Table Of Contents
Table Of Contents

Visualizing Network Path Activity


When simulating networks, it is often useful to have a visual representation of network traffic. INET provides several visualizers for this purpose, each operating at different levels of the network stack. The focus of this showcase is on the NetworkRouteVisualizer, which graphically displays network layer traffic in the form of polyline arrows along the path that fade as the traffic ceases.

The showcase contains four simulation models, each demonstrating different features of the network path activity visualizer.

INET version: 4.0

About the Visualizer

In INET, network path activity can be visualized by including a NetworkRouteVisualizer module in the simulation. Adding an IntegratedVisualizer module is also an option because it also contains a NetworkRouteVisualizer module. Network path activity visualization is disabled by default; it can be enabled by setting the visualizer’s displayRoutes parameter to true.

NetworkRouteVisualizer currently observes packets that pass through the network layer (i.e. carry data from/to higher layers), but not those that are internal to the operation of the network layer protocol. That is, packets such as ARP, although potentially useful, will not trigger the visualization. Visualizing such packets may be implemented in future INET revisions.

The activity between two nodes is represented visually by a polyline arrow which points from the source node to the destination node. NetworkRouteVisualizer follows packet throughout its path, so the polyline goes through all nodes that are part of the packet’s path. The arrow appears after the first packet has been received, then gradually fades out unless it is reinforced by further packets. Color, fading time and other graphical properties can be changed with parameters of the visualizer.

By default, all packets and nodes are considered for the visualization. This selection can be narrowed with the visualizer’s packetFilter and nodeFilter parameters.

Enabling Visualization of Network Path Activity

The following example shows how to enable the network path activity visualization with its default settings. For the first example, we configured a wired network. The simulation can be run by choosing the EnablingVisualization configuration from the ini file.

The network contains two StandardHost’s, a source host and a destination host. In this configuration, the source host will be pinging the destination host.


The pathVisualizer's type is NetworkRouteVisualizer. We enable network path activity visualization by setting the displayRoutes parameter to true.

*.pathVisualizer.*.displayRoutes = true

The following video shows what happens when we start the simulation.

At the beginning of the video, a red strip appears and moves from source to destination. This strip is the standard OMNeT++ animation for packet transmissions and has nothing to do with NetworkRouteVisualizer. When the packet is received in whole by destination (the red strip disappears), an arrow is added by NetworkRouteVisualizer between the two hosts, indicating network path activity. The packet’s name is also displayed on the arrow. The arrow fades out quickly because the fadeOutTime parameter of the visualizer is set to a small value.

Note, however, that ARP traffic does not activate the visualization because ARP packets do not pass through the network layer.

Filtering Network Path Activity

In complex networks where many nodes are placed and several protocols are used, it is often useful to be able to filter network traffic to visualize only the part of the network traffic we are interested in.

The following example shows how to set packet filtering. This simulation can be run by choosing the StaticNetworkPaths configuration from the ini file.

We use the following network for this showcase:


The network consists of five routers (router0..router4), four etherSwitches (etherSwitch0..etherSwitch3) and eight StandardHost’s. There are two source hosts, source1 and source2, which will be pinging the two destination hosts, destination1 and destination2. The videoServer node streams a video to the videoClient node. The remaining two endpoints (host1 and host2) are inactive in this simulation.

For this network, the visualizer’s type is IntegratedVisualizer. Network path visualization is filtered to display only ping traffic. The video stream packets are not visualized by network path activity visualizer. The fadeOutMode and fadeOutTime parameters have been adjusted so that the network path activity arrow does not fade out completely before the next ping packet arrives.

*.visualizer.*.networkRouteVisualizer.displayRoutes = true
*.visualizer.*.networkRouteVisualizer.packetFilter = "ping*"
*.visualizer.*.networkRouteVisualizer.fadeOutMode = "simulationTime"
*.visualizer.*.networkRouteVisualizer.fadeOutTime = 1.4s

The following video shows what happens when the simulation is run.

Each arrow has a different color indicating different paths. You can see that although there are both video stream and ping traffic in the network, NetworkRouteVisualizer displays only the latter, due to the presence of the packetFilter parameter.

Visualizing Network Path Activity in a Mobile Ad-Hoc Network

The following example shows how visualization can help you to follow dynamically changing network path activity in a wireless environment. The simulation can be run by choosing the Mobile configuration from the ini file.

Nodes are of the type AodvRouter, and are placed randomly on the scene. One of the nodes is the source node which will be pinging the destination node. The communication ranges of the nodes have been chosen so that the network is connected, but nodes can typically only communicate by using multi-hop paths. The nodes will also randomly roam within predefined borders.


The routing protocol is AODV, a reactive (on-demand) MANET routing protocol. AODV operates with RREQ and RRES messages, but these messages do not appear in the visualization because they do not pass through the network layer. (You can watch a video about the AODV route searching process in the Data Link Activity showcase, in the Visualizing Data Link Activity in a Mobile Ad-Hoc Network configuration.)

We use the following configuration for the visualization.

*.visualizer.*.networkRouteVisualizer.displayRoutes = true
*.visualizer.*.networkRouteVisualizer.packetFilter = "ping*"
*.visualizer.*.networkRouteVisualizer.fadeOutMode = "simulationTime"
*.visualizer.*.networkRouteVisualizer.fadeOutTime = 5s

The following video shows what happens when the simulation is run.

Blue circles are displays the communication range of source and destination.

The video shows the network path taken by ping packets between source and destination. Ping packets are forwarded to the next hop until they reach destination. The network path activity is visualized after the ping packet has arrived to destination, so we get information about path changes immediately.

When the existing route breaks due to two nodes drifting away (going out of the communication range of each other), this manifests as a link-level failure. This condition is detected by AODV, and it starts searching for a new route. When the new route is found, the ping traffic resumes.

You can observe in the video that the route the ping packets take is not always optimal (in terms of hop count). The reason is that nodes use an existing route as long as possible, even when a shorter route becomes available as a result of node movement. AODV is only activated when the existing route breaks.

Displaying Network Path Activity in a Complex Network

This configuration demonstrates how the visualizer reacts to the routing changes in a complex network. A simulation is created for this example. The simulation can be run by choosing the ChangingPaths configuration from the ini file.

The network contains four routers (router0..router3) which are connected to create redundant network paths. The network also contains six hosts. There is a wired and a wireless source-destination pair. The remaining two hosts are inactive in this simulation. The wired hosts are connected to the routers via switches (etherSwitch0 and etherSwitch1), the wireless hosts are connected to the routers via access points (accessPoint0 and accessPoint1).

The following image displays the network for this example.


IP addresses are assigned manually, using the configuration file configuration.xml. A lifecycle control script (changeRoute.xml) has also been created for this configuration to turn the routers off and on at certain times. The network uses the RIP routing protocol to ensure that routing tables will be dynamically updated as a reaction to network topology changes. During the simulation, wiredSource will be pinging wiredDestination, and wirelessSource will be pinging wirelessDestination.

In this showcase, we set the packetFilter parameter to display only ICMP echo traffic. We use the following configuration for the visualization.

*.visualizer.*.networkRouteVisualizer.displayRoutes = true
*.visualizer.*.networkRouteVisualizer.packetFilter = "ping* and not *reply"
*.visualizer.*.networkRouteVisualizer.fadeOutMode = "simulationTime"
*.visualizer.*.networkRouteVisualizer.fadeOutTime = 1.4s

In the following video we can examine that how network path activity visualization follows the routing changes in a complex network.

At the beginning of the video, ping traffic is routed through router1. After five seconds, small cogwheels appear above router1, then cogwheels change to a red cross, indicating that router1 has gone offline. Routers immediately update their routing tables by using the RIP routing protocol. In the next few seconds, the traffic between the sources and the destinations travels via router3.

After a while, router1 turns on again (the red cross disappears), but this does not affect the ping traffic which still goes via router3. In the 15th second, we can see that router3 goes offline. Routing tables are updated by using RIP, and as a result of this, ping traffic flows through router1 again. At the end of the video, router3 turns on, but it does not have an effect on the network traffic.

Sources: omnetpp.ini, NetworkPathVisualizerShowcase.ned, configuration.xml, changeRoute.xml

More Information

This example only demonstrated the key features of network path visualization. For more information, refer to the NetworkRouteVisualizer NED documentation.


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