Archive for May, 2011

Book Review: Enterprise Network Testing

May 6, 2011 1 comment

For my next trick, I am going to review another Cisco Press book titled “Enterprise Network Testing”.  I think I can sum this up in two sentences:  “Holy Crap!” and  “This book has PLENTY of cowbell!”.

Now I am not currently a network guy by profession, but if I was, this book would be on my desk with copies on my teammates’ desks too.  It is literally THE blueprint for how to test your network.

The journey into network testing begins with a discussion on why you need to test your network.  Most people only think of one or two reasons.  This book provides a few more to help you make your business case.  BTW, the authors make it very clear that testing your network is not a one-time event.  Testing should be done whenever changes are made, for compliance, introduction of new technologies, etc.  In other words, plan on testing regularly.

One area where this book and I completely agree is where testing should first take place: in the lab.  There is whole chapter devoted to lab strategy.  Topics covered include staffing, facilities planning, test methodologies, power, and more.  I must say that I was surprised at how good this chapter turned out to be.  Most books give basic guidance on lab setup, but like I said at the beginning of this review, this book has plenty of cowbell.

So now you have your lab setup, what are you going to do?  Simple, read this book because it provides guidance for “crafting the test approach” (actual chapter title).  Briefly, this chapter discusses several reasons/objectives for testing and how to craft your strategies to set you up for success.  This includes setting your test targets, what tools are you going to use, writing a test plan, allocating resources, etc.  It’s a very well thought out approach.

Business case approved? Check.  Lab resources allocated? Check.  Test plan created? Check.  Great, now go execute your plan.  Need help?  No problem, this book will walk you through a sample lab setup, finding the appropriate tools, and a few different methodologies for measuring different network characteristics.  This is the point in the book where the authors stress the need to understand what you are testing, the tools you are using, and how to interpret the results.  In other words, if you don’t know what you are doing you will not be successful.

Speaking of knowing your tools, this book does a credible job discussing network toolsets that are available for free and for purchase.  Even non-Cisco products are covered which is something I am not used to seeing in a Cisco Press book.  Usually, these books are oblivious to other companies’ products.  Kudos to the authors for being thorough.

The next six chapters are where you will find plenty of test case examples.  There are individual chapters devoted to six types of testing.  They are: Proof of concept testing, network readiness testing, design verification testing, migration plan testing, new platform and code certification testing, and network ready for use testing.  They are written in a case study format and are quite readable.

Nerdgasm time.  This is where the book gets hairy…Are you too lazy to develop your own plans from scratch?  You want to cheat?  Just borrow the DETAILED test plans that are in the next seven chapters.  There is enough meat here that Cisco Press could copy & paste into a shorter book to sell.  We are talking over 200 pages of test plans covering seven areas.  That’s a lot of cowbell!

The book ends on a high note.  Since you went through the trouble of setting up a lab, why not use it for training/learning purposes. Step-by-step instructions are provided to setup a lab. This chapter may not be useful to a large number of folks since the equipment covered is pure Cisco, including UCS.  In fact, many of the directions provided center around setting up a UCS environment. I happen to like this chapter because one of my last major implementations before joining VCE was installing UCS for the organization at which I worked.  Sort of brings back memories.

To sum this review up:  If you are in the network field, you need this book.