An in­tro­duc­tion to net­work sim­u­la­tion

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Net­work sim­u­la­tion is the process by which a com­puter net­work is mod­elled by iden­ti­fy­ing, analysing and quan­ti­fy­ing the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween var­i­ous net­work de­vices and soft­ware. Math­e­mat­i­cal mod­el­ling is used to study the be­hav­iour of a com­puter net­work rather than us­ing ac­tual data. There are many ad­van­tages of do­ing this. Net­work be­hav­iour un­der ex­treme con­di­tions can be an­a­lysed very eas­ily us­ing a sim­u­la­tor. For ex­am­ple, con­sider a node (net­work sim­u­la­tion jar­gon to re­fer to a com­puter sys­tem) with mo­bil­ity in a wire­less net­work. We can very eas­ily study the be­hav­iour of a node hav­ing high ve­loc­ity, us­ing a sim­u­la­tor. In a phys­i­cal net­work, achiev­ing high ve­loc­ity for mo­bile nodes is a very dif­fi­cult task, and vary­ing the ve­loc­ity of mo­bile nodes for anal­y­sis pur­poses is time con­sum­ing and dif­fi­cult.

An­other sit­u­a­tion where sim­u­la­tion be­comes the nat­u­ral choice is when the num­ber of nodes in the net­work is very high. For ex­am­ple, if you want to study the work­ing of a net­work with, say, a 1000 nodes, then sim­u­la­tion is the ideal choice, at least till you are sure about the re­sults. Sim­u­la­tors are also suit­able for net­work anal­y­sis if you have a limited bud­get, limited time, or you are not sure about the suc­cess of your pro­posed method or pro­to­col.

While the pre­vi­ous para­graph lists out a few sce­nar­ios where net­work sim­u­la­tion is war­ranted, don’t as­sume that net­work sim­u­la­tion is an easy task. Sim­u­lat­ing net­works is dif­fi­cult and de­vel­op­ing a net­work sim­u­la­tor is an al­most im­pos­si­ble task. Very of­ten, I have lamented that it is far bet­ter to set up a net­work in hard­ware than use th­ese sim­u­la­tors (at least, I used to in my younger days). To crown it all, some­times the data ob­tained from the ac­tual phys­i­cal net­work may not cor­rob­o­rate the re­sults ob­tained from the sim­u­la­tor. Hav­ing dis­cussed all the many neg­a­tive as­pects of net­work sim­u­la­tors, I still be­lieve they are ex­cel­lent tools and all re­searchers should arm them­selves with th­ese po­tent tools.

Even though the ns class of sim­u­la­tors is the most widely used, there are other op­tions in this field. There are QualNet, NetSim, OMNeT++, etc, which also are use­ful net­work sim­u­la­tors. If there are so many al­ter­na­tive net­work sim­u­la­tors,

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