emulator

I am a human, I am not an AI. I wrote this piece to reflect on the testing of Internet protocols, in particular through the use of devices that tickle the flow of packets going back and forth between devices that speak those protocols.

The term “network emulator” is ambiguous.

Does it refer to a device that affects actual packet traffic or is it a mathematical model about what would happen to real traffic? If real packet traffic, where do those packets come from, the user’s own network or a synthetic traffic generator? Can traffic be classifed into related streams and subjected to different kinds of effects? Is the purpose of the emulator to test protocol implementations for robust and correct operation, or is the purpose to push devices under extreme loads?

I tend to work with actual, running network protocol code. My intent is to test whether devices that contain that code perform acceptably when presented with the kinds of network conditions that can occur on real networks but which are rarely present on the pristine networks used by code developers and QA teams. As a consequence, I am more attuned to network emulation tools that allow the controlled manipulation of actual traffic streams emitted by real devices than with mathematical simulations of hypothetical or synthetic, perfect protocol interactions.