We were consistently impressed with the quality and capabilities of the Spirent equipment. The Abacus is the most capable piece of telco testing equipment that our team has worked with, functioning as both a call-load generator and central office emulator. The test system is able to generate a mix of tones, real speech, fax, data or PRBS, while supporting (take a deep breath): analog, T1 CAS (channel associated signaling), E1 CAS, GR-303, SLC-96, V5.1, V5.2, SS7, ISDN PRI on T1, ISDN PRI on E1, ISDN BRA (basic rate access) over U-interface, and ISDN BRA over S-interfaces, with the ability to generate five to 1,023 channels, depending on configuration.
This is a rackmount chassis system that can be configured with from one to 40 cards. Minimum system configurations start at about $10,000; Spirent says the average cost works out to about $200 per port.
All our testing was done against SecureLogix's ETM version 3.03. But we had the opportunity to play with pending version 4.0, which should be shipping in mid-November, for one day at the end of our testing.
ETM 4.0's best gee-whiz feature is TeleVPN Call Shield 1.0, a policy-based telecom VPN (PRI only, T1 support pending) proving 3DES (Triple Data Encryption Standard) encryption services to any phone, fax or modem. This lets any two sites with the right ETM equipment encrypt (in real time, thanks to some DSP digital signal processor magic) all transmissions between locations. Pretty neat stuff. Also of note is the new AAA for TeleWall Firewall 1.0, an authentication, authorization and accounting services application to assist in maintaining a distributed telecom environment.
ETM 4.0 also addresses faster modem declaration--a much better 1-to-2-second time instead of the current version's 25-to-30-second requirement to identify and apply rules to a detected modem transmission. Finally, version 4.0 delivers a 2.4.19 Linux kernel upgrade and provides a number of interface and performance improvements that users will appreciate.