A framework for testing distributed systems
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Fix setup.py to work by reading README.md
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Conductor - A system for testing distributed systems across a network

Many test frameworks exist to test code on a single host or, across a network, on a single server. Conductor is a distributed system test framework, written in Python, that can be used to coordinate a set of tests among a set of clients. The Conductor system allows a single machine to control several systems, orchestrating tests that require the cooperation of several networked devices.

Conductor is written in Python 3 and requires ONLY the

py33-setuptools33 package.


(Installing packages normally requires root privileges)

sudo python3 setup.py install


Conductor installs two scripts, player and conduct, which are used to run and control tests on the systems involved. Every test has a master configuration file, usually named test.cfg, as well as a configuration file for each host involved in the test. Two simple test cases are found in the tests/localhost and tests/timeout sub-directories.

tests/localhost/test.cfg    <- used by conduct script
tests/localhost/dut.cfg     <- used by player script

To familiarize yourself with the system let's try the localhost test. The localhost test requires only one system, rather than a distributed set. Open two terminal windows on the host. In terminal 1 type:

> player dut.cfg

In terminal 2 type:

> conduct test.cfg

You MUST always start all players before the conductor.

The output of the conductor should look like this:

0 phase received
0 b'startup\n'
0 phase received
0 b'running\n'
0 b'PING ( 56 data bytes\n64 bytes from icmp_seq=0 ttl=64 time=0.046 ms\n64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=64 time=0.162 ms\n64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=64 time=0.143 ms\n\n--- ping statistics ---\n3 packets transmitted, 3 packets received, 0.0% packet loss\nround-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 0.046/0.117/0.162/0.051 ms\n'
0 phase received
0 b'collecting\n'
0 phase received
0 b'collecting\n'

Once the test is complete the conduct script will exit and return the caller back to the shell prompt. The player will continue to await commands from another run of the conduct script.


A common use for Conductor is to test network devices, such as a router or firewall, that are connected to multiple senders and receivers. Each of the senders, receivers, and the device under test (DUT) are a Player, and another system is designated as the Conductor.

The players, read commands over a network channel, execute them and return results to the conductor.

The conductor reads test descriptions from a configuration file, written using Python's config parser, and executes the tests on the players.

The tests are executed in Phases. A Phase contains a set of internal or external (shell/program) commands that are executed in order, per client. The four Phases currently defined are:

  • Startup

The Startup phase is where commands that are required to set up each device are execute. Examples include setting up network interfaces, routing tables, as well as creating directories to hold result files on the players.

  • Run

The Run phase contains the commands that are the core of the test. An example might be starting a number of transmitting and receiving programs to generate and sink traffic through the DUT.

  • Collect

In the Collect phase the Conductor sends commands to the Players to retrieve any data that was generated during the test, and places that data into a results directory on the Conductor, for later analysis.

  • Reset

The last phase is the Reset phase, where the Conductor instructs the Players to reset any configuration that might have been set in the Startup phase and which might influence later test runs. It is the goal when writing Conductor tests that all the systems used in the test return to the state they were in prior to the Startup phase.

Each Phase has three parts. The Conductor first downloads the Phase to the Player, but does not tell it to execute. Downloading the Phase to each client allows the Conductor to start each Phase nearly simultaneously, although the fact that the Conductor itself serializes its communication among the clients means that there is a small amount of skew in when each Player is told to execute its steps.

Each phase is made up of several steps. There are two, special, keywords for steps executed in the Run phase.

A spawn keyword (spawn:echo 30) will spawn the command as a sub-process and not wait for it to execute, nor collect the program's return value. The spawn keyword is best used to start several programs simultaneously, such as multiple network streams when testing a piece of networking equipment.

A timeout keyword (timeout10:sleep 30) will execute the command with a timeout. The timeout is the number directly after the keyword and is expressed in seconds. A command executed with a timeout will be interrupted by its parent if it doesn't exit before the timeout expires. In the example above the sleep command will try to sleep for 30 seconds but then be interrupted after 10 seconds. The timeout keyword is useful for programs that want to run forever or which wait for human input unnecessarily.

This work supported by: Rubicon Communications, LLC (Netgate)