TCP/IP Conformance Testing

Mon, 15 Sep 86 09:31:46 -0500

The following article was published in NETWORK WORLD, by Paul
Korzeniowski, 1 Sept. 86, pg 2.

Monterey, Calif. - Corporation for Open Systems (COS) supporters beware.
Ensuring that devices on a multivendor network really can work together
has proven to be a task too complex even for Uncle Sam.
    Last week at the first Transmission Control Protocol/Internet
Protocol (TCP/IP) Vendor Workshop ("TCP/IP future at stake," Network
World, Aug. 25), the U.S. Defense Communications Agency announced it is
washing its hands of TCP/IP conformance testing.
    The agency oversees transmission facilities that link government
agencies, universities, and corporations into one giant network of
networks. The umbrella network grew out of the Advanced Research
Projects Agency Network (Arpanet), designed in the late 1960s as the
world's first packet-switching net.
    The original network has expanded so that today it supports more
than 30,000 computer systems ranging in size from Cray Research, Inc.'s
supercomputers to Apple Computer, Inc.'s Macintoshes.
    For the last few years, DCA and a number of other government
agencies have been developing test suites and creating a center for
TCP/IP conformance. The work was similar to that undertaken by COS,
which will handle Open Systems Interconnect (OSI) conformance testing
and the development to test suites. At the workshop, two government
officials told attendees that plans for the center had been dropped.
    The DCA has developed and continues to design conformance test
criteria, but they are not robust enough to ensure that all TCP/IP
products can interoperate. "There have been instances where vendors
have spent a lot of time and money trying to ensure their products would
perform on the government network," said Daniel Lynch, president of
Advanced Computing Environments in Cupertino, Calif. "When their
product was linked to another company's product, they couldn't
    Government officials declined to discuss the decision. But
conference attendees speculated the government found the task of
supplying comprehensive conformance tests nearly an impossible one.
    One problem testers faced is that the only way to test a product
properly is to attach it to the target network, a procedure that the
DCA would not condone. Also, running a testing center requires a great
deal of money and engineering talent. Lynch said only a handful of
engineers are qualified to develop and run conformance tests.
    The DCA decision leaves TCP/IP vendors with a number of unappealing
options. They could form a COS-like organization. But the consensus
seemed to be that fewer rather than more of such standards organizations
are needed.
    Individual companies could develop their own testing procedures.
But the resources required for such self-testing could limit the number
of vendors able to bring TCP/IP products to market. Attendees formed a
task force to explore how vendors should proceed.

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