By Juan Camacho

Today, one of the major problems encountered in the testing area, is the increasing number of heterogeneous equipments that need to communicate reliably with each other in complex communication systems. This problem is still more relevant if test requirements need the simultaneous execution of several heterogeneous protocols and heterogeneous interfaces with the SUT (System Under Test).

The following figure shows a general example of a communication system in the Energy sector. The interfaces of the equipment(s) to be tested have to be identified (SUT can be a set of equipments)

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Interfaces A, B, C and D represent any protocol stack transported through any Physical Layer; in that context, a test tool has to be able to behave in a reliable way exactly as the “Context around the SUT” does in the real system. It thus guarantees consistent and real time behaviour around the SUT. A suitable test tool must at least comprise the following features in order to address the test requirements:

  • A general test methodology for all hardware and all protocols (Generic)
  • User friendly and efficient user interface for data editing
  • Execution of several interfaces and protocols simultaneously
  • Powerful error detection with Test Report production

PHENIX answers to all these requirements. PHENIX is a computer aided test generation environment for the validation and stress testing of communication systems (smart metering networks, remote processing protocols, telecommunications, etc.).

PHENIX enables successively:

  • Organisation of tests in Abstract & Executable Test Suites (ATS, ETS) according to the Test Plan.
  • Design of Abstract Test Suites by means of a Finite State Machine (FSM) diagram.
  • Design of test scenarios in the high-level Message Sequence Chart 96 (MSC) specification language, by means of a syntaxoriented graphic editor.
  • A Top Frontal High-level User Interface (General Test Methodology for Protocols and Hardware).
  • Interpretation and management of the PICS & PIXIT protocol information.
  • Execution of several protocols simultaneously,
  • Plug &Play Interfaces easy to adapt.Plug & Play are the physical Interfaces for connecting any type of architecture of the System Under Test (BPL, PLC, RF, Serial, TCP/IP (UDP), GSM/GPRS, etc.),
  • Communication with and control of any type of External Application during the functional test or stress test, if required.
  • Graphic Result Analysis (Test Log System) and production of a Test Report
  • Creation of Stress Tests using functional tests which implies Stressing by means of Multi-Protocol Tests.
  • Distinctive application and data layers, which guarantees - and this at a lesser cost – evolution and extensibility features of all modules in PHENIX (Plug & Play interfaces and Protocols).
  • Complete Turnkey Installation (network and tools).
  • An extensive catalogue of Smart Metering and Telecommunication Protocols.

PHENIX as a Top Frontal User Interface
This is one of PHENIX’s major benefits because it is possible to federate all user interfaces and, better still, to converge to a general test methodology.

PHENIX federates all test situations and allows a provider, utility or any organisation carrying out tests (stress and functional), to have a general user interface and a general test methodology.

PHENIX’s Modules
All modules in PHENIX are based on the following Standards: Finite State Machine (for Abstract Test Suites; ITU-T X.290) Test Cases (MSC 96 ITU-T Z.120), Message description and configuration files (ASN.1 ITU-T X.680) and XML is used for describing and storing Project Data. It is important to point out that for the PHENIX user this is transparent, because the PHENIX User Interface is graphic syntax-oriented, and knowledge of these standards is not required.

PHENIX has a generic API to handle specific hardware in order to connect the SUT (Physical layers). In these cases, dedicated Plug&Plays (hardware and related drivers) are implemented; connections such as TCP/IP (UDP), PLC, RF, GSM/GPRS, etc. are possible, but also hardware integration, for reading voltage, pressure, current, temperature, etc. This is possible thanks to basic interfaces like MII, RS-232 and PCI interfaces. To simplify, we can say that PHENIX with its Plug&Play Interfaces cover all Physical Layer requirements and can receive any hardware to read all the information needed in the test.

Besides, all interaction to create test projects is entirely carried out from the usual user workstation. It is of course possible to run PHENIX on a laptop, when tests have to be done on-site.

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PHENIX Editors
PHENIX’s major highlight is the set of graphic syntax-oriented editors: FSM, MSC and ASN.1. These editors help the user save time, which improves product- ivity.

A user friendly communication is available between the FSM, MSC and ASN.1 editors. By double-clicking on one state, on the FSM side, the MSC editor is activated with all Test Cases associated to that state. By double-clicking on the message of one of the Test Cases, the ASN.1 editor is activated and you can visualise the selected message.

Finite State Machine Graphic Syntax-Oriented Editor
The FSM representation adapts completely to the test methodology. It clearly shows the system behaviour by means of states and transactions. The FSM represents the Abstract Test Suite (ATS), and every state represents an Abstract Test Group (ATG: Set of Test Cases). A Test Case is represented by a MSC diagram. A Test Case corresponds to a path of the FSM, and consequently to a unitary test.

Message Sequence Chart Graphic Syntax-Oriented Editor The MSC language adapts completely to protocol testing, and is an ergonomic key factor that relieves the user of programme-related problems. This allows the user to concentrate the effort on the test.

One of the main problems to be solved in testing is the compromise between the force of expression of complex problems and the simplicity of comprehension, and MSC makes this possible.

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Graphic Message Editor (ASN.1)
The Graphic Message Editor allows a correct and ergonomic user interaction between the different components of the selected message type. The message structure is extracted from the protocol description.

The message creation is protocol syntax-oriented, and that is why messages are always correct from a syntactic point of view. For invalid tests (no syntactic messages) a JOKER message is available in all protocols.

Analysing Errors (Test Log Manager) & TEST Report
In order to keep track of all errors, PHENIX has a very efficient Test Log Manager that stores data after each execution, and the data access is guaranteed by means of a Graphic User Interface. A Test Report can be generated from any Test Log. The Test Report is fully configurable.

Time Saving
PHENIX allows all potential “test actors” to save time (utilities, providers, system designers, software suppliers, certification institutions), in the following areas:

  • Coding time. The average implementation time of a test is considerably reduced. In comparison with direct programming of the SUT, the use of this technique assures a time saving factor of minimum 3. This productivity gain has been measured on all the test development phases (rating from specification to execution)
  • Readability. Test Cases and related data are easily read by means of graphic standard Editors
  • Reusable Data (for example at a change of SUT [different Plug&Play]). Functional Test Cases can also be used to Stress the SUT
  • PHENIX can be seen as a FEDERATOR for all test situations, and from this point of view PHENIX helps users to deal with a general user interface and a general Test Methodology, which contributes to cutting down project costs
  • Test Log analysis. PHENIX has a user friendly interface to access Test Logs and to produce Test Reports automatically.
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PHENIX V6 PHENIX has an extensive catalogue of Protocols and Plug&Play Interfaces.

  • COSEM with variants: HDLC, 8802.2, 61334-4-32
  • COSEM interfaces: PLC (CIASE), GPRS, TCP/IP, RF(M-BUS, ZigBee, Wavenis), Serial
  • M-BUS: wired and wireless 
  • IEC 1107 (Flag,…)
  • Euridis 62056-31 + COSEM Data Exchange (Euridis1 & Euridis2)
  • NDA: P1, P2 and P3
  • SML
  • Telecommunications: VoIP, IMS, GSM/GPRS, UMTS, SIGTRAN, SS7, CDMA, UMA, etc.

A Protocol, from PHENIX’s point of view, can be a simple layer or a set of layers. A Plug&Play Interface is the entire “stack” below what we have considered as Protocol and includes the Physical Layer. PHENIX users can decide where the division line will be made. This feature allows testers to focus all the effort on the layer(s) to be tested. PHENIX has been used for more than 7 years in the telecommunication and space industries.

PHENIX Version 6 presents new functionalities and becomes a Key Generic Test Tool in the Energy sector (PHENIX will be presented at Metering Europe 2009 in Barcelona). PHENIX is used for functional, stress, integration, interoperability, and of course, non regression tests. PHENIX is also a high-end Conformance Test Tool.