Unified Collaboratory for Analyzing Networks

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UCAN (A Unified Collaboratory for Analyzing Networks) is an integrated, collaborative, extendable network workbench tool for network engineers, researchers and also network users. It is built over the Quanta networking library.

UCAN is an ongoing project developed by Naveen Krishnaprasad, Brenda Lopez and Jason Leigh at the Electronic Visualization Laboratory.

What you can do with UCAN

  1. Run active tests like netperf between two machines on a network. The results of the test can be analyzed in real time using two dimensional graphical visualizers. Users can also add their own tests to the UCAN framework.
  2. Execute SNMP queries (to routers, hosts and other network devices) using an user interface from any machine on the network. UCAN provides a proxy for SNMP queries, which is simply a daemon running on one machine(which should be authorized to query the required router or host)
  3. Monitor performance of an application using a 3D visualization tool. The visualization shows performance of all network streams in an application and parameters like used network bandwidth, end-end latency, jitter, burstiness, etc can be analyzed.
    In the current version of this tool, applications have to be written using Quanta, to stream performance data in a specific format.
  4. Share UCAN interfaces and visualization with a remote user. Participants in a collaborative session log on to a joint session, after which they can choose what user interfaces to share with others.
    Users can also control the tests from remote sites, if authorized by the owner of the network operation (who initiated it). A white board is also provided for exchanging text messages in a collaborative session.

What is different about UCAN

Many networking tools provide ways to run tests, SNMP queries, instrument applications etc. But there doesn't exist a tool/package that allows simultaneous analysis of these capabilities, in the context of each other. Moreover, collaborating with others for fixing problems with networks or sharing results of network experiments with other researchers, often takes a long time, with most time spent in communication lapses.

UCAN aims to target both issues simultaneously. The capabilities can be listed as follows:

  1. Active tests, SNMP queries and application performance visualization are built into a unified framework. Network operations are run as processes that are connected through a common channel exchanging events amongst themselves.
    For example, a ping test can be run at the same time as an application and any interesting event in an application (like a sudden spike in application latency) can be matched with the result graph of the ping test at the same time
  2. A message passing interface is provided using which information about application performance and current network performance states can be exchanged
  3. Real-time collaboration is possible, allowing multiple users to look at the same user interfaces and performance graphs in a group session (and also remotely control them)

The UCAN Framework

UCAN does more than just bundling different tools for network analysis. Extendable features are,

  1. New network operations can be added to UCAN. API's help to reuse the collaborative(sharing and remote control) and integrated features (like event passing to applications and other tests)
  2. The test framework allows users to define their own network tests using API's provided. The resulting test should be written as a shared object file, which can be loaded dynamically in a test session
  3. A shared widget API is provided over the FLTK user interface library. So new interfaces built can also be shared by other UCAN users.

For more information contact cavern@evl.uic.edu