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Brocade unveils APIs for network packet brokers

Brocade has released network packet broker technologies for mobile operators. The product family includes open APIs and a virtualized NPB.

Brocade Communications Systems Inc. has introduced APIs that let mobile operators connect third-party analytical software to the vendor's latest line of network packet broker (NPB) products.

Brocade unveiled this week the Network Visibility product family, which includes two hardware-based NPBs, a virtual packet broker and three related applications. The virtualized NPB and the applications are meant to fit into environments in which operators are virtualizing network functions in order to reduce dependence on expensive proprietary hardware.

In general, network packer brokers aggregate, filter and distribute data feeds from switched port analyzer (SPAN) ports and test access points (TAPs) to network monitoring, security and management tools. A TAP is an external device inserted at a specific point in the network to monitor data. SPAN ports provide functionality similar to TAPs, but are built into the switch and do not require additional hardware.

The APIs Brocade is providing in its network packet brokers can push data feeds to analytical tools used in security, network capacity planning and maintaining an acceptable level of service. Increasingly, mobile operators are also using analytics to sell services to customers, based on the use of their mobile devices and smartphone apps.

"This is an important component for this solution to survive," Sathya Atreyam, analyst at IDC, based in Framingham, Mass., said of NPBs. "The NPB has to understand and respect that it is part of an ecosystem, and not the whole ecosystem on its own."

'Unique' APIs

Brocade's open APIs are for companies that sell carrier-grade analytics that can make use of data from Brocade's network packet brokers and its Packet Probes, said Daniel Williams, director of product marketing for data center routing and analytics at Brocade, based in San Jose, Calif. Packet Probes are software-based packet processing engines that decode and extract metadata from network traffic.

Brocade partners using the APIs today include Viavi Solutions Inc., Guavus Inc., and Avvasi Inc. "We're actively working on building out that ecosystem," Williams said.

New products in the Network Visibility family include the ICX Packet Broker, Virtual Packet Broker and Session Director, which provides software-based programming of NPBs. Also new is the Visibility Manager for managing all products in the family.

Products that are not new, but are part of the portfolio, include MLXe Packet Brokers and Packet Probes. The latter are from Brocade's 2014 acquisition of Vistapointe.

Starting prices are $250,000 for the MLXe, $33,000 for the ICX, $300,000 for Session Director and $50,000 for Visibility Manager.

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