Network Simulation and Emulation: Try It Before You Deploy It

Best-in-Class organizations are three times more likely to leverage solutions for network simulation and emulation than Laggards, according to data from Aberdeen Group’s February benchmark report, “The Roadmap to the Next-Generation Branch Office Networks.”

Deployment of these solutions resulted in Best-in-Class companies being twice as likely to report improvements in their ability to accurately estimate the impact of new technology rollouts on network performance.

Measuring the Impact

Organizations deploying solutions for simulating network and application performance are more likely to be driven by the need to accurately estimate the impact of planned changes to the enterprise infrastructure, the need to ensure availability of virtualized applications, and the need to justify bandwidth upgrades in comparison with peers.

Aberdeen’s research shows that organizations deploying solutions for network simulation and emulation are 86 percent more likely to report improvements in their ability to accurately estimate the impact of new application rollouts on network performance in comparison with their peers. The deployment of these solutions allows organizations to improve visibility into how bandwidth capacity is being used as well as to help predict bottlenecks and make better decisions about potential network upgrades. As a result, organizations deploying network simulation and emulation solutions are 53 percent more likely to experience improvements in bandwidth utilization as compared with their peers.

There is a strong correlation between the deployment of technology solutions for testing network and application performance and subsequent application performance in the production stage. Organizations deploying the simulation solutions are 85 percent more likely to report improvements in application response times as compared with their peers.

The ability to test network changes in a simulated environment allows organizations to ensure that these changes do not cause a decline in network and application performance. Aberdeen’s research shows that organizations using network simulation and emulation solutions are 51 percent more likely to reduce the time spent on troubleshooting network performance issues than others. Taking a proactive approach to managing changes to the network and application rollouts enables these organizations to achieve a high level of network and application performance.

Two Approaches – Differences and Synergies

It should be noted that network simulation solutions use theoretical mathematics to build a virtual network, whereas network emulation solutions make a copy of the actual network to create a safe virtual environment for testing. These are two different approaches that organizations currently take when deploying solutions for network simulation and emulation. Even though these solutions seem somewhat similar, there is a beneficial synergy associated with deploying both of these solutions simultaneously.

The simulation approach provides end-users with more specific information about network conditions and the updates needed to be made to devices, topology and configuration prior to conducting network changes, while the emulation approach provides more in-depth information related to the impact that new application rollouts could have on the performance of existing applications on the network and the network itself. Both solutions used simultaneously allow end-users to have in-depth information about the impact that changes in the network environment could have on the end-user experience, application response times, and overall network performance.

The Life Cycle Approach

Eighty-seven percent of organizations in Aberdeen’s recent research reported that managing network performance has become more complex over the last two years. As organizations conduct major infrastructure projects such as the convergence of voice and data, server and application centralization, server virtualization, and rollouts of new business-critical applications, achieving a high level of network performance is becoming more challenging.

Plus, end-users’ expectations for network performance are increasing; instead of network up-time, end-users are now asking for seamless access to corporate data from any network location. In response to this demand, organizations are placing more emphasis on ensuring optimal performance of business-critical applications.

Best-in-Class organizations are being proactive in managing network and application performance by taking a holistic approach that ensures a high level of visibility and control in each stage of the application deployment life cycle. Best-in-Class organizations were more likely to have capabilities for managing application performance in the pre-deployment stage as well as capabilities for ongoing monitoring and analysis of application performance and resolving issues before they impact end-users. This approach enables Best-in-Class organizations to have a 92 percent success rate in resolving issues with application performance before the end-users are affected.

Managing application performance throughout the whole life cycle — from development and pre-deployment to ongoing monitoring, analyzing and troubleshooting in the production stage — enables organizations to gain optimal returns on their investments in enterprise applications and allows them to accelerate their key business processes, improve employee productivity and better serve their customers.

Key Insights

Aberdeen’s research shows that 35 percent of organizations surveyed plan to deploy solutions network simulation and/or emulation solutions by the end of 2009. Organizations plan to use these solutions in conjunction with tools for WAN (Wide Area Network) optimization, network monitoring and analytics, and application acceleration that they either currently have in place or have planned for the near future. The deployment of simulation solutions will allow them to move one step closer to taking full control of application performance and to support their end-users more proactively.

As organizations increase investments in new business-critical enterprise applications, the ability to roll out these applications in a seamless way without disrupting key business processes is critical. The deployment of network simulation and emulation solutions allows them to generate in-depth information needed to make the best possible decisions about changes to their network design and configuration, eliminating bottlenecks and increasing optimization. Having this information available prior to changing network conditions and deploying applications allows them to avoid application performance issues, reduce network downtime and mitigate disruption of key business processes.

Bojan Simic is a research analyst in the network management area at the Aberdeen Group. He can be reached at [email protected].

Tom Karol is a research associate in the Aberdeen Group’s technology markets area. He can be reached at [email protected].

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