Book Review: Enterprise Network Testing, Cisco Press 1st Edition April 2011.

Enterprise Network Testing. Testing Throughout the Network Lifecycle to Maximize Availability and Performance by Andy Sholomon (CCIE 15179) & Tom Kunath (CCIE 1679); Cisco Press 1st Edition April 2011.

Authors Andy Sholomon & Tom Kunath work as a Network Consulting Engineer & Solutions Architect respectively at Cisco. Sholomon plans & performs network testing for Enterprise customers while Kunath designs & tests in a consulting role.

They note in the introduction that “network testing has become mandatory in many organizations and is a critical step toward meeting the expectations of near-zero downtime”. They correctly highlight the demand for the book: “There is currently a void in publications that address test methodologies as they relate to the enterprise network lifecycle”, and proceed to identify the book’s goals.

Goals

The book is structured according to its three main goals; the first of which is to establish the (often underestimated) importance of systems testing within the enterprise network architecture strategy, along with differentiating the types of testing which support decisions made during the network lifecycle. Interestingly, a business blueprint for developing a test organization & lab facility is outlined.

The second goal of the book is to provide a series of use cases studies, from “Proof of Concept” to “Network Ready for Use”. These build on the largely theoretical subject matter discussed above.

Thirdly, detailed test plans, including Data Center 3.0 Architecture, IPv6, & MPLS/VPN Scalability testing are defined, which can be customised & applied by the reader. More specifically, the goal of Part III is to help the reader “understand which design aspects should be analyzed for different technologies and places in the network, and how to structure a successful test plan”.

The first goal is achieved by approaching the subject of Enterprise Network Testing from 3 angles; firstly (in Chapter 1), by defining the business rationale for any investment in network testing. This chapter provides the reader with a framework to answer their senior executive’s likely queries, one (humorous) example of which is “We tested our WAN two years ago! Why do we need to test it again?”

Chapter 2 covers the second angle: defining requirements for testing throughout the network lifecycle. This Chapter contains a definition of the Cisco Lifecycle Services Approach methodology consisting of 6 phases – PPDIOO (Plan, Prepare, Design, Implement, Operate and Optimize).

Chapters 3 to 5 cover the third angle by including more practical subject matter on test execution.

The first section of the book, as described above is very comprehensive. No one equipment vendor or test solution is specified; the various options are identified (Spirent, Ixia, OPNET, Shunra) although there is no mention of Ostinato.

The need to invest in identifying an accurate traffic model or load, under which all tests should be conducted, needs more emphasis. This baseline traffic is mentioned, but warrants much greater emphasis.

Finally, there is no attention given to results presentation which, in my experience, is almost always not considered as a separate important task. Customers always appreciate well-presented concise test results summaries.

The second goal of the book is achieved with impressive detail. The “Proof of Concept” use case defines a Data Centre, Compute, Storage, LAN, WAN & Virtualisation architecture, & even includes a bill of materials. It was good to see trusty Iometer (http://www.iometer.org) mentioned as the storage test tool. With the architecture & infrastructure defined, this use case elaborates on Test Strategy & details a total of 36 test cases.

The remaining 5 use cases are structured similarly; to a greater or lesser extent the architecture/infrastructure is defined, followed by overall test strategy, & finally the scope & coverage is defined by the list of test cases including a brief description of each.

The 3rd & final part specifies 7 distinct Test Plans. This part is actually more than 50% of the book’s composition. Test cases are specified in even more detail; down to IOS configs & screenshots, and test traffic stream definitions.

The attention to detail reflects the obvious experience of the authors on a practical level.

It is notable that despite the level of details, the test cases lack requirements definitions. As a result the tests’ pass criteria are not well-defined. For example, Chapter 17 “WAN and Application Optimization” includes a Link Failure/Recovery test. Step 6 states “Check to see how long it takes all the traffic to reconverge”.

How can a pass/fail decision be made?

Conclusion

The authors show their deep experience in Network Testing by specifying Use & Test Cases to an impressive level of detail.

The Use & Test Cases are very relevant to most Enterprise Networks & are likely to save the reader time & cost; they are varied enough so that any could be easily adapted to form a basis for other more specific test cases.

To exclude traceability back to requirements specifications is surprising & more emphasis should be put on this.

Finally, an enhancement would be to include a section or chapter on how to manage test results data in order to add value to the internal or external customer.

Available from: http://www.ciscopress.com/bookstore/product.asp?isbn=1587141272

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