Catching up with Mimic

In a crowded and confused management software marketplace, there are worthwhile products in nooks and crannies that tend to escape the attention of the media and much of the industry overall. One such set of products is simulation software for the pre-deployment, training, and development and marketing of management software and services. Within this area, Gambit Communications’ Mimic software has shown steady growth in recent years.

When I first wrote about Mimic nearly 18 months ago, I described it as a "virtual laboratory," and the term still applies. Instead of investing in hardware to create a preproduction test bed, you can use Mimic to evaluate issues of scalability, policy implementation and device support.

Now, you can also keep historical/statistical records of how your management software deployment improves or degrades over time. For instance, you can keep quantified accounts of delays and dropped packets, under a barrage of different simulated conditions.

Mimic’s core has remained consistent, although the product now offers some significant new capabilities. Mimic runs on a broad range of operating systems, including Windows NT, Solaris and Linux. Its core components are a compiler, a recorder and a simulator.

Although Mimic offers a library of pre-compiled devices, you can compile additional management information bases (MIB) you want to simulate.

The Mimic recorder documents the MIBs in your network, and it now has a discovery wizard and a topology wizard to help do this. With the recorder, you can visualize logical topological relationships and easily augment the network you want to simulate. For instance, imagine that the your existing network consists of only two LANs with 40 devices (routers, hubs, workstations, etc.). If you want to test for growth, you can load this into the Topology Wizard and - voila! - you can suddenly have a test network of 80 devices.

The third component of Mimic is the simulator, which provides a VCR-like capability to run, play back and examine scenarios. You can create your own " setups for disaster " to evaluate how your management software would perform under heavy traffic, or against incompatible device configurations, or to see how the management policies you intend would actually be realized.

In addition to the new wizards, Mimic has grown a lot in other ways over the last 18 months. Scalability has improved, from support for 1,000 devices per Mimic console, to 10,000 devices per console today. Mimic consoles can work together to simulate environments of more than 50,000 devices.

Other advances include support for Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, for IP addressing, and Trivial File Transfer Protocol for device configuration. These have been added in part to help ISPs, competitive local exchange carriers and other service providers support cable-modem management.

A new Java toolkit is also a critical enhancement for Mimic - extending its reach on a customized basis to a protocol such as Multi-protocol Label Switching, which is not yet supported "out of the box."

While Mimic can dramatically save costs of deployment, development and training, it does require some investmment. For instance, prices can range from $3,500 for five devices to $60,000 for 10,000 devices, or $6 per device.

In spite of the improvements - such as wizards - for usability, Mimic is not for the technically fainthearted. But at a time when return on investment is king, simulation poses strong advantages. And once revenue opportunity returns to its position as the dominant business driver, time to market (for software vendors, service providers and e-business initiatives), should make Mimic of interest as well.

This story, "Catching up with Mimic " was originally published by Network World.

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