What is Network Simulation? - Part One

Following on the trail of the successful CEO Blog Series on Predictable Communications, authored by SCALABLE CEO Dr. Rajive Bagrodia, SCALABLE Networks kicks off the new year with a fresh new series of informative blog posts.  The SCALABLE Tuesday Talk Blog Series offers a continuous stream of valuable information in the areas of network simulation, cybersecurity, and predictable communications. This next series takes a closer look at the meaning of Network Simulation, and how it can help organizations of all kinds optimize performance and network management.

Introduction

Computer and communication networks are critical for commercial and military enterprises and are rapidly becoming ubiquitous in our personal lives. These networks are expected to deliver reliable service under a diverse set of operational conditions.  However, it is important to understand how the performance of the network and that of the applications that use the network change under varying conditions.  For example, reliability for e-mail is different than what it may mean for video or telephony – the latter has much more stringent requirements for quality of service (or QoS).  Similarly, a soldier requesting fire support has very different requirements of reliability and delivery time than a user downloading a song or video clip.  Additionally, unplanned stressors, like a denial of service attack or a large number of users trying to download a large video file simultaneously, can impact performance.  One way to assess such impact is to deploy the physical network and test it under different conditions. However, tests using live equipment and personnel are costly and resource-intensive, and tests that involve large-scale deployments or certain types of cyber attacks may be difficult and/or cost-prohibitive when using live assets. 

How Can Network Simulation Help?

Network simulation offers an efficient, cost-effective way to assess how the network will behave under different operating conditions.  Simulation results can be analyzed to assess network performance, identify potential problems, understand the root cause, and resolve the issues prior to deployment.  Since running simulations in the laboratory is much faster and less expensive than performing live tests, it is easier to investigate different alternatives using simulations before deploying a network or making changes to an existing network.

Network simulation can help planners, commanders and operators to answer many network-related questions. A cellular carrier may use network simulation to answer questions such as, “What type of a network laydown can provision 500 (or 50,000) simultaneous video streams while maintaining the number of dropped calls within specified thresholds?” A military commander may use network simulation to ascertain, “Will the critical ‘call for fire’ message from a warfighter under threat be routed through the chain of command to a remote launch station within tightly specified delay bounds, under compromised operating conditions?” An IT manager may use network simulation to assess, “Will my Wi-Fi network support 500 additional video streams in addition to the existing traffic if we migrate to 80211.ax?”

Network simulation can also help network operators assess the resiliency of networks to cyber threats, i.e., how vulnerable is the network to cyber attacks and how effective are counter-measures in containing or defending against the threats. This assessment can be done without subjecting the physical network to actual cyber attacks, and hence, without the risk of leakage of the attack vectors into live assets. Thus, network simulation provides a low cost, low-risk, and easy to use means for predicting network behavior and identifying potential problems before deployment.

SCALABLE Network Technologies is the leading provider of live/virtual/constructive communications/networking modeling and simulation tools across all domains (undersea-to-space). We deliver virtualization technology for development, analysis, evaluation, and training to military, governmental, commercial, and academic institutions. Our high fidelity, real-time simulation platform incorporates physics-based models of military and commercial satellite, tactical, acoustic and optical networks along with emulation interfaces for live/virtual/constructive integration. Our cyber behavior models provide a vulnerability analysis framework with configurable cyber attack and defense models for IP networks, weapon systems, as well as cyber-physical networks. SCALABLE’s solutions are used by our customers to assess the performance and cyber resiliency of networked communications environments, and support system lifecycle management and operator training. 

Watch next week for the continuation of this series where we will delve deeper into the purpose and functionality of network simulation.   

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