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USENIX, The Advanced Computing Systems Association

4th USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design & Implementation

Pp. 201–214 of the Proceedings

The Flexlab Approach to Realistic Evaluation of Networked Systems

Robert Ricci, Jonathon Duerig, Pramod Sanaga, Daniel Gebhardt, Mike Hibler, Kevin Atkinson, Junxing Zhang, Sneha Kasera, and Jay Lepreau, University of Utah


Networked systems are often evaluated on overlay testbeds such as PlanetLab and emulation testbeds such as Emulab. Emulation testbeds give users great control over the host and network environments and offer easy reproducibility, but only artificial network conditions. Overlay testbeds provide real network conditions, but are not repeatable environments and provide less control over the experiment.

We describe the motivation, design, and implementation of Flexlab, a new testbed with the strengths of both overlay and emulation testbeds. It enhances an emulation testbed by providing the ability to integrate a wide variety of network models, including those obtained from an overlay network. We present three models that demonstrate its usefulness, including “application-centric Internet modeling” that we specifically developed for Flexlab. Its key idea is to run the application within the emulation testbed and use its offered load to measure the overlay network. These measurements are used to shape the emulated network. Results indicate that for evaluation of applications running over Internet paths, Flexlab with this model can yield far more realistic results than either PlanetLab without resource reservations, or Emulab without topological information.

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