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Ixia reveals beefy network packet broker chassis, touts architecture

Shamus McGillicuddy

Ixia announced its first modular network packet broker to serve the network monitoring needs of large enterprises and service providers.

The Net Tool Optimizer (NTO) 7300 is a six-slot chassis with a 3.84 Tbps uni-directional backplane capacity. Initially, Ixia will ship two line cards for the network packet broker: a 48-by-10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) module and a 16-by-40 GbE module. With its large backplane bandwidth, the NTO 7300 can support wire-rate, port-to-port performance.

"Customers looking at similar solutions out in the industry today have found that you have wire rate on the line cards, but very little bandwidth across the backplane," said Roark Pollock, vice president of marketing for Ixia's Network Visibility Solutions. As a result, competitors'

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network packet brokers  tend to get oversubscribed in some deployments.

The NTO 7300 is designed to aggregate packet streams from network taps, SPAN ports and bypass switches on very large networks. It can then filter and forward those streams to multiple network monitoring and security tools that might otherwise have to compete for direct access to taps and (switched port analyzer) SPAN ports.

Network packet brokers are becoming more important as enterprises expand the number of monitoring tools on their network, said Jim Frey vice president for research in network management at Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates (EMA). EMA's research has revealed enterprises typically had two or three monitoring tools -- both inline and out-of-band -- plugged into network packet brokers. Now that number has increased to three or four, with EMA research suggesting enterprises will typically have four or five tools plugged into these devices by 2015. The chassis is a departure for Ixia, whose network packet brokers have always been fixed-configuration boxes, Frey said. A chassis product "is important for upgradeability," he said. "You buy into the chassis and put the blades in. Then, over time, if you want more capacity, you can put more blades in."

Ixia announces new visibility architecture

Additionally, Ixia announced a new visibility architecture for its network visibility business. The architecture is meant to demonstrate how Ixia is combining its existing Net Tool Optimizer business with the taps, bypass switches and network packet brokers it gained with its recent acquisition of Net Optics.

More on network packet brokers and network visibility

SDN startup Big Switch offers alternative to network taps, packet brokers

Microsoft uses SDN for network monitoring and analysis

Arista DANZ turns data center switches into network packet brokers

Pollock said Ixia and Net Optics had formerly focused on product features and functionality when engaging customers. Now the company is trying to present an architecture with an end-to-end product portfolio, from the taps and bypass switches at the edge to the network packet brokers in the core and the management software that controls the infrastructure.

"Net Optics was really strong on the network access layer," Pollock said. "On Ixia's side we had a lot of leading capabilities from a network packet broker standpoint. Over time you'll see those products merge together [including Net Optics lower end network packet broker line]."

"I think Ixia has stepped up to having a full-blown set of offerings," Frey said. "They can now handle all the pieces you need to put together network visibility technologies. Ixia didn't have taps [before the Net Optics deal]."

Frey said taps may seem mundane, but he said more enterprises are using them and getting away from relying on the native SPAN ports on their switches. When activated, SPAN ports tend to degrade the performance of switches, and they produce less-reliable packet streams than a tap, he said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, news director or follow him on Twitter @ShamusTT.


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