How to Boost Network Monitoring Tool Efficiency
February 07, 2019

Alastair Hartrup
Network Critical

Share this

Having the right tools and good visibility are critical to understanding what's going on in your network and applications. However, as networks become more complex and hybrid in nature, organizations can no longer afford to be reactive and rely only on portable diagnostic tools. They need real-time, comprehensive visibility.

To accomplish this, more and more organizations are deploying network monitoring platforms and solutions that utilize TAPs (Terminal Access Points) and Packet Brokers to permanently establish network links and gather critical performance data. These technologies provide maximum utilization of connected tools for IT teams looking for comprehensive monitoring and management in, for example, a Network Performance Monitoring and Diagnostics (NPMD) platform.

Why are TAPs so important? Network TAPs are stand-alone devices that make a mirror copy of all of the traffic that flows between two network end-points (or nodes). This can then be output to various network tools, while the live traffic continues to pass through the network. Because they are independent of the network, they're fully configurable. This allows complex packet manipulation to be performed by network performance (or security) solutions.

Packet Brokers take the technology a step further and allow for the combination, integration, separation, manipulation and processing of inputs from many sources (including TAPs), and then deliver that data to a wide variety of appliance, platform and tool destinations. 

Both play a major role in providing the data necessary for real-time, comprehensive network visibility.

Monitoring tools such as sniffers, probes and NPMD solutions can be permanently and safely installed on all network links using TAPs. They connect in-line on a network link, making a mirror copy of all network traffic and then forward that information directly to a monitoring tool (or Packet Broker). TAPs are also extremely safe – if power is lost, the network traffic will continue to flow. For more complex networks with a variety of connected tools, Packet Brokers are used with TAPs.

What are some of the key features that organizations should look for when deploying TAPs and Packet Brokers? Here are three key features to consider:

1. Flexible Port Mapping

Flexible port mapping allows the user to choose which ports the packets will travel through with no preset requirements. Packets may come in from the network, go back out to the network and also be directed to a connected monitoring tool. Some TAPs require certain ports be used for network traffic and others to be used to support monitoring tools. Flexible Port Mapping allows any port to be utilized for any type of traffic. This eliminates the need to buy a bigger system than necessary just because one type of port is maxed out, while other ports are open and unused. It also makes it simpler to add links and tools when any open port can be utilized for a tool or network access at any time. Not all TAPs and Packet Brokers offer this "scale out" flexibility.

2. Easy Aggregation

Aggregation is the combining of traffic from multiple links and sending that traffic to one specific tool. Often, links are underutilized. A 10 Gbps link, for example, may actually be carrying only 4 Gbps of actual traffic.

Understanding the actual traffic on links and aggregating underutilized links to a single TAP or Packet Broker port can provide dramatic savings on monitoring tools. Doing the math, aggregating five links running at 2 Gbps to a single 10 Gbps output port connected to one monitoring tool can reduce the tool budget by a factor of five.

Imagine the savings opportunity in a large complex network. Using this strategy on hundreds of links, organizations can save hundreds of thousands of dollars.

3. Independent Filtering

Independent filtering eliminates traffic that is not relevant to the mission of the connected monitoring tool. It helps tools run faster, more efficiently and allows them to monitor more links.

Hierarchical filtering is the traditional way that filtering is designed. This can be very complicated and prone to network affecting errors. If packets are filtered out at the top of the list, they cannot be re-introduced later.

Independent fast filtering allows filter maps to be created quickly without consequence to other filters further down the list. Independent filtering is faster and more accurate than hierarchical filtering. Look for TAPs or Packet Brokers that allow you to created multiple filters quickly on any stream with no need to distinguish between ingress and egress ports (and be sure you can create filter criteria with ranges and individual criteria).

When independent filtering is combined with aggregation, packets are filtered out of streams, allowing a higher aggregation ratio of links being sent to a monitoring tool. This means that independent filtering not only helps save OPEX by allowing faster, more accurate tool deployment, it also saves CAPEX by enhancing the link to tool aggregation ratio.

When looking to deploy or optimize your network monitoring solutions, consider the impact of strategically deploying network TAPs and Packet Brokers. Be sure you're using the aforementioned features, as they can offer significant tool cost savings and allow for a more efficient network monitoring solution.

Alastair Hartrup is CEO of Network Critical
Share this

The Latest

March 04, 2024

This year's Super Bowl drew in viewership of nearly 124 million viewers and made history as the most-watched live broadcast event since the 1969 moon landing. To support this spike in viewership, streaming companies like YouTube TV, Hulu and Paramount+ began preparing their IT infrastructure months in advance to ensure an exceptional viewer experience without outages or major interruptions. New Relic conducted a survey to understand the importance of a seamless viewing experience and the impact of outages during major streaming events such as the Super Bowl ...

March 01, 2024

As organizations continue to navigate the complexities of the digital era, which has been marked by exponential advancements in AI and technology, the strategic deployment of modern, practical applications has become indispensable for sustaining competitive advantage and realizing business goals. The Info-Tech Research Group report, Applications Priorities 2024, explores the following five initiatives for emerging and leading-edge technologies and practices that can enable IT and applications leaders to optimize their application portfolio and improve on capabilities needed to meet the ambitions of their organizations ...

February 29, 2024

Despite the growth in popularity of artificial intelligence (AI) and ML across a number of industries, there is still a huge amount of unrealized potential, with many businesses playing catch-up and still planning how ML solutions can best facilitate processes. Further progression could be limited without investment in specialized technical teams to drive development and integration ...

February 28, 2024

With over 200 streaming services to choose from, including multiple platforms featuring similar types of entertainment, users have little incentive to remain loyal to any given platform if it exhibits performance issues. Big names in streaming like Hulu, Amazon Prime and HBO Max invest thousands of hours into engineering observability and closed-loop monitoring to combat infrastructure and application issues, but smaller platforms struggle to remain competitive without access to the same resources ...

February 27, 2024

Generative AI has recently experienced unprecedented dramatic growth, making it one of the most exciting transformations the tech industry has seen in some time. However, this growth also poses a challenge for tech leaders who will be expected to deliver on the promise of new technology. In 2024, delivering tangible outcomes that meet the potential of AI, and setting up incubator projects for the future will be key tasks ...

February 26, 2024

SAP is a tool for automating business processes. Managing SAP solutions, especially with the shift to the cloud-based S/4HANA platform, can be intricate. To explore the concerns of SAP users during operational transformations and automation, a survey was conducted in mid-2023 by Digitate and Americas' SAP Users' Group ...

February 22, 2024

Some companies are just starting to dip their toes into developing AI capabilities, while (few) others can claim they have built a truly AI-first product. Regardless of where a company is on the AI journey, leaders must understand what it means to build every aspect of their product with AI in mind ...

February 21, 2024

Generative AI will usher in advantages within various industries. However, the technology is still nascent, and according to the recent Dynatrace survey there are many challenges and risks that organizations need to overcome to use this technology effectively ...

February 20, 2024

In today's digital era, monitoring and observability are indispensable in software and application development. Their efficacy lies in empowering developers to swiftly identify and address issues, enhance performance, and deliver flawless user experiences. Achieving these objectives requires meticulous planning, strategic implementation, and consistent ongoing maintenance. In this blog, we're sharing our five best practices to fortify your approach to application performance monitoring (APM) and observability ...

February 16, 2024

In MEAN TIME TO INSIGHT Episode 3, Shamus McGillicuddy, VP of Research, Network Infrastructure and Operations, at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) discusses network security with Chris Steffen, VP of Research Covering Information Security, Risk, and Compliance Management at EMA ...