[LWN Logo]

From: "Brigitta Shore" 
Subject: Test Bed Provides Rigorous Testing at Alcatel
Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2000 11:48:53 -0800

Press Contacts:

Brigitta Shore
Shore Communications
(604) 729-9479

Neal Nelson
Neal Nelson & Associates
(312) 755-1000


Linux-based Test Bed provides rigorous quality testing at Alcatel

Alcatel builds next generation networks, delivering integrated end-to-end
voice and data communications solutions to established and new carriers, as
well as enterprises and consumers worldwide. With 120,000 employees and
sales of US$25.0 billion, Alcatel operates in more than 130 countries.

When introducing a new element to a customer's network, compatibility with
the existing infrastructure and performance of the system are critical to
the implementation.  One of the tools Alcatel uses is Neal Nelson &
Associates' Linux-based test bed to put all its products through high
stress, real-life testing in a controlled lab environment.  This avoids
downtime and potential damage to information stored at actual customer

 "Our high standards for quality testing provides confidence in our code and
to our customers, that our products are solid solutions," says Steve Melahn,
pre-sales test engineer who runs Alcatel's pre-sales test laboratory.

 The right testing technology

To meet Alcatel's strict testing requirements, they searched for a solution
that could simulate specific types of traffic and use extreme loads to
identify a product's limitations.  The company chose Neal Nelson &
Associates' Linux-based Multinode Remote Terminal Emulator (RTE).

 "We can recreate a real life scenario right down to the hardware, software
and configuration files and then test the anticipated user traffic loads,"
says Neal Nelson, president of Neal Nelson and Associates.  "Our test bed
allows a forward thinking company like Alcatel  which is committed to
quality assurance  to achieve the highest level of confidence in their

  Minimizing downtime while maximizing performance

With 25 percent of Fortune 100 companies saying they would be bankrupt if
their network were down for four days, a company's technology infrastructure
has become one of its most critical components.  So when upgrades or new
products are introduced to an existing IT system, it is imperative that
results of the change are known before implementation.  By replicating a
client's system in their lab and subjecting it to severe stress tests,
Alcatel identifies potential glitches, rectifies it and tests again and
again, until satisfied that the customer will not experience those

Getting products to market quicker

Alcatel also pushes products to market quicker by using their lab to test
pre-release software and hardware to solve more problems in-house and speed
up beta testing. Alcatel remains at the forefront of technology by
delivering innovative, first-to-market products that are already stable and

Staying on top of technology

The lab typically runs across issues and anomalies only seen in networks
under heavy stress, which usually equates to complex troubleshooting and
debugging.  "Since we demonstrate concepts, our lab is used to testing the
latest technology," says Melahn. "Nelson's test bed allows us to stay ahead
in a rapidly changing environment by helping us to understand the latest
technologies and how to best optimize them."

The Multinode RTE in action
When a recent client needed to migrate their existing network with 100
switches over to a new network, Alcatel's lab was called upon to demonstrate
how this could be achieved with minimal downtime and destruction to the
network.  The client also took this opportunity to test upgrading their
hardware and software.

A typical approach to these projects would involve several steps.  An
analysis on the migration process and new software is step one in
identifying problem areas.  Step two involves rectifying the problems and
providing further solutions to enhance the migration and performance of the
system.  Clients are often present in the lab for the final stage of
delivering proof of concept; identify what works best, where the risks are,
and recommendations for improvement.

The tests are run on Nelson's Multinode RTE, which is comprised of 32 Linux
servers configured as a single "virtual" system with supercomputer speed and
capacity.  The configuration can emulate 1,984 high-intensity users based on
64 Ethernet connections.  Once the configuration and test criteria have been
established, the system is automated to manage and monitor the various nodes
of the cluster and can run 24 hours a day. Typically, the shorter tests are
run during the day with the longer 12 hour tests run automatically

Extreme testing eliminates customer's risk
Alcatel is committed to putting their products through extreme testing to
ensure that customers get the best solutions possible with the least amount
of risk.  "Using Neal Nelson & Associates' Multinode RTE has enabled us to
do just that", says Melahn.  The test facility will also continue to be a
focal point for all new products, with customers benefiting from Alcatel's
reliable leading-edge technology.