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VSS Monitoring offers midrange network packet broker

VSS Monitoring offers a low-price network packet broker to network monitoring operations in mainstream, midrange enterprises.

VSS Monitoring is offering a cheaper version of its network packet brokers to address an expanding market of enterprises that want to use packet-based analysis to monitor network performance and security.,

The vendor's Optimizer 2400 is the first in a series of new midrange network packet brokers, also known as network visibility controllers or network monitoring switches. It is available now for a list price of $19,995. Enterprises can also rent the device with a monthly subscription price of $400 and a minimum five-year term. The 2400 is a 1U appliance with 24 line-rate 1/10 Gbps ports.

High-end network packet brokers from the likes of VSS, Gigamon and Ixia have long appealed to large enterprises that need to do more than just aggregate taps and SPAN ports. More advanced network packet brokers can filter, groom and load balance packet streams across multiple monitoring tools. However, the prices of these devices have been too high for the mainstream IT organization. Instead, the broader enterprise market has turned to lower-cost tap and SPAN port aggregation devices.

"There have always been simpler, cheaper versions of what these platforms do," said Jim Frey, vice president of research at Enterprise Management Associates. "They were for simpler use cases and didn't need the full range of [packet stream] manipulation capabilities. The midsized tier [of enterprises] really does see the value in packet-based analysis. We've seen that addressed by tools from companies like SolarWinds, which introduced a packet-based monitoring product."

VSS Monitoring's Optimizer 2400 offers a more advanced network monitoring switch to this expanding market, with many of the traffic grooming features of high-end VSS devices, including flow-aware load balancing and user-independent Layer 2-7 filtering.

"It's the same underlying technology," Frey said. "[VSS] just dialed back on things like time-stamping. There is no header stripping. It also doesn't have some of the more advanced deep packet inspection, Layer 7 visibility."

The Optimizer 2400 is designed for performance management and passive network security monitoring technology, said Andrew Harding, VSS' vice president of products. It lacks the time-stamping, packet slicing and de-encapsulation features that inline security products -- such as firewalls and intrusion prevention systems -- require.

Affordable network virtualization visibility

The Optimizer 2400 does, however, support vNetConnect, VSS' technology for capturing packets from virtual hosts. Support for this feature will appeal to enterprises that are adopting network virtualization, said Christian Renaud, senior analyst at 451 Research.

"The people who are doing virtual networking are losing visibility into their traffic. And the mid-enterprise doesn't have the budget for the [high-end] network monitoring switches [that can capture virtual network traffic]," Renaud said.

Network packet brokers in more places

Large enterprises that want end-to-end network visibility will also want to look at the Optimizer 2400, Frey said. Those companies may already have VSS' more expensive network monitoring switches in place in the most critical parts of their network, but they want more affordable appliances for smaller sites.

"There is an interest in having this technology available ubiquitously," he said. "That means having it deployed in relatively smaller sites, where the need is big enough to justify the $20,000 list price. When you're trying to deploy packet-based monitoring in more places, you can't always afford the high-end appliances at every site."

The launch of the Optimizer 2400 comes on the heels of NetScout Systems' acquisition of VSS Monitoring and several other network management companies, including Fluke Networks and Arbor Networks. NetScout already has a line of network packet brokers, although those, too, are usually deployed in passive monitoring use cases rather than inline.

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