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Top 8 Network Packet Broker (NPB) Tools

GigamonIxia Network Packet BrokersBig Switch NetworksCisco Nexus Data BrokerArista Data ANalyZerObserver GigaStorAPCONNiagara Packet Brokers
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    The most valuable feature is NetFlow.
  2. This solution allows us to see exactly what is going on in the network and we can very quickly solve issues with users.It can help to write your rules, organize firewalls, your block, and also your protocols and IP address to come in or out of your network.
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What does a network packet broker do?

The main purpose of a network packet broker (NPB) is to filter network traffic, thereby optimizing traffic flow, network security, performance management, and other monitoring tools. After an NPB receives data from network links, it then acts as a “broker” by funneling the relevant data from the network to each tool that needs it. NPBs are capable of performing crucial functionalities from providing total network visibility, to ensuring data loss prevention, and improving network management. NPBs are able to do this for networks that have very complex architectures or networks that are resource-intensive. Although it sounds conceptually easy to aggregate, filter, and deliver data, NPBs perform complex crucial functions that are ultimately responsible for exponentially increasing efficiency and heightened security.

What makes up a network packet broker?

Most network packet brokers consist of a header, a payload, and a trailer. The header includes packet information, such as proper protocols, the packet’s originating address, and its destination IP address. Oftentimes the header will also contain instructions about the data regarding the length of the packet, synchronization, and a packet number. The payload is also referred to as the “body” or the actual data of a packet. The trailer, sometimes known as the “footer,” communicates with the receiving device when the end of the packet has been reached. It can also include a CRC (cyclic redundancy check), which is the most commonly used form of error checking used in packets. Typically, routers will locate a destination address in the header, which indicates where the packet should be sent. When the packet reaches the destination, the header and trailer are stripped off of each packet and are reassembled based on the numbered sequence of the packets.

Choosing a Network Packet Broker

To find the solution that will best support your business when choosing an NPB:

  • Identify which NPB will fit your architecture today, but will also offer you the flexibility you need in the future as your company grows.
  • Select an NPB that can accommodate architectural complexities.
  • Pick an NPB that has advanced threat detection and prevention while also streamlining security analytics.
  • Make sure you set your organization up for success by opting for maximized tool efficiency and scale.
  • Ensure that the NPB delivers the high performance your organization requires. You need complete network visibility and a solution that can perform advanced processing functions, from delivering 100% reliable data processing, to SSL decryption and intelligent filtering and deduplication.
Network Packet Broker Features

Below is a helpful list of recommended features to consider when selecting a network packet broker:

  • Easy-to-use GUI (graphical user interface): In order to take advantage of an NPB’s full capabilities, it should be intuitive and easy to use, manage, and configure. Ideally, it should have a GUI or CLI (command line interface) that can accommodate port mapping and paths, as well as adjustments of packet flow as necessary.
  • Packet aggregation: Your NPB should be able to increase the efficiency of your monitoring tools by using intelligent packet aggregation and creating a unified stream that can be routed to its relevant monitoring tool.
  • Load balancing: It is important that the NPB you select can effectively funnel incoming traffic to multiple appliances. This feature will not only strengthen your network security but will also increase your security and monitoring tools’ productivity and be more manageable for network administrators.
  • Data masking: NPBs can protect sensitive data, including personal identifiable information such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, confidential health records, etc.
  • Availability: With high availability, NPBs guarantee reduced downtime and ensure business continuity robustness.
  • Elimination of duplicates: NPBs can deduplicate redundant data from multiple taps forwarding traffic. In turn, this can eliminate wasted processing capacity. Degrading performance is no longer an issue since deduplication is already built into NPBs.
  • SSL (secure socket layer) decryption: Because hackers can mask cyberthreats within encrypted packets, decryption becomes necessary for inspecting this data and provides complete visibility before it actually gets sent to the tools. Your NPB can lighten the burden of decrypting and then re-encrypting traffic and streamline the process.
  • Context-aware visibility: Another feature that NPBs have is protocol header stripping. By stripping out protocol headers like VLAN, VXLAN, and L3VPN, tools can more readily process packet data. Content-aware visibility helps identify applications on networks to determine the paths cyberattackers are likely using as they make their way through your systems.
  • Application filtering session: While this advanced feature is not essential, its primary goal is to extract sessions that are unnecessary for analysis. By filtering based on application sessions, an NPB can optimize the performance of both security and monitoring tools, thereby reducing resource utilization.
Network Packet Broker Benefits

Network packet brokers come with several benefits, including:

  • Allow for better decision making: With the advanced filtering capabilities that NPBs offer, organizations are able to obtain better data. With better data, companies can improve monitoring, performance, and security tools, preparing them to make better decisions.
  • Heightened security: NPBs help identify threats by assuring that proactive security devices like firewalls or intrusion prevention systems are working efficiently with correct data.
  • Problem resolution: Issues are detected much faster and IT teams don’t need to waste time trying to discover the root cause of problems in order to solve them.
  • Application intelligence: In addition to speeding up troubleshooting time, application intelligence is responsible for providing deeper insights such as geographic locations or determining reasons for disruptions.
  • Better ROI (return on investment): NPBs do not only work to aggregate traffic. They filter data, eliminating irrelevant traffic, which ultimately helps improve tool performance and reduce congestion, among many other benefits.