In class we’ve been working on learning the discrete events simulator OMNET++. It is a really nice piece of software and sure makes it easy simulate vast amounts of scenarios. One of the things I find interesting about network research is how hard it is to prove that your idea or system is correct. I personally do research in internet security and there are a number of techniques in that area of research to prove that a security protocol is correct or provides certain guarantees. But, networking doesn’t have that luxury. For instance, routing is definitely something that could use some improvement. Sure, it’s easy to test in a small controlled environment, but the real test is with hundreds of thousands of nodes connected together in a complex topology. Early in the class we talked about ideas for a new internet architecture, how do you test something like that on a real scale?
In a lot of ways I think simulators might be our saving grace in this regard. The more we can represent real world conditions in a simulator, the better the predictive outcome. I’m not saying this method is not without its downsides, but it might be the best we have available.