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A breakout TAP is used when utilization is very high and packet loss is not an option. The common use case is for network and application monitoring, performance and analysis. Breakout or normal TAPs are available for copper and fiber networks. In a separate blog we can dig deeper into those differences.
There are TAPs designed to act only in breakout or normal TAP mode, or only as an aggregating TAP, as well as multi-functional modes (Filtering or Bypass TAPs). It's best to know your needs before investing, because as your network evolves, so do your monitoring and access needs.
So, let's begin. To keep everything simple, let’s look at how we would attach a breakout TAP into the link that goes between a network router and a network switch so we can attach a protocol analyzer.
Figure 1: Simple Full Duplex Network Link
Figure 2: Shows how the network traffic will flow between the two end devices. This is before the power is applied to the TAP, so there will not be any traffic flowing out of ports C and D.
In the westbound direction, the traffic will flow from the switch to port B of the TAP and out port A to the router. The westbound traffic will also be sent out port D to the second NIC on the protocol analyzer.
Because only the eastbound traffic is on port C and the westbound traffic is on port D, the analyzer needs to have two NIC installed allowing the analyzer to receive ALL the network traffic that is running on the link. Even jumbo packets and packet errors are passed along to the analysis tool.
If the analysis tool doesn’t have two NICs, then you can still analyze the traffic coming from port C or the traffic coming from port D, but not at the same time.
In my Aggregation blog, I explain and show you how you can see all the link’s traffic with only one NIC on the analyzer. The nice thing about the breakout TAP is that the monitor ports cannot be oversubscribed. All the eastbound and westbound traffic that is presented to the TAP will be sent out port C or D including packet errors.
Figure 3: Traffic flow when TAP loses power
If the TAP loses power (or has no power applied), the traffic on the live link will continue to flow with no interruption as shown in Figure 3. The monitor ports will no longer forward traffic, but the live link is still operational – this provides the peace of mind that your network link will continue to flow, even if your TAP loses power.
Garland Technology's, The 101 Series is an educational series on how network TAPs work and the different functions they provide to the overall network design for access and visibility.
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Jerry Dillard leverages two decades in design and engineering to ensure maximum performance within today’s network environments. Dillard, as the inventor of the Bypass Network Test Access Point (TAP), has secured his legacy as he continues to provide network solutions for data centers worldwide.