The rise of next-generation network packet brokers


Network packet brokers (NPB) have played a key role in helping organizations manage their management and security tools. The tool space has exploded, and there is literally a tool for almost everything. Cybersecurity, probes, network performance management, forensics, application performance, and other tools have become highly specialized, causing companies to experience something called “tool sprawl” where connecting a large number of tools into the infrastructure creates a big complex mesh of connections.

Ideally, every tool would receive information from every network device, enabling it to have a complete view of what’s happening, who is accessing what, where they are coming in from, and when events occurred.

The problem with this is that managing an environment where everything connects to everything isn’t realistic (see top image below). Enter the world of the network packet broker. These devices sit between the infrastructure and tools layer, so each tool plugs into the NPB once, as does each infrastructure element (bottom image). This greatly simplifies deployment and management of tools.

Without a network packet broker

Zeus Kerravala

With a network packet broker

bottom npbZeus Kerravala

Also, adding new tools simply requires plugging into the NPB. Another benefit is that upgrades can be done easily, as the tool can be taken off line, the interface upgraded and plugged back in. This minimizes any disruption from the operations of the business.

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