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Network Monitoring

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October 29, 2010

Packet Network Monitoring Matrix Switches Are Key Tools for Success

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Networking monitoring has become a key topic in nearly every industry as so much is now driven by the network that business tends to cease in functioning if something with the network goes wrong. As a result, there is a significant amount of pressure placed on the IT department to ensure they can safely conduct network monitoring no matter where they are and without interfering with the current system or applications in place.

A recent Network World (News - Alert) piece examined the potential of different network monitoring solutions, proposing a full range of options that can work in a variety of environments. One solution explored in detail was packet monitoring matrix switches. In this solution, a device is used that is specifically designed to allow for many taps to be aggregated and to connect to all the different monitoring systems that may be in place.

These switches actually connect network monitoring devices to the points on the network where you need to be able to observe packets. SPAN ports can be configured on the network so that much of the traffic can be sent to the matrix switch. In turn, the matrix switch connects all the tools used to conduct network monitoring, which should include IPS devices, packet sniffers, ROMON probes and Web Application Firewalls.  

The configuration interface of the packet monitoring matrix switch allows the network administrator to send traffic from the input ports that are connected to the devices on the network to the output ports connected to a variety of tools. Network monitoring is conducted when packets are duplicated from a single input port to multiple output ports. Matrix switches will typically have the ability to create complex filters to send on the necessary types of traffic to network monitoring tools to measure the desired traffic.

Role-based configuration management can also be used with matrix switches to allow only specific staff to actually modify anything detected through network monitoring. This ensures that those who are actually making changes are doing so in the right areas that won’t affect the operation of other areas where performance is at expectations. As the majority of matrix switches come with a variety of interface types for 1Gbps and 10Gbps interfaces, packets can generally be throttled forward across ports.

With the increase in the number of packet capturing and DPI appliances, expect to see more organizations implementing more network monitoring switches and solutions as time goes on. As many organizations have a number of systems that need to be observed to assure traffic flows across the network, packet monitoring switches will continue to be popular. And, as networks become even more valuable to the organization, network monitoring will continue to be a key focus as a corporate strategy.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Erin Monda