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TAP Into Technology

Leading the Way in Network Technology

Network Visibility Fabric Design - Focus on the Core

Posted by Jeff Warner | 6/13/19 8:00 AM

We’ve previously talked about the importance of the access layer, aggregation layer and edge to a well-designed network visibility fabric. Tapped traffic from the access layer flows to the aggregation layer, where it’s collected, processed, and then forwarded to the core of the fabric. 

The core of the network visibility fabric is where one or more network packet brokers (NPBs) collect and process all flows. It’s in the core that advanced packet processing takes place to send specific data to various monitoring, forensics, and analysis tools. In addition to packet brokering, advanced packet manipulation such as deduplication, decryption, time stamping, packet slicing, and load balancing are critical functions in the core.

Decryption

According to EMA research, 45% of enterprises state that the most critical packet manipulation feature for network operations monitoring, is decryption. The majority of network traffic today is encrypted, but packet analysis requires decrypted flows to provide visibility to IT teams. To resolve this issue, network engineers have a few options when it comes to decrypting network traffic; configure individual tools, offload to a NPB, or add a dedicated box to handle the decryption. Each of these options has positives and negatives that must be taken into consideration when designing the network. Configuring capable existing tools to perform decryption may be cost-effective, but adding this additional feature can degrade the performance of the tool over time. Relying on your NPB may be another option if your vendor provides a box that has this feature, but in addition to added performance strain, it will likely require an expensive license and additional fees on top of what you’ve already committed to. Finally, choosing a best-of-breed solution, means selecting a dedication box to perform the decryption needed to analyze network traffic. While you’re adding an extra cost to perform this critical feature, you’re ensuring that the rest of your network operates in an effective manner. 

Read EMA's Best Practices for Building A Network Visibility Fabric!

Deduplication

Out-of-band security monitoring tools need to ensure that they are only seeing one copy of network traffic. It’s for this reason that deduplication either by session ID or metadata generation is important to 44% of enterprises today. Options to implement deduplication include adding a stand-alone box, or seeing if your NPB vendor has the option to add deduplication as a feature to your NPB.

 

Load Balancing

Load balancing, also referred to as traffic distribution technology is a method of tailoring your available resource to make sure capacity meets nemands. 41% of enterprises rely on L2-L4 load balancing at the core to split network traffic between multiple tools in a manner that doesn’t result in duplication of traffic and helps to prevent oversubscription of the ports. 

Garland Technology has taken the approach to deconstruct the network packet broker. Essentially this means that rather than having one box do everything from the packet brokering to the decryption to deduplication, we’ve designed products and formed partnerships that handle specific functions to meet the needs of our customers. Our PacketMAX™: Advanced Aggregators combined with Advanced Features boxes to handle deduplication, packet slicing, or time stamping, can meet customers’ needs today and grow with them as their needs evolve over time.

[Want to learn more about the components of a network visibility fabric? Read the latest whitepaper from the analysts at EMA, Best Practices for Building a Network Visibility Fabric.]

Topics: Network Design, Network Packet Brokers/Advanced Aggregators

Written by Jeff Warner

With over 20 years experience selling IT and Security Solutions, Jeff has a strong understanding of the needs of enterprise networks, and works to support customers in developing a complete network visibility fabric.