UNH-IOL’s Test Sentinel Helps Customers Test In-House

Monday, December 14, 2020

The University of New Hampshire InterOperability Lab (UNH-IOL) recently released the newest version of its test automation tool Test Sentinel, which allows customers developing broadband products and services to perform in-house interoperability, performance, and conformance testing.

The UNH-IOL has been working in the DSL industry for over twenty years. Test Sentinel was first developed as a tool to help automate the lab’s DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) and Gfast testing services. DSL and Gfast are known as "last mile" broadband services that allow consumers to access the internet by using their existing telephone lines. While cable internet is very popular in the U.S. and more and more fiber infrastructure is being built globally, a majority of the world still receives its internet access over DSL. Gfast is an emerging technology that leverages existing copper infrastructure so service providers can offer faster internet service to more customers.

The UNH-IOL is leading test laboratory for DSL and the Broadband Forum’s official test lab for Gfast technologies. The Broadband Forum is a non-profit industry consortium that develops standards and specifications to ensure that devices, equipment, chipsets, and software in the broadband marketplace can interoperate and perform as intended. Through its testing services, the UNH-IOL offers a wide range of test plans designed to verify cross-vendor interoperability, performance, and conformance to standards set by the Broadband Forum for products like modems, home gateways, and the chipsets that drive them. “The standards and specifications set by the Broadband Forum are important for the industry,” says Dan Moss, a project manager for broadband technologies at the UNH-IOL, who has worked on the DSL testing service for 8 years. “For example, internet service providers want to make sure that the millions of dollars they are spending on devices from their vendors are going to perform as expected for their customers; testing and certification can provide that confidence.”

Test Sentinel was originally developed as a tool for the UNH-IOL’s in-house DSL testing services as a way to automate the tests needed to confirm conformance to Broadband Forums standards and specifications. Running these tests manually would take weeks to complete. Test Sentinel allowed the lab to automate the process so the tests could be done in a matter of hours. Over the years, the UNH-IOL has added features and improvements to Test Sentinel to create a more robust and user-friendly tool. After the successful commercializing of another of its test tools, INTACT, the lab decided to also make Test Sentinel available to customers. Test Sentinel allows companies to iterate faster and pre-test more often in-house before sending their products in to the UNH-IOL for official certification or performance testing. “The UNH-IOL team has years of experience working with our customers and partners to perform DSL and Gfast testing,” said Lincoln Lavoie, senior engineer of broadband technologies at the UNH-IOL. “Test Sentinel makes this knowhow commercially available to the industry, improving quality assurance and research and development testing and streamlining the process.”

The newest release of Test Sentinel, version 2.1, adds new features that have mostly come from customer feedback and requests. In this release, the test tool now supports a local database for users running only a single instance of the software in their lab, rather than relying on a separate centralized database, which makes it easier and faster to set up and install. The UNH-IOL also added a full API (Application Programming Interface), a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other, so that the lab can do more to help customers configure and run their in-house testing and integrate with existing tool chains and work flows. Lastly, some powerful tools to visualize and report testing results were also released, providing better views into testing outcomes and, most importantly failures, allowing test engineers to quickly identify required fixes.

The UNH-IOL hopes to continue to develop Test Sentinel to meet the needs of its growing customer base. “As we add functionality and features to the test tool, it’s becoming a lot more generalized,” says Moss. “That’s really our growth plan for the tool. We want to be able to broaden our customer base beyond the Broadband market.”

For more information about Test Sentinel and all of the UNH-IOL’s products and services, visit https://www.iol.unh.edu.