Interop 2011: Should enterprises invest in network testing equipment?

At Interop 2011, network testing equipment vendors are taking aim at enterprises. As virtualization complicates the network, do testing vendors have a point?

Should you invest in network testing equipment for data center infrastructure?

Network testing equipment vendors like Ixia, Spirent, Breaking Point and JDSU have traditionally counted the vast majority of their customers among network equipment manufacturers and service providers. At this year's Interop 2011, testing vendors are setting their sites on enterprise customers.

On Monday at Interop, I asked Kelly K. Maloit, director of public relationships for testing vendor Ixia, how much penetration her industry has into the enterprise market. She estimated that only 15% to 20% of enterprises actually invest in network testing equipment. Generally, enterprises  only make the investment after something goes wrong. For instance, if a major security breach happens, they acquire network testing equipment for vetting their network security infrastructure.

But enterprises may want to take a harder look at network testing equipment as their networks become increasingly complex due to virtualization, cloud computing and rich media applications like video.

"You can't rely on specs of boxes anymore," Maloit said. "There are too many interactions between different boxes."

The good news is that an investment in network testing equipment goes a long way, serving an enterprise network well over time. If a company introduces a new layer of equipment to existing infrastructure or adds a new service or application to an existing infrastructure, network testing equipment can come in handy for preproduction testing. In the case of a new application or service, network testing equipment can generate Layer 4-7 traffic for measurement.

With this in mind, Ixia and other vendors are developing network testing equipment aimed specifically at enterprise customers. Ixia's new IXNetwork v6.00 test application for instance, features a user-friendly GUI, productivity tools and automated test suites aimed at helping enterprises get up and running even if they only have limited experience with network testing tools.

Every vendor and every service provide validates technology with network testing equipment. The more mission critical your complex networks become, the more likely it is that it's time for you to take the plunge too.

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