Automatic Test Packet Generation

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No, we are not destroying the network; we are testing!

Networks are getting larger and more complex; yet administrators rely on rudimentary tools such as ping and traceroute to debug problems. We propose an automated and systematic approach for testing and debugging networks called “Automatic Test Packet Generation” (ATPG). ATPG reads router configurations and generates a device-independent model. The model is used to generate a minimum set of test packets to (minimally) exercise every link in the network or (maximally) exercise every rule in the network. Test packets are sent periodically and detected failures trigger a separate mechanism to localize the fault. ATPG can detect both functional (e.g., incorrect firewall rule) and performance problems (e.g., congested queue). ATPG complements but goes beyond earlier work in static checking (which cannot detect liveness or performance faults) or fault localization (which only localize faults given liveness results).

We describe our prototype ATPG implementation and results on two real-world data sets: Stanford University’s backbone network and Internet2. We find that a small number of test packets suffices to test all rules in these networks: For example 4000 packets can cover all rules in Stanford backbone network while 54 is enough to cover all links. Sending 4000 test packets 10 times per second consumes lesss than 1% of link capacity. ATPG code and the data sets are publicly available.

Our paper is published on CoNEXT 2012. Download the code and try to reproduce our results on your own laptop!

ATPG uses Hassel for packet header analysis.