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What are TAPs and Network Packet Brokers?

Posted on Nov 2, 2023 by
2.2k

In today's interconnected world, network visibility and optimization are essential to ensure secure and efficient data transfer. Network Packet Brokers and TAPs are two essential elements that help achieve these goals.

What are Network Packet Brokers?

Network Packet Brokers (NPBs) are intelligent networking devices that optimize the flow of network traffic by receiving, filtering, and distributing packets to various monitoring and security tools. NPBs act as intermediaries between traffic sources, such as TAPs or network switches, and the tools that analyze and manage network data.

The primary purpose of NPBs is to enhance network visibility, improve operational efficiency, and strengthen network security. They offer a range of features and functionalities that enable effective traffic management and analysis.

NPBs act as intermediaries between traffic sources, such as TAPs or network switches, and the tools that analyze and manage network data.

What are TAPs?

Traffic Access Points (TAPs) are hardware devices used to passively monitor and capture network traffic for analysis and monitoring purposes. TAPs are typically deployed at strategic points within a network infrastructure to intercept and replicate network packets without introducing latency or disrupting traffic flow.

The purpose of using TAPs is to ensure data integrity, provide independent access for monitoring devices, enhance security and compliance, support multiple monitoring tools, and offer flexibility and scalability in network monitoring and analysis.

TAPs are typically deployed at strategic points within a network infrastructure to intercept and replicate network packets without introducing latency or disrupting traffic flow.

Features of Network Packet Brokers

NPBs are tools that aggregate network traffic from multiple sources and provide advanced filtering, load balancing, traffic slicing, and masking capabilities.

Traffic Aggregation:

NPBs can aggregate network traffic from multiple sources, such as network links, switches, routers, or TAPs. They collect and consolidate traffic from various points in the network, ensuring that monitoring tools receive complete and representative data.

Filtering and Load Balancing:

NPBs offer advanced filtering capabilities to selectively forward specific traffic to designated tools. They can filter based on criteria like protocols, source/destination IP addresses, ports, or application types. Load balancing features distribute traffic evenly across multiple tools to prevent overload and ensure optimal tool performance.

Traffic Slicing and Masking:

NPBs offer advanced filtering capabilities to selectively forward specific traffic to designated tools. They can filter based on criteria like protocols, source/destination IP addresses, ports, or application types. Load balancing features distribute traffic evenly across multiple tools to prevent overload and ensure optimal tool performance.

Traffic Slicing and Masking:

NPBs can slice network traffic into smaller, more manageable portions for specific tools or analysis requirements. They can also mask sensitive information within packets, such as personally identifiable information (PII), to comply with privacy regulations or security policies.

Features of TAPs

TAPs offer valuable capabilities for link monitoring, network security, and ensuring reliable and fault-tolerant network monitoring. By deploying TAPs strategically in the network infrastructure, organizations can gain comprehensive visibility into their network traffic, enhance security monitoring, and maintain the availability of critical monitoring functions even in the face of hardware failures.

Link Monitoring:

Traffic Access Points are typically deployed at specific points in the network infrastructure, such as between switches, routers, or network segments. They allow monitoring of specific network links or segments without the need for additional equipment.

Network Security:

Traffic Access Points can assist in network security monitoring by providing complete visibility into the network traffic. They enable the detection of security threats, anomalies, or unauthorized activities on the network.

Reliability and Fault Tolerance:

Traffic Access Points are designed to provide high reliability and fault tolerance. They often include features such as redundant power supplies or fail-safe mechanisms to ensure continuous monitoring even in case of hardware failures.

Difference between TAPs and Network Packet Brokers

The difference between the two tools mainly focuses on functionality, traffic handling, traffic control, and scalability.

Functionality:

Traffic Access Points are passive devices that provide non-intrusive, full-duplex access to network traffic. It copies all the traffic passing through a specific link or segment and sends it to monitoring or analysis tools for inspection.

NPBs are active devices that perform various functions such as traffic aggregation, filtering, load balancing, packet modification, and intelligent traffic distribution. It receives network traffic from multiple sources, applies policies/rules, and forwards the traffic to the appropriate monitoring or security tools.

Traffic Handling:

Traffic Access Points passively copy all network traffic, including both inbound and outbound packets, without altering the original traffic flow. They provide complete visibility into network communications.

NPBs actively process, filter, and manipulate network traffic based on predefined policies or rules. They can selectively forward specific traffic to designated monitoring or security tools, ensuring efficient tool utilization.

Traffic Control:

Traffic Access Points do not have control over the traffic they monitor. They simply replicate and passively forward the traffic to the connected monitoring tools.

NPBs provide granular control over the network traffic. They can filter, modify, slice, or mask packets based on specific criteria or policies. They also enable intelligent traffic steering to direct traffic flows to the appropriate tools.

Scalability:

Traffic Access Points are generally designed for specific links or segments, and multiple Traffic Access Points may be required to cover the entire network.

NPBs offer scalability and flexibility as they can handle traffic from multiple sources simultaneously. They can aggregate and distribute traffic from a variety of network links or segments to multiple monitoring tools.

Overall, TAPs are passive devices that copy network traffic for monitoring purposes, while Network Packet Brokers are active devices that provide advanced traffic management, filtering, and distribution functionalities. Network Packet Brokers offer more control, scalability, and advanced features for efficient network monitoring and analysis.

Packet Broker vs TAPs, Which One is Better?

In conclusion, both TAPs and Network Packet Brokers play important roles in network visibility and optimization. The choice between the two tools depends on the specific requirements of your network monitoring and analysis tasks. TAPs are suitable for simple, passive monitoring needs, while Network Packet Brokers offer more advanced features and flexibility for complex traffic handling and optimization. Consider your monitoring objectives, network architecture, scalability needs to make an informed decision.

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