Network Packet Brokers - How Do They Help Your Network?

Updated on Sep 28, 2021

We all know traffic across the data center is increasing. Keeping networks safe and users thriving amid the relentless flux requires a host of sophisticated tools performing real-time analysis, and with increasing speeds that need in-depth and improved network monitoring for superior network security. Network Packet Brokers (NPBs) are often required in more complex networks,which are designed to make it easier for administrators to analyze traffic with their tools, allowing for smoother and more functional data center operations. But what exactly is a NPB doing? You will find answers here.

What Is a Network Packet Broker?

A network packet broker is a technology that implements a range of monitoring tools to access and analyze traffic (also known as “network packets”) across a network. It resides between taps and SPAN ports, access network data and sophisticated security and monitoring tools that typically reside in data centers. NPB listens to live network traffic and passes it on to other system tools for analyzing content related to network performance operations, network security and threat intelligence.

How Do Network Packet Brokers Work?

Conceptually, aggregating, filtering, and passing data sounds simple. In practice, smart NPB performs complex functions to produce exponentially higher efficiency and security gains. NPB intercepts traffic at critical network locations, such as enterprises, data centers, network carrier boundaries, as well as access switching/routing links and core/aggregation. And forwards traffic to network security monitoring devices, such as network intrusion detection devices, network intrusion prevention devices, network performance analysis devices, and troubleshooting devices. In a changing IT environment, data centers process more information than ever before, but much of that information is redundant or uncompressed, especially for monitoring tools. Network Packet Broker can compress and delete copies of data to provide the required functionality for monitoring tools. In addition, their port aggregation capabilities avoid the need to purchase multiple tools to cover increased data center traffic.

Functions of Network Packet Broker

Other powerful features and functions the Network Packet Broker performs include the following:

  • Intelligent Filtering

First, NPB has the ability to filter specific network traffic to specific monitoring tools for efficient traffic optimization. This feature helps network engineers filter only actionable data, providing the flexibility to precisely direct traffic, not only improving the efficiency of traffic flows, but also helping speed incident analysis and reduce response times.

  • Load Balancing

The ability to take the incoming traffic and effectively distributing it to different multiple appliances is another feature that an advanced packet broker has to perform. NPB provides load balancing or forwarding of traffic to relevant network monitoring and security tools on a policy basis, this feature enhances network security, increases the productivity of your security and monitoring tools, and makes life much easier for network admins.

  • Intuitive and Easy to Use GUI

Your preferred NPB should include a configuration interface - graphical user interface (GUI) or command line interface (CLI) for real-time management, like adjustments of packet flow, port mapping and paths. If the NPB is not easy to configure, manage and use, you can't take advantage of its full capabilities.

  • Intelligent Packet Aggregation

By aggregating multiple packet streams into a large one, such as conditional packet slicing and time stamping to enable security and monitoring tools to work more efficiently your device should create a single unified stream that can be routed to the monitoring tool. This increases your monitoring tools' efficiency.

  • Packet Broker Costs

One thing to keep in mind when on the market for this advanced monitoring device is the cost. Both long term and short term costs can change significantly, based on whether there are different port licenses available and if the Packet Broker accepts any SFP module or only proprietary SFP's. To sum up, an efficient NPB should provide all these feature, as well as true link layer visibility and microburst buffering, all while maintaining high availability and resiliency.

Why Do I Need a Network Packet Broker?

Within your data center, you already have many static tools designed to monitor network performance, provide visibility, and mitigate threats and bad actors, making it increasingly difficult to ensure that all of your security and monitoring tools have accessed to the real-time traffic they need to analyze. To function properly, these tools need a constant stream of packets—but without NPB, there are few good options for managing them. NPB makes monitoring and security tools more effective by giving them access to a range of data from across the network. Blind spots are reduced, giving the tool the visibility needed to identify and respond to performance and security threats.

Network Packet Brokers enhance the performance of network analysis and security tools, helping you solve application performance bottlenecks and troubleshoot problems on the network. This way, you can benefit from improved monitoring and a greater return on investment. Click here to know more about FS Network Packet Broker Series.

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