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What Is Network Simulation?

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  • Written By: M. McGee
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 26 August 2014
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    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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A network simulation is a virtual representation of a network. There are two common types of network simulation—one is used on existing networks, and the other is used before a network is constructed. The purposes of these simulations are finding problems in an existing network or locating unexpected interactions on one that hasn’t been built yet. By locating existing problems or preventing them in the first place, companies can improve network reliability and lower maintenance costs.

Network simulation is a concept that came up with the first large-scale computer networks. In those days, people were unsure of how large data systems would interact when fully utilized. These simulations were meant to aid designers in finding suitable hardware for the project. As time went on and networks became larger, the simulations were needed to find trouble spots before and after construction.

When used before a network is built, a network simulation is sometimes called a network emulator or traffic generator. These simulations use mathematical algorithms to plot out the way a network would work when being used. The profile information for all of the company’s network components are entered into the system along with basic user data. The program then generates a fairly accurate account of how the network would run when in use.

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If the programs are used after the network is operational, the information is even more accurate. The software runs on the entire network, finding all of the physical portions of the system and user network use. It takes this information and generates a road map-like output of network usage. This map shows any locations that are under- or overworked and points out bottlenecks and user usage patterns.

Network simulation software centers on saving money and finding inefficiencies. The software maps out the network, locating places where work needs to be done or where a redesign is needed. These inefficiencies can cause network slowdowns and crashes. In addition, they tie up support staff that could be working on other things.

The basic way network simulations save money is twofold. By planning out networks before they are built and periodically monitoring them afterward, companies can save a lot of money. An efficient network increases productivity by allowing workers the information they need right when they need it. It also reduces the load on the computer support staff. This both frees them for other tasks and reduces the number of them needed to efficiently maintain the business' systems.

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Discuss this Article

anon953323
Post 4

What is the most popular network simulator for commercial use? I tried working on the open source NS-2 but it is just too complicated to figure out.

allenJo
Post 2

@MrMoody - That sounds cool. I don’t have any experience in telecommunications but I have used VOIP (Voice Over Internet Technology Protocol) for quite some time to make my telephone calls.

Of course, making calls over the Internet has become standard operating procedure for many residential customers now. The technology is hardly new, but what is new in my opinion is how the call quality has dramatically improved.

I’m not an expert, but I understand that voice calls are chopped up into digital packets and reassembled on the other end. Such a routing scheme would be susceptible to traffic congestion on the Internet.

I assume that these VOIP companies would use something like a network traffic simulator to optimize their network, and ensure that the digital packets reach their destination as quickly as possible. That’s the only explanation I have for the increased call quality over the past ten years.

MrMoody
Post 1

I worked in the telecommunications industry for ten years, and the network traffic simulator was one of the most useful tools in our arsenal for optimizing our network.

The article talks about using the simulator before a network is built and after it is built. In my time with the company, we used it afterwards. We were able to track down where most of the minutes of usage were taking place and where the bottlenecks were in the telecommunications network.

With this information we were able to make decisions like whether to redirect calls from one T1 to another, or whether we needed to take down a T1. The whole thing looked like a highway traffic simulation; it was kind of cool, and it was fairly accurate too.

We used existing traffic patterns to make projections about future call traffic, so that we could build out correctly.

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