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Network Instruments offers storage-upgradeable network recorder

Shamus McGillicuddy

Network Instruments introduced a compact, field-upgradable network recorder for midsize enterprises.

The vendor's GigaStor Upgradeable appliance is a two-rack-unit appliance that ships with 2 terabytes (TB) of storage and supports Gigabit Ethernet and 10 Gigabit Ethernet

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(GbE) ports. Network managers can install additional memory to scale the total storage of the GigaStor Upgradeable to 16 TB, giving customers a simpler way to capture traffic on a growing network.

The new network recorder gives Network Instruments a down-market network forensics alternative to its carrier-class GigaStor Expandable, a 5U appliance that scales from 48 TB to 5 petabytes. The vendor is marketing the GigaStor Upgradeable as a more affordable, scalable network recorder that won't take up too much rack space.

Network Instruments says it is the only vendor offering enterprises the option to upgrade storage on their network recorders on-site.

"Other vendors allow upgrades, but customers have to ship them back to the vendor for a factory upgrade," said Jim Frey, research director at Enterprise Management Associates. "That's not helpful if you have to take that device out of service for an upgrade."

The ability to upgrade storage capacity on network recorders is especially important to companies that are making the transition from Gigabit Ethernet to 10 GbE, Frey said. The volume of packets crossing the wire at those higher bandwidths will demand more storage capacity.

Network engineer Val Clark deployed two GigaStor Upgradeable network recorders on his network at Renown Health, a Reno, Nev.-based integrated health provider. Clark already had Network Instruments' network probes for the instrumentation of his network monitoring technology, but he recently installed the GigaStors to enable longer-term forensic analysis of his VoIP system.

Without a network recorder, "it's nearly impossible to go and get the packets after the fact when there is a problem," Clark said. "People will tell us there was a problem at 11 o'clock this morning with a conference call, and you can't go back after that and find the cause of the problem."

Clark wanted a network recorder that gave him at least a long weekend's worth of packet captures. "If we find out that the president of the company had a problem with a phone call on Friday when we come in on a Monday, we wanted to be able to go back and find that problem."

Renown Health has 8 TB of storage on its two GigaStor Upgradeables, and Clark likes having the option to upgrade to more storage if he needs it.

"Upgradeability was hugely important," said Stacy Evans, manager of network engineering at BVU Authority, a Bristol, Va.-based public utility provider that uses GigaStor Upgradeable to record traffic on its telecommunications services network. "We deferred our purchase [of GigaStor] to wait for this to become available. It allows us to start with just 2 TB. With video-streaming growing on our network, that's going to create huge bandwidth demand. [GigaStor Upgradeable] will allow us to grow as we need to analyze over-the-top video and other new traffic types."

The appliance's filtering capabilities, however, will allow Evans to defer a storage upgrade for some time. "With our MPLS network, we can pull out data streams with that," he said. "We can take any packet stream and say I only want data from this source based on VLAN [virtual LAN] or source and destination. It allows us to take a full 10-Gb stream of packetized data and only look at 20 Mb."

Dave Kofflin, Network Instruments' manager of sales engineering, said the appliance's upgrade feature is a key benefit. "One of the biggest challenges, especially with 10 GbE, is that data rates are pretty unpredictable. You might be at one rate today, but it's hard to predict where you will be six months from now, especially if you are rolling out VoIP and other applications," he said. "It's nice to start with 2 TB. Then, in six months you can add additional storage without having to repurpose the device."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Director.


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