Test the Infrastructure: Go Beyond the Network

Network infrastructure is the foundation for all applications and services, even in virtualized and cloud computing environments. Today’s businesses rely on that infrastructure in some way for nearly every business objective they have, some of which are mission-critical. This creates the need for the entire network infrastructure to have high levels of performance, availability, scalability and security. The only way to be sure these objectives are met is through comprehensive infrastructure testing, and the best way to address that is by using infrastructure test optimization (ITO). Many folks that I talk to still aren’t sure exactly what ITO is – or even what infrastructure testing is. I thought I’d take a moment to define infrastructure testing – which is the core principle behind ITO – and explain why it is so important.

As important as understanding whether an application or service performs as expected, is understanding whether the network and computing infrastructure performs as expected. This requires targeted testing to determine how well the network and infrastructure copes with change, specifically in relation to PERFORMANCE, AVAILABILITY, SECURITY and SCALABILITY (Spirent’s PASS Methodology).

Infrastructure Test Optimization

Often times I hear managers ask questions like:

  • “I just installed a new storage fabric. How can I ensure that it performs and scales as intended?”
  • “We are moving to a private cloud. How can I test my network to see if it is equipped to handle application and data migration?”
  • “My company has started an initiative to virtualize our servers and storage. Does our physical infrastructure support our virtualization strategy?”
  • “I just brought a new data center online. How do I know that it is performing to its optimum level?”

These are all very valid and complex questions but to correctly answer these questions requires an organization to have a strategy that tests more than just the network. The strategy also needs to include the validation of:

  • Physical & virtual environments, operating systems and CPU
  • Middleware, applications and storage
  • Hardware products and IT/cloud infrastructure

The optimal testing model is one that encompasses and views the entire infrastructure as a single, holistic, and integrated entity that needs to be tested. However, the testing done today is very narrow and very specific in focus, and doesn’t encompass the entirety of the environment that needs to be tested. And this is because no one vendor today offers the breadth and depth of the tools and technologies that are required to perform testing at this scale.

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