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The Introduction of Network Packet Brokers

Posted on Nov 7, 2023 by
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In the past, network monitoring and security tools were typically directly connected to network links or switches to capture all the traffic passing through those links. However, as network traffic volumes skyrocketed, this approach became impractical as the tools couldn't handle the massive volume of traffic, resulting in performance degradation and increased latency. To address these issues, Network Packet Brokers were developed.

What is Network Packet Brokers?

Network Packet Broker (NPBs) is a networking device that plays a crucial role in managing and optimizing network traffic. It acts as an intermediate device in a network architecture, intelligently capturing, filtering, and directing network packets to the appropriate tools and security devices for analysis.

It acts as an intermediate device in a network architecture, intelligently capturing, filtering, and directing network packets to the appropriate tools and security devices for analysis.

What are the Advantages of Network Packet Brokers?

Network Packet Brokers (NPBs) offer several advantages in managing and optimizing network traffic, mainly focusing on the following six aspects.

Comprehensive Network Visibility:

Through the collection, aggregation, and distribution of packets from various network links or ports, NPBs offer comprehensive visibility into network traffic. This guarantees that network managers have a comprehensive perspective, facilitating efficient monitoring, troubleshooting, and security analysis.

Improved Tool Utilization:

NPBs optimize the utilization of monitoring and security tools by selectively forwarding relevant packets to the appropriate tools. By filtering out unnecessary or redundant traffic, NPBs prevent tools from being overwhelmed with irrelevant data, maximizing their efficiency and performance.

Enhanced Network Performance:

By filtering and unloading traffic that monitoring tools do not require, NPBs enhance network performance. Network packets reduce network congestion, lower latency, and guarantee the uninterrupted operation of vital applications and services by limiting the volume of traffic routed to tools.

Advanced Traffic Management:

NPBs enable advanced traffic management capabilities such as traffic shaping, load balancing, and packet manipulation. These features help optimize network resources, prioritize critical traffic, and ensure efficient use of monitoring and security tools.

Simplified Monitoring Infrastructure:

By centralizing packet capture and distribution, NPBs simplify the monitoring infrastructure. They eliminate the need for multiple point-to-point connections between network devices and monitoring tools, reducing complexity, and streamlining network management.

Security Enhancement:

NPBs play a crucial role in network security by facilitating the distribution of packets to security tools such as intrusion detection systems (IDS) and data loss prevention (DLP) systems. They enable real-time threat detection, analysis, and response, enhancing overall network security posture.

NPBs empower network administrators with greater control, visibility, and efficiency in managing network traffic. They optimize the performance of monitoring and security tools, enhance network reliability, and enable proactive network management and security practices.

What are the Functions of Network Packet Brokers?

These functions collectively enable network administrators to have greater control, visibility, and efficiency in managing network traffic, optimizing the performance of monitoring and security tools, and improving overall network reliability and security.

Packet Capture:

NPBs capture network packets from various sources, including network links, VLANs, or SPAN ports. They collect packets from different parts of the network for further analysis and monitoring.

Packet Distribution:

NPBs intelligently distribute selected packets to the appropriate monitoring or security tools. They ensure that relevant packets are directed to the right destinations, allowing tools to focus on analyzing the desired network traffic.

Packet Manipulation:

NPBs can modify or manipulate packets as needed. This includes tasks like changing packet headers, modifying payload content, or adding metadata for enhanced analysis or security purposes.

Packet Filtering:

NPBs filter captured packets based on predefined rules and criteria. This allows administrators to define specific parameters for capturing or excluding packets, such as source/destination IP addresses, protocols, port numbers, or payload content.

Packet Aggregation:

NPBs aggregate multiple packets into a single data stream or output. Aggregation helps reduce the number of packets sent to monitoring tools, minimizing the load on those tools and optimizing their performance.

Load Balancing:

NPBs balance the traffic load across multiple monitoring or security tools. By distributing packets evenly, NPBs prevent any single tool from being overwhelmed and ensure efficient resource utilization.

Packet Slicing:

NPBs can perform packet slicing, which involves removing unnecessary or redundant parts of a packet. This reduces the packet size, optimizing network bandwidth and improving the efficiency of monitoring and analysis tools.

How do Network Packet Brokers Work?

The NPBs operate by capturing network packets from various network links (such as switches or routers) using its network interfaces. It can handle multiple network links simultaneously, allowing for the aggregation of traffic from different sources. Once the packets are captured, the NPBs apply filtering and forwarding rules to determine which packets should be sent to which monitoring tools. These rules can be based on various criteria, such as protocol type, source/destination IP addresses, port numbers, or specific application-level characteristics.

In addition to filtering, the NPBs can perform various other operations on the captured packets, such as deduplication (removing duplicate packets), packet slicing (keeping only the relevant parts of a packet), and packet modification (changing specific fields within a packet). These operations help optimize the utilization of monitoring tools and reduce their processing load. After the packets have been processed according to the filtering and manipulation rules, the NPBs send them to the appropriate monitoring tools. This can be done using various methods, including load balancing (distributing the packets across multiple tools), tunneling (encapsulating the packets in a separate protocol for delivery to remote tools), or even time division multiplexing (sending packets to different tools in a sequential manner).

Overall, a Network Packet Brokers acts as a centralized and intelligent traffic distributor, ensuring that the right packets reach the right monitoring and security tools. By optimizing the flow of network traffic, the NPBs help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of these tools, enabling organizations to better monitor and secure their network infrastructure.

The NPBs operate by capturing network packets from various network links (such as switches or routers) using its network interfaces.

Conclusion:

To sum up, network packet brokers are essential to the smooth operation and optimization of computer networks because of their ability to aggregate, filter, and distribute network traffic. They also contribute to improved security and network monitoring, which makes them invaluable in today's complex network environments. Finally, by managing network data well, network packet brokers help businesses run smoothly, maintain network dependability, and guard against potential threats.

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