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Unlock Network Potential with Network Packet Brokers

Posted on Jul 1, 2023 by
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In today's business landscape, network infrastructure is critical to the success of any organization. It's essential to have visibility into what's happening on your network to detect issues, troubleshoot problems, and optimize performance. Network Packet Broker (NPB) is a specialized device that sits between network devices, such as switches and routers, and network monitoring tools, such as intrusion detection systems (IDS) and network analyzers. It can provide this visibility, enabling IT teams to monitor and manage their networks effectively. In this article, we will explore how NPB can help revitalize your existing network infrastructure and how to select the right NPB for your organization.

The Necessity for Enterprises to Invest in NPB

Network traffic visibility is crucial for network monitoring and security. Investing in an NPB can offer further insights into network traffic. With a high-performance NPB, enterprises can process network traffic at line rate, providing complete packet visibility to all monitoring tools. It simplifies network monitoring and reduces the load on monitoring tools, enhancing their performance. Additionally, it detects potential security threats, like malware and DDoS attacks, and empowers IT teams to proactively mitigate these threats.

Enhance existing network deployment

If you already have an NPB in place, you can take steps to enhance your existing network deployment to further improve performance and security. Here are some ways to do it:

Additional Packet Visibility

The demand for network visibility is only growing as teams look to secure the network. Adding packet visibility is now a critical component of any modern security and performance strategy. A Additional visibility comes down to incorporating network TAPs (or the switch port mirroring alternative) into your deployment, expanding the amount of network coverage your tools monitor. FS has a lot of experience with network TAP and can handle any environment or requirement to ensure that you "see every bit, byte, and packet."

Traffic Aggregation

What can be done with the additional tapped links? By adding an aggregation layer between TAP links and core packet brokers, valuable core packet broker ports can be freed up. This approach reduces license and port fees of the existing packet broker. Traffic aggregation combines multiple network links into a single link, simplifying network monitoring and reducing the number of monitoring tools needed.

Packet Deduplication

Packet deduplication ensures that monitoring tools receive only one copy of each packet, reducing the load on these tools and improving their performance. This can help improve the accuracy and speed of network monitoring and troubleshooting. FS NPB solution can help you ease the burden of deduplication on your core packet broker, thereby reducing the cost of expensive NPB deduplication fees.

 

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Selecting the Right Packet Broker for Your Network

A good approach to selecting the right product is to first understand that modern NPBs really fall into one of three categories. These include full-featured NPBs, White Box NPBs, and Aggregators. Understanding these three product categories can help reduce the time to locate the correct product for your network.

Full-Featured NPB

The appliances with the most extensive set of features generally have a higher price point. These devices are traditionally multi RU chassis designed for large, core installations. Although there are only a few vendors that still take this approach to designing a network visibility fabric, if you require a single box solution for SSL/TLS decryption, on-board analytics, and advanced features, this category would be an ideal starting point.

White Box NPB

Also known as Disaggregated Packet Brokers, these leverage proprietary software with commodity hardware to create an NPB. This category deviates from the traditional vertically integrated approach dominating the industry. Despite commodity hardware not supporting some advanced packet processing features, products in this category are significantly less expensive than their full-featured counterparts. Nevertheless, the White Box NPB is rapidly growing because it can be tightly integrated with other best-in-class solutions, offering the necessary advanced features security and operations teams seek. Some vendors in this category adopt the stand-alone approach, while others bring SDN principles to the visibility fabric. Depending on the deployment size, either approach can be well-suited.

Aggregators

Aggregators are unique as they can function as a standalone device in most NPB applications or be used to improve the utilization of existing full-featured NPB. They offer a low CAPEX and deployment flexibility, making them a viable option in terms of ROI. As a standalone device, Aggregators efficiently direct data from network TAPs and SPAN ports to each tool by aggregating, replicating, and filtering L2-L4 traffic. The streamlined, tool-specific traffic is then processed. More tool vendors are incorporating advanced NPB features within the tool itself, making Aggregators increasingly attractive for visibility applications. There are various brands of aggregators on the market, such as FS T5850-48S6Q-R NPB. It features 48 SFP+ (1/10 Gbps) and 6 QSFP+ ports (40 Gbps) providing aggregation, replication, filtering and load balancing in very high bandwidth port monitoring and analysis scenarios.

Conclusion

To sum up, a company's network infrastructure is vital to its success, and Network Packet Broker (NPB) can provide the necessary visibility to effectively monitor and manage networks. FS NPB products have higher port density, which can improve scalability and meet a variety of traffic needs. Real-time network visibility capabilities can improve network security, optimize network traffic, and improve the performance and efficiency of network tools.

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