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This article is part of our Essential Guide: NFV basics: A guide to NFV implementation, challenges and benefits

Ixia virtualizes IxLoad appliance for NFV testing

Ixia virtualizes its IxLoad network testing hardware for Network Functions Virtualization. Mobile operators will use it for NFV testing.

Ixia is virtualizing its IxLoad testing appliances to help service providers evaluate network functions virtualization in the mobile core. Mobile operators, in particular, are looking for help with NFV testing.

"We're seeing some pause in spending and rollouts in some operators as they are trying to figure out NFV," said Joe Zeto, senior director of product marketing at Ixia. "They are trying to figure out what to virtualize and what not to virtualize. At the end of the day, they have known performance from their physical appliances and they have to make sure whatever they do when using virtualized software and off-the-shelf equipment [doesn't affect] quality of experience for their end users."

By virtualizing IxLoad, operators and developers can now run instances of the testing technology directly on the hypervisor hosts where the NFV virtual network functions reside, he said.

"This is for performance testing of virtual switches and hypervisors and getting the bottlenecks out of that," Zeto said. "It's also for functional testing [of NFV applications]. You can spin [virtual test ports] up and down pretty rapidly."

As service providers start NFV testing, many of them are looking to accelerate and scale out their approach to testing individual virtual network functions, said Paul Parker-Johnson, practice lead for cloud computing and virtual infrastructure at ACG Research. "You can easily see a testing organization being able to accelerate and do multiple evaluations by being able to deploy and scale out testers quickly," he said.

Many service providers are also very interested in evaluating and characterizing the performance of the virtual networks that they are considering for their NFV deployments, he said.

Service providers and developers can use different combinations of virtual and physical IxLoad products for NFV testing, depending on what they are evaluating.

"It's not going to replace physical IxLoad appliances," Zeto said. "[You] might want to use a physical tester to test high-scale traffic and then use virtual testers to measure individual points on the network. You might [use the virtual tester] to measure voice or video quality or transaction latency. And you might use the physical tester to put massive stress on the network."

Ixia is targeting evolved packet core (EPC) applications with its virtual IxLoad tester, Zeto said. EPC and customer-premises equipment are seen by many experts as two of the early popular use cases for NFV.

Park Johnson expects that service providers will also use the virtual IxLoad tester to evaluate virtual firewalls and other virtual network security functions.

Ixia also published a free e-book, Demystifying NFV, which offers a guide to NFV migration for mobile operators. The virtual IxLoad tester is available today. Ixia did not reveal prices for the software, but Zeto said the company will offer use-based licensing, versus the per-module licensing that Ixia charges for his chassis appliances.

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