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2014 was a great year for NTAF, and we are expecting ever bigger things from 2015!

Happy New Year! 2014 was a great year for NTAF, and we are expecting ever bigger things from 2015. Here’s a quick recap of some of the exciting events from last year:

The University of New Hampshire’s Interoperability Lab (UNH-IOL) has joined the Network Test Automation Forum. UNH-IOL is a neutral, third-party laboratory dedicated to testing data networking technologies through industry collaboration. For some time now, NTAF has been looking to roll out its compliance mechanism, which is best delivered by a third-party for multiple reasons, and UNH-IOL is perfectly positioned to help guide NTAF in that effort. UNH-IOL is very experienced in this area, as it already provides collaborative testing programs for 30 other standards organizations. Moreover, their status as a non-profit third-party testing laboratory positions them perfectly on neutral ground. Furthermore, UNH-IOL is NTAF’s first academic member. This is an exciting development for NTAF, whose memberships until now have all come from industry. We look forward to the fresh perspective that UNH-IOL brings to the table.

NSN (Nokia Solutions and Networks), TekEmergence Solutions LLC and NetScout, a test and measurement company have joined NTAF as an adopter member, and furthermore are strongly considering joining as full members

NTAF is proud to announce the official release of two new specifications. Both specs were successfully voted out of their respective working groups, NTAF’s technical committee, and NTAF as a whole, in November 2014.

The first new spec comes from NTAF’s Reporting Working Group, which is working on an industry standard for test reports. Standard NTAF reports are expected to contain various data, including what test equipment was used, DUT information, test case steps, pointers to logs, etc. One of the key elements reports also need to have is an expression of the topology used in the test bed. The Reporting Working Group decided to carve out a separate specification, specifically for describing topologies in reports. That topology specification has now been released as TS-006.

The second new spec comes from NTAF’s API working group, which is working on next-generation high-level APIs. High-level APIs are already commonly used in test labs as a layer between scripts/test cases and native APIs, but lack of standards has led to a mess of several pseudo-standards which suffer from lack of flexibility, lack of scale, and poor alignment with the underlying test equipment. Just one example of the lack of flexibility with these pseudo standards is that they are tied to specific languages such as Tcl or Perl, which are very minor languages in the broader software world, while other languages such as Python, and even architectures, based on REST, are quickly becoming widespread. These problems in turn have made it extremely expensive for equipment vendors to maintain test libraries – and the most astronomical of these costs occurs when traffic generators reach their end of life. The new spec from the API Working Group provides a framework to alleviate these problems for next-generation high-level APIs which are flexible, aligned and future-proof. The API specification has now been released as TS-005.

Topologies are a fundamental concept in networking. Yet, amazingly, there exists no standard in the networking industry for expressing topologies. This is even more astounding if you consider that the networking industry abounds in hundreds of standards documents from the likes of the IETF and IEEE, among others.

In the last couple of quarters, NTAF’s Reporting Working Group has turned its attention to the issue of topology expression. Topologies are a key part of what a test report needs to include, since any reader or consumer of a test report will want to know the basics of how test equipment and device(s) under test were connected together during the test. As part of the effort to standardize on test reports, the Reporting Working Group has therefore drafted a standard for expressing topologies in test beds.

The standard offers the possibility to describe a network topology in XML or JSON. Networks described can be hierarchical, that is, a node can contain other nodes recursively, and for example a physical node can contain a number of virtual machines as nodes.

As the first revisions of TS-001 and TS-002 were plagued by errors at the XML sample level, deteriorating intelligibility, errata were written to correct these errors. These errata have been approved during 2014 and merged into the originating standards so a new, corrected release is expected soon to be made official

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