Spirent acquisition of Mu Dynamics marries heavyweight load-bearing, barrage-level security testing

By | April 25, 2012

Posted in: Network Security Trends

With its acquisition of Mu Dynamics, Spirent combines industrial-strength load-testing and security torture-testing tools. The complementary combination gives customers one-stop shopping for heavy duty testing of network and security appliances, applications and network infrastructure. The two are among a few high-end testing tool vendors, that also include Ixia and BreakingPoint Systems.

Spirent and Ixia have the longer pedigrees and have focused primarily on load testing, although both have introduced increasing security-testing capabilities in an increasingly hostile network environment and complex and customer-specific mixes of application traffic. Mu and BreakingPoint entered the market on the security side a few years ago.

Network equipment manufacturers and large service providers have been the primary market for companies like Spirent and Ixia, which test load- bearing capabilities by generating heavy traffic. The focus, naturally, was on the lower layers of the OSI stack. But networks are very different than they were just a few years ago with the introduction of new protocols, high-performance applications, and, unfortunately, lots of attack traffic.

The market is expanding, as enterprise networks as well as large service providers bear enormous high-speed, complex traffic loads: converged IP services, including voice and video as well as data, and God knows what non-business online activities end-users are engaged in, and online transactions that demand instantaneous response. Each environment is different, and the testing gear must be able to simulate not only the volume of traffic but its uniqueness.

Carriers need to know if their networks are up to their SLAs. Enterprises need to know if their networks can support new business initiatives and applications, and if their vendors’ network and security products can withstand the traffic and bear up under attack.

As a result, security vendors, enterprises and government agencies are increasingly important in the testing market.

Spirent’s Avalanche is focused on application and security testing on the higher end of the OSI stack, from layers 4-7, and is available as a stand-alone tool or running on TestCenter, Spirent’s flagship testing platform.

Mu is a security tool on steroids, which bombards the target with a essentially unlimited variety of attack and malformed traffic. Mu applies fuzzing technology on packet captures from the target to create test traffic that reflects the unique environment. There’s some overlap, but on a simplified level, Spirent tests the weight the target can bear, while Mu fires off a barrage of nasty permutations of attack and bad traffic to try to crash whatever it’s aimed at.

So, it makes sense that tools such as Mu’s and Ixia’s are both used by the same customers, and the Mu website has even included instructions for integrating Ixia and Spirent.

Now customers can go to one source, and that promises to give Spirent a big advantage in the market if they do a good job of integrating and leveraging the companies’ expertise and channel partners to continue to develop and integrate products and get out the sales message. Spirent plans to migrate Mu software onto its next generation of high-performance testing platform, so Mu’s security testing capability will be matched with an appliance that is capable of generating enormous loads at high speeds.

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