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

July 09, 2020

Enterprises that halted their cloud migration journey during the current global pandemic are two and a half times more likely than those that continued their move to the cloud to have experienced IT outages that negatively impacted their SLAs, according to Virtana's latest survey report The Current State of Hybrid Cloud and IT ...

July 08, 2020

Every business has the responsibility to do their part against climate change by reducing their carbon footprint while increasing sustainability and efficiency. Harnessing optimization of IT infrastructure is one method companies can use to reduce carbon footprint, improve sustainability and increase business efficiency, while also keeping costs down ...

July 07, 2020

While the adoption of continuous integration (CI) is on the rise, software engineering teams are unable to take a zero-tolerance approach to software failures, costing enterprise organizations billions annually, according to a quantitative study conducted by Undo and a Cambridge Judge Business School MBA project ...

June 25, 2020

I've had the opportunity to work with a number of organizations embarking on their AIOps journey. I always advise them to start by evaluating their needs and the possibilities AIOps can bring to them through five different levels of AIOps maturity. This is a strategic approach that allows enterprises to achieve complete automation for long-term success ...

June 24, 2020

Sumo Logic recently commissioned an independent market research study to understand the industry momentum behind continuous intelligence — and the necessity for digital organizations to embrace a cloud-native, real-time continuous intelligence platform to support the speed and agility of business for faster decision-making, optimizing security, driving new innovation and delivering world-class customer experiences. Some of the key findings include ...

June 23, 2020

When it comes to viruses, it's typically those of the computer/digital variety that IT is concerned about. But with the ongoing pandemic, IT operations teams are on the hook to maintain business functions in the midst of rapid and massive change. One of the biggest challenges for businesses is the shift to remote work at scale. Ensuring that they can continue to provide products and services — and satisfy their customers — against this backdrop is challenging for many ...

June 22, 2020

Teams tasked with developing and delivering software are under pressure to balance the business imperative for speed with high customer expectations for quality. In the course of trying to achieve this balance, engineering organizations rely on a variety of tools, techniques and processes. The 2020 State of Software Quality report provides a snapshot of the key challenges organizations encounter when it comes to delivering quality software at speed, as well as how they are approaching these hurdles. This blog introduces its key findings ...

June 18, 2020

For IT teams, run-the-business, commodity areas such as employee help desks, device support and communication platforms are regularly placed in the crosshairs for cost takeout, but these areas are also highly visible to employees. Organizations can improve employee satisfaction and business performance by building unified functions that are measured by employee experience rather than price. This approach will ultimately fund transformation, as well as increase productivity and innovation ...

June 17, 2020

In the agile DevOps framework, there is a vital piece missing; something that previous approaches to application development did well, but has since fallen by the wayside. That is, the post-delivery portion of the toolchain. Without continuous cloud optimization, the CI/CD toolchain still produces massive inefficiencies and overspend ...

June 16, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has exponentially accelerated digital transformation projects. To better understand where IT professionals are turning for help, we analyzed the online behaviors of IT decision-makers. Our research found an increase in demand for resources related to APM, microservices and dependence on cloud services ...