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Presented @ BSidesDC 2013
Washington, DC, October 20, 2013
Measuring the performance of network protocols that require determinism can be difficult with the existing set of tools. Tools like Wireshark can give you the details of the protocols themselves and some general statistics about the packet streams, but they don’t easily show the full set of traffic for those streams. Visual tools like Etherape can show you the full set of traffic streams, but don’t give you any idea of the nuances of the performance represented in those traffic streams.
While at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), I built a tool capable of analyzing and displaying the performance of network protocols. The first generation of the tool was called the Industrial Ethernet Network Performance (IENetP) test tool and the second generation of the tool is called the Factory Equipment Network Testing (FENT) framework. Both these tools are available on SourceForge and are public domain. I have since left NIST and the tools haven’t been picked up by anyone.
The FENT framework is useful for analyzing the performance of any deterministic protocol and reporting certain performance characteristics. It was originally designed for EtherNet/IP (Ethernet / Industrial Protocol), Modbus, Profinet, and other industrial Ethernet-based protocols, but has proven to be useful for many other protocols as well. The most beneficial part of the software has actually been the graphical analysis, which in many cases resemble Rorschach plots due to the subtle performance problems that show up as strange patterns in the data.
My presentation will describe the FENT framework, present the tool in its current state, and display some of the more interesting results. It will also be a plea for someone to take up the open-source development of this project and move it forward. My new position does not leave me with enough time to dedicate to the project, so the project has been dormant for the last few months. I’ve received complements on the project from many industrial partners in the past and they would like to see further development, but that means that someone else has to take on the task.