In the Networking and IT world we usually design and implement networks and server infrastructure taking for granted that the hardware and applications will withstand any volume of traffic.
Stress Testing a network or IT system with high volume of traffic will give us significant insights about the behavior of such systems in abnormal conditions such as DDoS attacks, sudden influx of traffic (e.g during backup transfers over the network) etc.
Traffic packet generators are hardware or software tools that are concerned with the technical aspects of traffic and how it affects network and system resources.
Since a big part of creating a positive user experience is your percentage of uptime and absence of slow response, packet loss, link overload etc, measuring how traffic spikes and fluctuations in user activity affect system performance and resources allocation is an important, and sometimes overlooked, function of IT operations.
When you’re using a network traffic packet generator tool, you’re going to try to perform isolated tests in such a way that it eliminates variables and mitigates the role the packet generator in creating bottlenecks and other traffic-related issues. A comprehensive testing system will include:
- Traffic sources, evaluation tools or equipment, and sinks
- The specific device under test (DUT)
- Physical connections and barriers between the traffic sources and DUT
Performing stress tests and simulating traffic flows should be done both during network creation and on actual working networks once you go live. This will help prevent problems like data loss and dropped connections.
You’ve got the rest of the components, here are the tools: Our top 10 list of the best software network traffic packet generators on the market right now. The list below includes both free and commercial options.
Table Of Contents
This company strives to create a network testing tool and traffic generator for every engineer and IT specialist, but that’s impossible in today’s tech climate. What it does do is provide you with a packet generator that has a friendly GUI and a lot of power.
This free, open source tool is licensed under GNU GPLv3, and is supported by donations of cash, code, or other types of positive contributions.
Top features include:
- Support for all major operating systems
- Exclusive port control to provide a controlled testing environment
- Opens and edits PCAP files, replays, and saves back
- Sets values for any testing field
- Supports most protocols, including IPv4 & 6, IP-in-IP, tunneling, stateless TCP, WLAN, Ethernet, and more
- Accessible via GUI or Python API
- Performs load and functional testing
- Creates and supports multiple streams
- Doesn’t support stateful, connection-oriented TCP connections
- Only experimental support for user-defined script to substitute unimplemented protocols
This is another free, open source tool that provides more than just packet generation testing.
It is part of the well-known Nmap tool which is used mainly for network mapping and discovery in security assessments.
With this robust tool, you’ll also be able to perform response analysis and time measurements.
These are also essential to providing a high degree of user satisfaction. It provides a complete, command-line based interface that’s as powerful as it is convenient.
Use this tool to send normal ICMP ping packets for active hosts discovery as well as to send raw network packets for stress testing, detecting packet corruption, and exposing a range of attack weaknesses in your network.
Top Features include:
- Custom generation for ARP, TCP, UDP, and ICMP (ping) packets
- Supports multiple target port and host specifications
- Echo mode to allow advanced testing
- Supports all major operating systems (Windows, Linux, Mac)
- Route tracing capabilities
- Flexible and easy to customize
- Only experimental support for IPv6
This tool bills itself as a “realistic traffic generator. As such, you can look for TRex for stateful and stateless DPDK-powered traffic generation that allows smart replay of actual traffic templates.
It allows analysis of multiple streams, and provides individualized, per-stream jitter, latency, and statistics reporting.
This tool can also be used for stateful benchmark and stress testing load balancers, ISPs, DPI, NAT, and firewall protection as well as stateless traffic stream generation.
- Supports stateful feature sets like emulating L7 with a scalable TCP layer
- Supports up to 20 million pps (stateless)
- Up to 200-400 Gbs through one Cisco UCS (stateful)
- Continuous multi-burst/single burst support
- Interactive GUI console
- Python API automation
- Support for stateful DPDK 1/2.5/5/10/25/40/50/100 Gbps interfaces
- NAT and PAT dynamic translation learning
- Router plugin support is not open
SolarWinds is a trusted company that puts a range of testing, management and monitoring tools at your disposal.
Their WAN Killer tool performs proactive network stress and load testing by sending fully-customizable real traffic to specific host or IP address.
It allows you to set the packet size and bandwidth percentage during network WAN testing, track TCP/UDP packets under specific load conditions, and set the IP address or host name for random packet generation.
This tool is not available for free, but there is a 14-day free trial version with full functionality before you have to purchase a license.
Features of WAN Killer include:
- Monitors bandwidth and WLC traffic
- App traffic alerting and network analysis
- Integrates with other Solar Winds tools and Orion platforms
- Advanced NBAR2 app recognition
- CBQoS policy optimization
- Identifies malicious and malformed traffic patterns
- Combines NTA with Network Configuration Manager (NCM)
- Prices start at more than $1,000
- Only works on Windows OS
This multi-purpose app allows you to send and receive simulated UDP, TCP, and SSL packets, configure and select ports, and run client and server software simultaneously.
It also offers a great deal of flexibility and customization for methodology and input through command line or GUI.
Packet Sender also includes built-in ASCII and Hex readers, and it supports all major operating systems. Best of all, this tool is completely free and open source.
- Hot key function
- Performs concurrent malware analysis
- Test environment automation and scripting
- Runs traffic generation testing between two separate machines
- Probes firewall integrity
- Supports all major operating systems
- Built-in ASCII and Hex readers
- Scales up or down to provide customized testing environments
- None that we could see
Not only does this easy app test incoming traffic, it also performs stress and load testing right over your network. With this tool, you can analyse the behavior of your network by sending TCP/IP and ICMP traffic as well as UDP packets. Once you install this app, you are offered 20 each of UDP, TCP generators/servers and clients.
This is a paid tool but with a very affordable price tag of around $79 for the personal license.
- Easy to use interface
- Supports 20 UDP generators and clients for each installation
- Supports 20 TCP servers and clients for each installation
- Measures different types of TCP traffic
- Also acts as a network monitor
- Emulates both client and server activity
- Not free (but affordable)
- Only compatible with Windows
This tool has one purpose: to flood your network with UDP packets as fast as possible to see how much it can take.
This is very useful to test how your network and security defences will behave during a volumetric DDoS attack for example.
Although it doesn’t offer as wide a testing environment, as many features, or some of the bells and whistles of other traffic generators, it does what it was designed to do, and it does it well.
This app does allow you to set testing parameters, including target port, payload, and send rates. The baseline is set at 100BaseT ethernet interface with up to 98 percent usage, dependent on your hardware/software configuration.
- Supports IPv4 & 6
- Offers control over target ports, payloads, and send rates
- Evaluates heavy traffic/high payloads
- Trial version available
- Only generates UDP packets
- Must pay for licensing after free trial
This tool was created for generating and analyzing Ethernet traffic and networks. It’s accessible via command line or GUI interface, and you can adjust the parameters to simulate a range of conditions.
The latest generation of this tool, 2.0, even checks for dropped connections, and it supports Linux-based operating systems.
Packeth supports a wide range of protocols, including ethernet II, ethernet 802.3, 802.1q, QinQ, TCP ADP as well as user-defined Ethernet frameworks, network payloads, and transport layer payloads. Free and open source and best suited for LAN environments.
- Creates delays between packets
- Defines number of packets
- Allows changing parameters mid-test
- Supports nearly all protocols and RTP payloads
- Includes ramp and speed setting options
- Supports PCAP formats of file (saving and reading).
- Supports JUMBO frames with appropriate network drivers enabled
- Easy to use, shallow learning curve
- Only supports Linux-based OS
- CLI version only sends packers already stored in PCAP files
- Depending on Linux distribution and installation, may need additional packages
This traffic generation tool gets back to basics with its second gen release. It measures both TCP and UDP performance under a range of traffic conditions with the goal of maintaining active iperf coding and preserving that coding which is inoperable.
Iperf 2 also adds Python code control to enable centralized testing, and it releases timing-related statistics that include recording end-to-end latency.
- Supports most major operating systems
- Supports intervals as short as five minutes
- Can do enhanced reporting
- Displays target loop time in the initial UDP header
- Supports SO_RCVTIMEOUT, O_SNDTIMEO, and SO_TIMESTAMP
- Binds to allow OS to determine target port
- Multicast SSM support for IPv4 and 6
- Free, open source
- Not compatible with iperf 3
This tool utilizes Intel DPDK (Data Plane Development Kit) technology to create a real-world solution for cloud-based, high-speed networks.
One thing it has over other network traffic generators is datagrams transmission, which is necessary for testing applications such as Open vSwitch.
This Linux-supported solution deploys C and Python based network packet generation frameworks to analyze network latency, loads, and TCP network setup/teardown.
- Evaluates datagram transmission
- Performs network latency testing
- Free, open source
- Only supports Linux-based OS
Packet generators allow you to simulate traffic and its effects over a multitude of platforms and circumstances.
They can be applied to test and gauge the effectiveness of your security controls or evaluate system and network performance.
Our review should help you to find the tool that’s right for your needs and computing environment.