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September 13, 2010
Virtual Networks for Simulating Topologies
By Taylor Gillespie
Often, system administrators, and for that matter, developers, have a need to test packets and code that utilizes a certain network design. Setting up and deploying a duplicate "test" network is usually beyond the resources of most organizations. Actually connecting routers and switches and machines together, configured for production and another configured for development, is very expensive considering the hardware needed to be purchased and installed and tested. Perhaps, even an organization wanting to make changes to the network, phasing in changes to the physical topology could introduce conflicts and problems that must be troubleshooted.

The system administrator must physically make connection changes, and manually make software configuration changes. The leg-work involved can be reduced by first using a virtual network to test against. The virtual network will run as if a real physical network; packets can be sent and inspected and the virtual network can be connected to the real physical network. In this manner, system administrators can test network topologies without investing in all of the hardware necessary and without the need to physically wire them together. Developers can test code dependent on the network topology without touching the real network, for example, with remote procedure calls.

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