Gambit simulates enterprise IT

* Gambit Communications’ software can run management simulations

Gambit Communications in September introduced Mimic Virtual Lab Enterprise, targeted at enterprise users seeking to simulate real-world networks primarily for developing and evaluating SNMP-based management products.

Strictly speaking, the Virtual Lab supports SNMPv1, SNMPv2, SNMPv3, TFTP, Telnet and Cisco IOS. Virtual Lab Enterprise can also be used for situational training of new users, as well as trial disaster-recovery situations to better understand if your management products can stand up to the test of drastic failure.

To better appreciate this software, it’s worthwhile looking briefly at Gambit Communications Mimic Simulator (Version 6.10 was just recently introduced) - and its valuable but obscure role in this industry. Mimic is pervasively used to develop or enhance network management software, by independent software vendors and network device manufacturers. It’s also used by some service providers seeking to assess customer environments (what I once called a “customer in a box”), and of course to develop their own, custom management applications. Plus, Mimic has long played a role in training and sales. 

Mimic supports both mainstream enterprise network management environments - with in-depth capabilities for Cisco IOS - and cable modem simulation for service providers. It captures and records real network traffic and topology, and then offers playbacks with a variety of test suites. For instance, devices or interfaces can be disabled, or a trap storm can be generated to see how a specific management application reacts. A single copy of Mimic 6.10 is scalable up to 10,000 SNMP devices.

The enterprise version features a much improved GUI to help novice Mimic users get started. It includes three pre-configured labs (ready networks with devices from different vendors), and more than 30 test suites, which Gambit is expanding on a regular basis and making available to its customers at no added cost.

As an example, the largest lab includes Cisco 7000 and 2000 series routers, three switches from Cisco and HP, and various other devices or manageable components (PCs, printers, Cisco Wireless Access Points, etc.). Test suites can be classified into three categories:

* Tutorials, such as basic IOS commands (e.g., configuring OSPF on a router).

* Task-related “quizzes,” such as deleting a disabled link, or detecting excessive bandwidth usage.

* Test scenarios, such as out-of-disk-space alarms, printer-out-of-paper alarms, etc.

While Virtual Lab is a relatively focused environment - compared to broader infrastructure planning tools, such as those offered by Opnet or Compuware - it addresses a real requirement. The fact that testing can be done in a facile, cost-effective fashion on a single desktop is of course favored by users. And the ability to actually make changes within simulated devices, including configuration changes - without worrying about disrupting a production environment, is also popular.

Many enterprise users, however, remain in “discovery” mode - as new tests become available and greater facility with Virtual Lab suggests new types of applications. It should be pointed out that Virtual Lab’s full potential remains something of an open ocean, and using Virtual Lab well requires a dose of creativity and imagination.

Still, for enterprise users seeking economies in the evaluation, introduction and enhancement of new SNMP management products - Virtual Lab should be particularly worthwhile. It costs $2,500 (initial pricing).

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