With the debut of Spotify last month, Internet music access entered a whole new realm, offering access to 15 million songs with excellent sound quality (160-kbps Ogg Vorbis format). What does this have to do with network management? Well, since users can listen to any track on any album legally, can start playing music almost instantaneously without experiencing latency, and it’s free, you can bet you’ll be seeing Spotify on your list of most active applications on the enterprise network real soon.
So, the $64,000 question is, will you deny employees access to this Swedish treat (Spotify was started in Sweden in 2008) because it might bog down your network? Applications, both commercial and for the enterprise, are growing both in number and complexity, and are displaying a rich appetite for network services.
The most common enterprise response right now is to increase network capacity from 1G to 10G on key network segments, and with the commoditization of 10G equipment and the associated price competition this isn’t a bad option. But one hidden cost in this transition is the need for network performance and analysis solutions that are truly able to monitor and troubleshoot data at these much higher data rates. The bottom line is that 10G introduces unique network monitoring and troubleshooting concerns that should be addressed alongside the deployment of new equipment.
Steer Clear of Solutions that Only Added A 10G NIC
Many DPI (deep packet inspection) network analysis and troubleshooting vendors that have proven successful in 1G environments have simply added a 10G NIC and additional memory and processing power to their traditional 1G network appliances. Though these adaptations may seem to extend the useful life of existing solutions, they are rarely capable of handling fully loaded 10G links, rendering them nearly useless as utilization grows and negating the benefit of the “incremental” expense.
Focus on Capture
At 10G, it’s all about capturing the data, but having a real-time view of the data is also critical. Look for solutions that both have the capacity to give you a full and detailed real-time view into what is happening on your network as well as the ability to streamline data to disk, at your full line rate, to perform post-capture analysis for analyzing and troubleshooting your network. Keep in mind that retrieving data for analysis can still be a challenge at these high network rates, so having both a clear understanding of typical network performance through baselines, as well as an analysis solution that can guide you to the most specific data set for analysis, will really help.
Think of the Future, the 2012 Apocalypse Prophecy Isn’t Real
Choosing a solution that was specifically built for 10G is a good idea; choosing a solution that is built to accommodate higher speeds and greater capacities in general is an even better one. The best approaches will leverage the latest multi-core/multi- processor architectures, lightweight software designs, and fast storage technologies that optimize performance. If this is done right, the solution will not only be able to handle 10G networks, but will also set the groundwork for future expansion to support 40G and possibly even 100G.
Manage Your Data
Even after you’ve determined the essential areas of the network you want to analyze, 10G networks generate a great deal of data very quickly, and managing the data becomes a significant challenge.
Traditional network analysis solutions typically use one of two common formats for data storage: packet files (flat file storage) or databases. In either case, two metrics to manage closely are file size and frequency of disk writes. If the files are too large, they can become unworkable on the computer being used for analysis. Smaller files or inefficient database architecture can lead to more frequent disk writes, which can consume system resources necessary for performing the actual capture. After you perform a few captures, you can determine if either of these parameters can be better optimized for your system, if these options are offered.
Alternately, there are network analysis solutions that write packets directly to disk, increasing disk-write performance and overall throughput for capturing data for post-capture analysis. In cases where traditional file or database limits are difficult to define or implement, or where average line rates exceed 5Gbps, this is the best solution.
Authors Bio: Jay Botelho is the Director of Product Management at WildPackets, Inc., a leading network analysis solutions provider for networks of all sizes and topologies. Jay holds an MSEE, and is an industry veteran with over 25 years of experience in product management, product marketing, program management and complex analysis. From the first mobile computers developed by GRiD Systems to modern day network infrastructure systems, Jay has been instrumental in setting corporate direction, specifying requirements for industry-leading hardware and software products, and growing product sales through targeted product marketing.