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In April, Gartner released an industry landscape that covered network monitoring and defined a new term “Network Packet Brokers.” I would like to look at what they do, their advantages and why you should deploy one within your network.
Carriers and operators constantly face the challenge of containing costs while responding to rapidly changing business environments, especially when it comes to maintaining high visibility and compliance in their networks. The need to scale and offer new services, while maintaining compliance and security are at the forefront of their requirements. Unique for carriers and operators is the additional issue of ever increasing subscriber interest in, and revenue dependence on, new mobile services which raises concerns about spotty network performance. These new mobile services require an increase in the quantity and variety of network analysis tools to attach to network links which can drive capital expenditures and operating expenditures out-of-control.
What is needed is a “layer of intelligence” to provide scalable visibility and control of packet brokering – this is called network packet brokering, which is the ability to intelligently optimize (capturing, reviewing, evaluating and reporting) what is going on within the network. This important additional layer reduces both capex and opex and provides complete visibility across the network. By proactively copying, forwarding and redirecting captured traffic in real-time, network operators can achieve higher service availability, lower labor costs for network analysis, lower analysis costs overall and greater subscriber and revenue protection. In order to achieve the greatest level of return on investment, these network packet broker tools are needed to optimize and secure the flow of network analysis to any operations center, on any network, anywhere – helping the operator fuel a sustainable competitive advantage and providing for future operating success.
When considering this approach, companies should consider an ROI evaluation that includes financial analysis and compares the estimated total cost of ownership over three years between the current monitoring environment and a proposed network packet broker layer. With this information, the operator can best understand the potential direct and indirect savings to their organization, including how productivity will be enhanced as subscriber experience, service performance and network maintainability are all improved. A system-wide interconnected approach to deploying a monitoring/analysis measurement system will maximize return on new tool investment and provide a greater return on existing investment.
Deploying network packet brokers reduces current levels of capex and opex, thereby extending the life of existing tools even as the network capacity is upgraded, visibility of the network is increased system-wide, future tool expenses are better managed/predicted and a centralized monitoring system is realized. These advantages bring clear benefits to the operators’ top and bottom lines.
Whether the IT group is centralizing their network intelligence tools or the tools will remain distributed throughout the local-area network, wide-area network or across the cloud, a network packet broker layer will provide reduced costs and overhead, opportunities for new services, complete visibility to the tools, keep costs down and improve overall productivity and performance. Network “blind spots” can be eliminated with this new approach because there is no more SPAN Port contention as the tools access traffic through the network packet brokering system. Captured and groomed traffic maintains a centralized view of the network, regardless of physical location of the tools.
The immediate impact of the unprecedented network visibility that network packet brokers deliver is simplification of the network architecture and a significant reduction in number of tools required – and consequently the management overhead. True end-to-end troubleshooting is now possible, resulting in significantly reduced response time to outage and repair.
The intelligence of the system filters and grooms traffic to dramatically improve the efficiency of the tools. Many tools are application-specific, which means they are interested in only certain types of IP traffic coming from certain parts of the network. These solutions ensure selective hardware-based filtering, high data burst buffers and session-aware load balancing so that tools receive only the specific traffic they need to see (e.g. from specific VLANs) and that no packets are lost to due to over subscription.
With a network packet brokering layer between the tools and the network infrastructure, instead of a one-to-one ratio of tools to network links, network operations can monitor several links or the entire network with a single tool. This dramatically reduces the capex needed to completely cover the network. This will result in lower management overhead, shorter time to troubleshoot network anomalies and repair mean, further reduction in operating costs, faster ROI and the ability to meet service level agreements.
Network packet brokers, when used as a system enable the following distinct advantages:
–Up to 120% increase in application availability.
–Up to 80% reduction in capital expenditures.
–Up to 50% reduction in operational expenditures.
–Lower mean time to repair.
–Allows operators to become truly tool vendor agnostic.
–Lower churn and higher subscriber quality of experience.
–Allow operators to focus on operational efficiency and service differentiation.
–Allow monitoring tools to be cross-connected between different topologies as needed: fixed, 3G, LTE and video-on-demand.
–Preserve existing investment, defer new investments.
–Day 1 ROI, reduce tool TCO.