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Itheon offers WAN in a box

Embedded network emulator exposes apps to life in the real world

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Itheon has brought out a compact version of its network emulator technology for developers who need to check how their games or applications will perform in the real world.

Based on Windows XP-Embedded, the portable device allows users to simulate WAN connections with all sorts of error conditions.

For example, it can simulate T1, E1, modem, DSL, GPRS, 3G, WiMAX and satellite links, with the addition of latency, jitter, bandwidth limitations, and packet loss.

The book-sized device is called Itheon Network Emulator (INE) Compact and costs from £2,500, said product manager Frank Puranik. He added that it's aimed at developers working with non-Windows platforms such as games consoles, or on apps where several PCs will share a single WAN connection - if only a single Windows-based development system is involved, they can buy INE in software and run it on the same machine.

This is a simplified version of Itheon's Linux-based enterprise network emulator - where the latter can emulate an entire network in a box, including multiple LAN and WAN segments, the Windows software emulates just one network segment, creating a WAN between your development system and the outside world.

So if you're developing a game or an enterprise app that needs to run over a WAN, why not simply connect it to a real WAN and test it that way? Puranik said it's a case of being able to control just how good - or more likely, how bad - is the quality of the connection the app is running over.

"You can't control your DSL - suppose it's always good? You can 'move the sliders' on our DSL," he said. "The sweetspot is to test in the poorest reasonable environment.

"You could bring 20 DSL lines into a games company's lab - but they're all the same, and you're doing it in the day, and what about contention, or what if your neighbour does a BitTorrent?"

Even testing at home won't replicate all the possiblities, he said - for example, what if your WLAN only has a couple of neighbours, but one of your users has a dozen or more?

Users can set up their own network scenarios within INE Compact or use one of several pre-defined ones that come with the device. Alternatively, Itheon said its INE Companion product can record the characteristics of a real WAN and recreate them within INE Compact.

Network scenarios can be stored for later re-use, and multiple INE Compacts can be chained together to emulate a multi-segmented network. Puranik added that the device is also compatible with load and performance testing products such as Mercury Loadrunner and Facilita Forecast. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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