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Overcoming the hype with advanced network analytics software

Bloggers explore the capabilities of network analytics software, assess the coming impact of GDPR regulations and look into the use of Ethernet VPN with an MPLS data plane in data centers.

Shamus McGillicuddy, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates in Boulder, Colo., said the deployment of network analytics software is often positioned as the future of network engineering. But the meaning of network analytics software is poorly explored beyond marketing hype. A recent EMA survey on network analytics found networking professionals are taking a multipronged approach to network analytics, with nearly 60% saying they are using, or planned to use, analysis features embedded in both their network infrastructure or network operations software. More than half said they would also use packaged products from networks analytics vendors while 34% said they're leaning toward packaged products from general analytics vendors.

The bottom line, according to McGillicuddy, is that hardware and management software vendors are already delivering network analytics software within existing product portfolios. Analytics are increasingly embedded in WAN and data centers, with every SD-WAN system working with analytics in some form. "This research tells us that network analytics isn't some shiny new thing that you need to buy. It's more about an evolution and enrichment of existing technology. As you navigate your way around the hype machine, keep that in mind," McGillicuddy said. He added that existing network hardware may get "smarter" in the next few years, while some use cases will be filled by products from dedicated analytics vendors.

Dig deeper into McGillicuddy's analysis of network analytics software.

Getting ready for GDPR

Jon Oltsik, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass., said many organizations are unprepared for the rollout of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which launches in the European Union on May 25, 2018. Trends in GDPR readiness were revealed in an annual ESG survey of 700 cybersecurity professionals, which found that 11% of organizations were completely prepared, 33% were mostly prepared and 44% were somewhat prepared. A third of organizations said incident response plans were enough to meet GDPR breach disclosure requirements within 72 hours, while others admitted that plans need more improvements. Twenty-two percent of organizations said no further technology purchases were needed to address the new law, while 63% were planning incremental investments.

"My takeaway from this data is that most organizations still have plenty to do with just over three months to go. Furthermore, I am alarmed by the lingering uncertainty around GDPR," Oltsik said. Nearly one-third of respondents said understanding the regulations was the biggest challenge, while 31% were concerned with establishing procedures to audit GDPR controls. "One of my cybersecurity predictions at the start of 2018 was that we would see a massive data breach and subsequent GDPR fine by the end of this summer. This data only reinforces my belief that this will happen," Oltsik said.

Explore more of Oltsik's impression of GDPR preparations.

Ethernet VPN, MPLS and data centers

Ivan Pepelnjak, writing in IPSpace, responded to a reader question asking if there is a use case for running Ethernet VPN, or EVPN, in data centers with an MPLS data plane in an environment where most vendors are implementing a network virtualization overlay to perform the same function.

According to Pepelnjak, the answer is yes, citing as one reason the advantage of leveraging the investment in an existing MPLS control plane. EVPN relies on BGP Tunnel Encapsulation Attribute, described in RFC 5512, which indicates the encapsulation needed to reach the egress provider edge device. Values are found in an IANA registry and most rely on IP tunneling. Pepelnjak said the reason for the process is decoupling.

Transport fabric is "simple and clean" when using an "over-IP" encapsulation with EVPN, Pepelnjak said, offering users a pure IP fabric with a single encapsulation and a single routing protocol. With MPLS encapsulation, two end-to-end label switched paths (LSPs) are required between provider edge devices, which means two encapsulations for IP, two forwarding tables and additional control plane protocols. What's more, LSPs are required for every forwarding table for every node they traverse, which can be a challenge when thousands of switches are present. "Admittedly, the MPLS encapsulation introduces lower overhead than whatever-over-IP encapsulation. That overhead becomes relevant when the bandwidth becomes expensive: in WAN networks, not in data centers," Pepelnjak said. "To summarize: There's no free lunch. You have to accept higher encapsulation overhead or more complex transport fabric. I know what I would do when designing data center infrastructure," he added.

Read more of Pepelnjak's explanation of EVPN and MPLS.

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