What is Protocol Testing?

Protocol Testing
Oxford dictionary defines Protocols as “the accepted or established code of procedures or behaviour in any group, organisation, or situation,” which ought to be implemented or followed for the smooth functioning of a procedure. Likewise, in the software or communication industry, protocols are the rules that govern the interactions between the different components within a distributed computer system. These protocols are then tested to check their effectiveness and to ensure that they are working properly and providing accurate results/output. Following is a discussion on "Protocol Testing", to help you understand its procedure, process, types and more.

Defining Protocol Testing:

A generic term, Protocol testing is mainly used in the communication industry. It is based on the black box approach, which implies that a precise reference specification must be provided, which is the basis for the derivation of the cases and analysis of test results. In short, the nature of the protocol has a strong impact on protocol testing. Moreover, protocol testing can be easily defined by categorising it into two industries:

  1. Communication Industry: In the communication industry, this type of testing tests the protocols in various domains such as VOIP, Wireless, Switching, & Routing, among others. Here the focus is on testing the structure of packets sent over a network with the assistance of tools.
  2. Software Industry: Here the protocols are the common set of rules and constraints that should be followed by one or more computers while communicating with each other. These rules define the data and its format, which is used by all computers during data transfer through a network. In the software industry the protocols are of two types:
    • Routed Protocols.
    • Routing Protocols.

In both these industries, the main objective of protocol testing is to test the Enhance Interior Gateway Routing Protocols (EIGRP) and Open Shortest Path First (OSPF) or any other protocol to ensure its conformance with the stated standards.

Types of Protocol Testing:

Protocol testing is a significant part of a system’s development process as well as its networking. It ensures proper functioning and performance of a system, as well as validates that the implemented rules and regulations are in conformance with the law or certified standards. Hence, to simplify this, protocol testing is divided into two categories, which are:

  1. Stress & Reliability Test: The focus of this type of protocol testing is to check the performance of the network or system under various stressful conditions. It covers the performance aspect of the device, such are:
    • Performance Testing.
    • Load Testing.
    • Stress Testing.
  2. Functional Tests: This is the second type of protocol testing, wherein the tests are executed to check the behavioural aspects of the system. This testing includes:
    • Conformance Testing: Protocols that are implemented on the system or device are tested for adherence like IEEE, RFC, and more.
    • Interoperability Testing: Once conformance testing is completed on all platforms, interoperability is tested for various vendors.
    • Network Testing: Here the testing is implemented to test the functionality with reference to the design document.

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Defining Protocol Testing Process:

The process of protocol testing is implemented/executed with the assistance of Simulator and Protocol Analyser, which are together used to test the scalability, functionality, performance, and other such features of the devices and their networks.

  • Simulator: This stimulates various entities of the networking element.
  • Protocol Analyser: This is used to check the proper decoding of calls and session analysis. This is carried out by the device under test (DUT) to other devices, such as switches and router and configuring protocol in it.

These two check the structure of the packets sent by the devices and validate the performance of the protocol algorithms and other important components of the devices, with the assistance of tools like Scapy, Wireshark and more.

Checks Performed by Protocol Testing:

With the assistance of the simulator and protocol analyser, the testing team in protocol testing checks the following aspects of the device of system. These checks allow them to validate the functionality of the device, network, or the system and help them implement proper decoding.

  • Bandwidth: This is the rate of packets transmitted per second. For digital devices, this is usually expressed in bits per second (bps) or bytes per second.
  • Correctness: Correctness of a network or device is implemented to receive the expected packets for the intended protocols.
  • Latency: Network latency defines the time it takes for a packet of data to get from one designated point to another. It includes propagation, transmission, router, and other processing, and other computer and storage delays.

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Protocol testing, which is mainly based on black-box approach, plays a significant role in the development of a system. This generic term is used by organisations working in the communication industry for testing various protocols in the domains of Wireless, Switching, Routing, and more. This type of testing ensures that the rules and constraints are being followed by two or more computer/systems, while communicating with each other. The main purpose of these rules and constraints is to define the data as well as the format during the process of data transfer through the network. Hence, with the assistance of protocol testing, one can ensure smooth communication between systems, as well as enjoy hassle-free networking.

Protocol Testing Infographics:

protocol testing infographics

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