At least that is what most people think. I was talking with a college student this afternoon who is doing some work with my Father at his Electrical Service business. He is getting an EE degree and to him the network just works and he is not alone in that viewpoint.
When I started in the networking industry, the network didn’t just work, it worked most of the time, but problems arose often and the repair of the network was not always an easy task. Network troubleshooting and repair often stretched into multiple hours with engineers from the network group, the server group and the tools group all viewing their pieces of the puzzle to ensure that the problem was not with their stuff.
Luckily times have changed and now the components of the network are far more robust than they were 25 years ago. Not only are the network devices, servers and applications better designed and tested, they are also able to be monitored with much greater ease. Many advanced in quality assurance departments have helped hardware and software components to have a much better chance of success in doing their job and not disrupting the computing environment.
Monitoring the health of the computing environment has taken monumental leaps forward as well. Back in the day, monitoring was done in a very manual fashion with people toting around Network General sniffers (anyone remember the Dolch?) ready to hook up to the network to see what was going on in case of a catastrophic failure of the computing environment. What started out as purely a focus on Fault Management, using something like HP Openview, Syslog, or SNMP traps, has evolved into full blown computing environment health assessment, security and compliance monitoring, and performance tuning.
Where there were once only a dozen tools on the market to do fault, configuration, accounting, performance and security management, that number has now tripled or even quadrupled. I believe this shows the critical importance that companies and individuals place on the computing environment that facilitates their access to the information necessary to do their job, pay their bills, interact with family and friends, shop, and have their social life. The network is no longer a nice thing to have, it is a required tool for doing business much like the telephone, typewriter and notepads were years ago.
Which brings me to the point of this article, the network have evolved into a computing environment that is an integral part of most companies and now there is a plethora of network monitoring tools that exist to help those responsible for keeping a very important company asset in tip top shape. As our networks continue to get faster and process more and more data, we need to ensure that all the data required by these network monitoring tools gets to its intended destination and doesn’t overload the tool.
This is where Network Packet Brokers come into play, this is why this new market exists. Network switches and routers provide some of the information that these “Tools” require, but not all. That is because the primary purpose of networking devices is to move production traffic from clients to servers and providing a copy of that data to a network tool is of secondary importance and thus has a lower priority.
Network Packet Brokers provide a means to obtain the required data from various points throughout the network (via network taps, preferred or SPAN ports) and transport a copy of the data collected to the tools that need that information and not drop a single bit of data.
Network Packet Brokers are being deployed in large networks today with increasing frequency, because the network is a critical part of operating your business, and its health needs to be monitored to prevent a disruption in service, and the security of your computing environment needs to be ensured to keep your confidential data confidential and provide your clients with confidence that their data that they have entrusted to you is secure.
What do you think, are network packet brokers a technology whose time has come? Or is it a waste of precious IT resources?