Have you ever asked yourself, ‘what could go wrong’ and went on to prepare for that? And after all that preparation and hard work, you were able to solve or even prevent a situation?
Well, that’s a super healthy mindset that also works in networking. If you think about it, networking and revising for an exam do have something in common. What’s that?
Well, it’s preparing, studying, analyzing, simulating, and doing all that’s necessary for a successful result.
With proper ‘forecasting’ and tests, you can better assess the seriousness of an issue. In addition, once you have the knowledge, you can quickly get back on your feet if something bad comes up.
Things are not that different with the Operational Test and Evaluation Environment (OT&E), a process that makes network systems and equipment more secure and reliable.
- What is the Operational Test and Evaluation Environment (OT&E)?
- How does OT&E work?
- What are the advantages of OT&E?
- What can happen if you don’t use OT&E? The Equifax Data Breach Incident
What is the Operational Test and Evaluation Environment (OT&E)?
In networking, the Operational Test and Evaluation Environment (OT&E) is the process of testing and evaluating the performance, reliability, and security of a network system or equipment. These steps help in determining how the system and equipment will fare in actual conditions.
OT&E is essential in the development and deployment of new such resources. It helps to ensure that the system meets the requirements and can operate effectively in a real-world environment.
In this context, OT&E involves replicating the network environment as closely as possible, including simulating network traffic, configuration, and security settings.
The goal of OT&E is to identify any issues or weaknesses in the network system or equipment and to ensure that the final version can perform its intended functions effectively and securely.
During OT&E, the network system or equipment is put under a variety of stress tests, such as high traffic volume, security attacks, and unexpected failures.
These tests help to determine the limits of the system and to identify any potential performance bottlenecks. The results of OT&E provide valuable information to the network design and development teams, which can be used to make improvements and ensure that the network system is ready for deployment.
How does OT&E work?
Operational Test and Evaluation Environment (OT&E) in networking revolves around a typical formula. Let’s break the process into several steps.
Planning and preparation
The first step is to plan and prepare for the test. This includes:
– Laying down the objectives and requirements of the test;
– Identifying the network environment that will be tested;
– Selecting the right test equipment and tools.
Test environment setup
The next step is to create the test environment. This usually involves:
– Configuring the network equipment and systems;
– Simulating the network traffic, configuration, and security settings.
These are done in such ways to match the real-world environment.
Once the test environment has been set up, the actual testing can begin. This includes conducting various stress tests, such as:
- High traffic volume: It involves generating a large number of requests to a system or application. The goal is to see how well the system or application performs under heavy load (if it will crash, or freeze, etc.)
- Security attacks: Engineers use various tools and techniques to simulate real-world security attacks. These can be, for example, denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, network scanning, phishing attacks, and malware infections (don’t forget that spam bots are also a major cause of malware infections). The aim is to see how stable and secure a network or app can be in different scenarios. This helps the teams identify and focus on security risks, and implement measures to mitigate the risks.
- Unexpected failures: This test simulates various types of system failures, such as hardware or software failures, power outages, network congestion, or other types of disruptions. The goal is to test the network’s ability to maintain its essential services, such as data transmission, communication, and connectivity, even when faced with unexpected or planned disruptions.
These tests are important for determining the limits of the network system or equipment.
It would be safe to say that the test should leave no stone unturned, as networks are subjected to various kinds of cyber attacks pretty often.
Things like DDoS (Denial Distribution of Service), or even mishaps like sudden failures or high loads are what networks and equipment should be able to withstand.
If rigorous testing is done, developers and engineers can stay on top of every possible obstacle to make sure the systems can either repel the attacks or quickly get up and running again.
Data collection and analysis
Meanwhile, data is collected and analyzed to assess the performance, reliability, and security of the network system or equipment.
The data collected can include metrics such as load, latency, and availability, as well as any issues or errors that occur during the test.
After the test is done, the data collected is analyzed to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the network system or equipment.
These are important insights that can then be used to see where there would be room for improvement. In addition, the results help to ensure that the network system is ready for deployment.
The final step in the OT&E process is to come up with a report that summarizes the results of the test and provides recommendations for improving the network system or equipment.
The report can be used by the network design and development teams to make improvements and decide if the network system is ready for deployment.
What are the advantages of OT&E?
The reliability of a network system or equipment depends upon the test results. Just like a mock test or a simulation will prepare you for the real deal, so will OT&E help engineers prepare their infrastructure for any situation.
With OT&E, the network system or equipment will be checked to see if it can perform as intended in real-world conditions. By testing the system under a variety of conditions and stress levels, potential performance bottlenecks can be spotted and addressed. This will result in improved overall performance.
OT&E helps to identify and resolve any reliability issues before they become critical in a real-world environment.
By simulating real-world scenarios, the resources can be put to stress tests and evaluated for their ability to work properly in challenging conditions.
With proper testing of the security of the assets, the engineers can see how well they resist and respond to various types of security threats and attacks.
By evaluating the security of the system in a controlled environment, teams can find potential vulnerabilities and solve them before they become major real-life problems, thus leading to enhanced security.
OT&E helps to identify and resolve any quality issues with the network system or equipment before it is launched.
This can result in improved quality and increased customer satisfaction. Moreover, it is a cost-efficient measure.
Proper testing can reduce costs associated with fixing problems after deployment. That’s because it’s more reliable to prepare for the worst rather than getting overwhelmed by issues you did not foresee.
OT&E is a great way of minimizing any potential damage. When you simulate such problems in a controlled environment, you are able to come up with suitable solutions. Better preparations and solutions will reduce the impact of any problems.
This can result in a smoother and more successful deployment, as well as faster fixing times, should an issue come up.
What can happen if you don’t use OT&E? The Equifax Data Breach Incident
Those that do not learn from history are prone to repeat it. OT&E is a highly recommended process that any company should introduce in their networking infrastructure.
OT&E helps reduce considerable risks and vulenrabilites because it allows engineers to simulate these problems in a controlled environment. From there, they can test the network and equiment to see if they will risk suffering from data breaches and exploits.
When it comes to DO and DON’T, a famous ”don’t” was.. done by the company Equifax in 2017. A credit reporting agency, Equifax suffered a massive data breach that exposed the personal and financial data of over 147 million people.
It was later discovered that the breach was caused by a vulnerability in an open-source software component that Equifax used in its web application.
The vulnerability was publicly disclosed several months before the breach, but Equifax failed to patch the software on time.
One of the reasons why Equifax failed to patch the software was because it did not use an Operational Test and Evaluation Environment (OT&E) to test its systems before deploying them to production.
So, Equifax did not have a way to test the vulnerability patch before deploying it to its production systems. This led to the breach remaining unresolved for several months. It eventually became an exploit used by hackers who carried out the data breach.
The Equifax data breach resulted in significant financial and reputational damage to the company. It faced many lawsuits, investigations, and a sharp drop in its stock price.
The breach also led to increased criticism of the company’s security practices, and the importance of using an OT&E environment as a best practice in networking and cybersecurity.
Reliability and security are what any network system or equipment must ensure. But these cannot be achieved without thorough testing and comprehensive analysis.
Just like preparing for a big exam and making sure you got all things covered, so must network engineers and developers do with precious resources.
Operational Test and Evaluation Environment (OT&E) helps reduce critical risks and ensure the stability, security, and reliability of a network or equipment.
That’s because the assets are put under rigorous stress tests long before they’re actually put into use. This helps engineers and developers come up with solutions and devise a strategy on how to improve those assets. In doing so, the infrastructure will be better prepared for potential dangers. And if it were to fail, the already acquired data will help teams get it up and running in no time.