Call Data Generator
What it does
Automation Consultants' Call Data Generator creates test data for mobile billing systems, e.g. TAP, CDR and SMS record files. It can also create test data to any format with a flat or un-nested field structure, allowing it to generate data for non-standard or rapidly changing formats.
The test data can be created to precisely simulate any desired conditions in the data, in order to test how the billing system copes with it. The test data can also be generated in large quantities to simulate high call volumes for performance testing.
Why it's useful
In the highly competitive mobile telecoms market, increasing demands are being placed on the billing systems that support the core business of network operators. Competitive advantage depends on being able to launch new services and charging plans into the market quickly. Billing systems must be continuously upgraded to be able to support the new services, and each billing system upgrade must also be thoroughly tested before being deployed.
The complexity of mobile call data is increasing as new services and technologies become available. Creating test call data manually is costly and error-prone, and it is often not possible to create the large volumes of realistic data required for performance testing. By automating the creation of test data, the Call Data Generator
- Increases the precision and quality of testing by producing test data sets that exactly meet the desired requirements; and
- Gives a substantial saving in time and cost in creating test data. This is especially useful in performance testing, where large volumes of test data are needed.
Automation Consultants' Call Data Generator increases the quality and/or quantity of testing which can be done on a billing system and thus allows mobile operators to upgrade their billing systems more frequently, and increases their capacity to launch new products and calling plans. In short it enhances mobile operators' competitiveness.
How it works
The Call Data Generator provides an intuitive graphical user interface for importing, editing, creating and exporting arbitrary volumes of artificial call data. This call data may be used to test the integration of new systems and services in a controlled and secure manner. The Call Data Generator is able to create call data records for a variety of industry and proprietary standards including TAP, MSC, CMG-SMS and Grouse-SMS. It can also be used to design custom "flat file" formats and create data in those formats. The Call Data Generator can create valid or invalid data so as to test a mediation/rating system's ability to detect and deal with invalid call data records.
The principal steps in using the tool are:
- Creating a file format. Users can define their own formats (i.e. call types), provided such formats have a flat, un-nested structure. For data generation following complex formats, the user must choose one of the pre-defined industry formats included within the tool.
- Choosing a file format. This can be an included complex format such as MSC or TAP amongst others, or a user-defined "flat file" format.
- Designing data to be generated. This consists of choosing which optional components ("Properties") of the call type will be present, setting the values for each field and saving them as a "Design". The values represent the values of each field in the data files to be generated by the tool. They can be fixed or set to vary sequentially, randomly or according to a user-defined sequence of values stored in a parameter file. Designs can either be created from scratch, or based on a sample of existing data which can be imported into the tool and then modified.
- Generating data. Once a Design has been created, any amount of data of this Design can be generated. An FTP facility is built into the tool to permit automatic transfer of the data to the directory and machine where it is needed.
Complex formats supported
The Call Data Generator supports the following complex formats (or call types):
- TAP TD57 3.5.2, 3.6.2, 3.7.1, 3.8.2, 3.9.0, 3.10.0, 3.11.12
- MSC R9.1, R10, R11
- Nortel: Various formats (please contact Automation Consultants for further details)
- CMG SMSC V4.0
- GROUSE SMSC
The tool is designed to be able to accommodate further complex formats easily and new formats are being added rapidly with each new release of the tool.
The Call Data Generator incorporates a graphical user interface to represent Designs and data visually and intuitively. Most operations on the data can be performed by point and click or drag and drop.
Test data is generated from a Design. Each Design is of a particular format (i.e. a call-type) and is defined in the tool as a collection of properties belonging to that call-type. Designs may be based on files drawn from production data and then modified, or they may be created from scratch by selecting from the properties available for the format and dragging and dropping them into the Design. Complex formats normally have a large number of properties and it would be time-consuming to build Designs up every time from individual properties. The tool therefore includes a facility for grouping properties into convenient building blocks called "Templates". Templates allow the rapid creation of Designs from pre-defined sub-components and a Template is often used to save a particular type of call. The user can create new Templates from existing files using a wizard. Alternatively, a Search and Import facility exists. This enables the user to search within an end data file for particular blocks of data (e.g. calls) and import them into the tool without importing a whole end data file, which can be very large.
The fields in the Design are graphically displayed in the central window. Each field can be manipulated as desired. In particular, fields can be:
- Set to a fixed, specific value
- Inserted (if optional and absent from the Template)
- Parameterized by setting the field to a random or sequential value that is either computer generated or obtained from a CSV file.
The main window is divided into three side-by-side panes. The left pane lists the available Templates, the middle pane (the Design pane) shows in detail the current Design and the right pane lists all the valid properties that can be selected.
Designs, Templates and parameters are saved as files, as can the current state of the application, enabling users to return to their exact position after a break.
When the user is satisfied with the Design, the Call Data Generator can then be used to generate as many end data records as desired. Each record generated in this way differs from the next in the random or sequential values given to the parameterized fields.
The tool can verify that the Design contains no errors (e.g. missing properties or values out of range) so that only valid data is generated. This feature can be turned on or off depending on whether the user wishes to create valid data or not.
Generated data can be transferred automatically to a target machine by FTP (see below).
Flat file formats
The Call Data Generator allows users to define their own formats so that data can be generated conforming to a company's own internally used file types as well as industry standard formats. In the Call Data Generator these formats are known as "Flat File" call types and are created and maintained using the Flat File CDR Editor interface.
When a new Flat File format has been created and saved, it is available as a call type for selection in the normal manner using the CDR Type dialog window.
Generated data can be placed automatically on a remote Windows or Unix machine by FTP. An FTP Explorer dialog is included in the Call Data Generator for managing the sending and receiving of files that are resident on remote machines. Files can be automatically uploaded via FTP during call data generation, simply by specifying the path to a remote machine in the Generation tab of the Settings dialog.