Home Transportation: Test-Bed Alternatives
This blog post references my cover story ‘Home Transportation: Benchmarking Powerline, 802.11, and Ethernet‘ in EDN’s August 2, 2007 edition. It’s one of a series of web addendums to the print writeup.
I’ll begin this post by pointing you at the version of Iperf that I used. It’s listed in the ‘User Contributed Code‘ portion of the home page and is the Iperf v2.0.2 installer for Windows, provided by Ted Fines at Macalester College, St. Paul, MN. It ran fine on my Windows XP SP2- and Sun Java-based desktop and notebook PCs, with one minor glitch that the main article pointed out; it didn’t reliably generate Iperf server-side UDP bandwidth reports.
Next, I’ll reiterate another comment I made in the main article. Unless the only network protocol that you care about is TCP, or unless you don’t have at least two network clients available that are capable of having Iperf or another client/server-based benchmarking alternative installed on them, don’t restrict your testing solely to doing bulk file copies and other simple operations. While such tasks do provide useful information, they completely ignore other commonly used protocols such as RTP, RTSP and UDP. This article in Broadcast Engineering, which I just read, gives a concise description of why these lower-overhead protocols are becoming increasingly important, as well as explaining why UDP bandwidth results were so much higher than those of TCP in my study.
With that said, a scripted program such as HELIOS’s freeware LanTest UB utility for Mac OS X can automate and provide testing diversity to what might otherwise be a tedious and narrowly focused TCP-only testing suite. I’m sure that a plethora of similar programs exist for Windows, Linux and other O/Ss. However, aside from the Network/LAN Bandwidth benchmark in SiSoftware’s Sandra suite for Windows, which I’ve used plenty of times in the past, I can’t make any specific recommendations based on personal experience.
Turning our attention to more robust benchmark utilities, I’ll first confess that the primary reason I went with Iperf is because a colleague at The Register, whose past powerline testing work I greatly admired, had used the program. You can find Tony Smith’s writeups on Netgear’s HomePlug 1.0 Turbo and UPN gear, along with Solwise’s HomePlug AV equipment, within another of my posts in this Brian’s Brain series. Iperf supports a diverse suite of operating systems and source code is also available. However, if for some reason Iperf doesn’t work for you, a recent Slashdot entry titled ‘High-Capacity Bandwidth Testing Software?‘ may be worth your perusal.
The most commonly mentioned other programs in its discussion thread, which I’ve also frequently encountered in the past, are:
I’ll close with one final recommendation, this one anecdotal, not based on personal experience. I’ve consistently heard good things about the Lithium network monitoring platform, which incorporates both functional and performance monitoring capabilities and comes in a limited-user and -function freeware version. Again, if you try it out, I’d welcome a report on what you thought of it.