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Bringing Your Network to the BreakingPoint


TMCnews Featured Article

May 25, 2011

Bringing Your Network to the BreakingPoint

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director

Will your network and your equipment perform as expected under the heavy stresses of today’s network loads? That’s the question every vendor has to ask, and one they must be able to answer affirmatively, with confidence, before bringing new products or services into full production mode. This applies to enterprise and service provider environments, as well as equipment manufacturers.

Many test vendors look at it from a network health perspective – can an environment withstand maximum capacity. BreakingPoint, however, takes it a step further, seeking to actually go beyond expected thresholds, to determine how they will behave in such scenarios.

“We break networks, using a high performance chassis that emulates positive and negative traffic, up to 90 million users on a single box,” explains Scott Register, director of product management at BreakingPoint. “We help customers understand how their equipment is going to behave when they put it out into the real world.”

The fact is that, while most business seek to build networks that can withstand any loads or attacks, the reality is that it is nearly impossible to identify all potential scenarios, especially when it comes to malicious traffic. In fact, the company’s founders came from intrusion prevention firm TippingPoint, having become frustrated with an inability to perform tests at high enough volumes to truly bring networks and equipment past the tipping point to the breaking point.

“Nothing can block all attacks – nobody expects that,” adds Register. “What they want to know is how their equipment will work under attack.”

BreakingPoint has a line of Cyber Tomography Machines (CTMs) that have been designed to detect weaknesses in networks and devices. The CTMs, based on a patented network processor technology, are capable of mimicking activities in multi-million user environment, from browsing to streaming to video chatting, to malicious activity, and everything in between – effectively any activity that any user could conceivably initiate.

By enabling such scale in traffic emulation, BreakingPoint is able to detect just what it’s name suggests, the network breaking points, allowing them to be repaired before they are exploited or can cause network or service failure.

(Rich Tehrani (News - Alert) speaks with Scott Register from BreakingPoint)

The company addresses four main verticals – equipment manufacturers, carriers, government, and enterprise – though the enterprise and service provider markets are exhibiting the most growth currently. That’s hardly surprising, considering the growth of cloud computing and increased data center requirements in the enterprise space, and the massive influx of traffic across wireless and backhaul networks on the carrier side. Specifically to address the growth of LTE, it has built a new LTE (News - Alert) lab, enabling testing of six million handsets on a single blade.

For the enterprise market, BreakingPoint offers testing as a service (is TaaS the next as a service acronym?) on a variety of need-based levels, from one-time testing, to quarterly, annual, or on-call. The idea is to have a standard resiliency test for any piece of equipment that connects to the Internet, with any update requiring a new test to ensure resiliency score hasn’t dropped. As you might imagine, financial institutions use BreakingPoint as a standard part of their internal technology audits, to ensure their trading and other platforms are operating at peak efficiency – a millisecond of delay can mean losses of millions of dollars.

Following a general technology trend, BreakingPoint, in the coming months, will seek to enhance its user interface for increased ease of use and ease of access to its existing capabilities. In addition, it will further extend is features to cover more traditional layer 2 and 3 testing – its products began with what Register says have always been the more difficult testing at the application layer.

Customers will be glad to hear they will be provided these additional features at no cost.

“We are trying to make more realistic testing more accessible to more people,” says Register. “Tests that would take days with other vendors take as little as minutes with BreakingPoint.”

Erik Linask (News - Alert) is Group Editorial Director of TMC, which brings news and compelling feature articles, podcasts, and videos to 2,000,000 visitors each month. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

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