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BLOG: Using SDN to create a packet monitoring system

Scott Hogg | Dec. 16, 2013
Packet-level Monitoring Use Case with Cisco XNC and Monitor Manager

Cisco's SDN and Monitor Manager Solution:
Cisco Systems has been developing their own SDN controller systems based on their Open Network Environment (ONE) Platform Kit (onePK) architecture.  Cisco has now produced their Open Network Environment (ONE) Controller and many of their network devices support the onePK APIs for communications between the controller and the switches.  This presentation describes several of the use cases for the ONE Controller and includes the "Conventional Monitor Matrix Solution" on slide 9.

Cisco also offers their eXtensible Network Controller (XNC) which is targeted at enterprises. The Cisco eXtensible Network Controller (XNC) has the ability to have several other applications plugged into it to give it even more functionality.  Here is a video that describes the use of the XNC.  One of those XNC plug-ins is the Monitor Manager application.  This document covers the Cisco Extensible Network Controller with Cisco Monitor Manager Solution: Increase Network Traffic Visibility.

This Cisco solution utilizes Nexus 3000 switches as the network elements that are controlled by the XNC Monitor Manager application.  These switches are recommended for this use case because of their lower cost, high performance, support for 1/10/40Gbps interfaces and very low latency.  Therefore, with these Nexus 3000 switches and the Cisco XNC with the Monitor Manager application you can create a network visualization capability for cheaper than a traditional packet monitoring switch.  Purchasing these products would jumpstart your organization's journey into using SDN.

Other Vendor's SDN Network Monitoring Systems:
There are other vendors that supply SDN solutions that are capable of creating a packet monitoring capability.

Big Switch has their Big Tap solution.

Arista Networks switches running their Extensible Operating System (EOS) have the capability to perform what they call Data ANalyZer (DANZ) functionality.  ExtraHop and Arista have partnered to create a Persistent Monitoring Architecture which combines the Arista switches DANZ and ExtraHop's Context and Correlation Engine (CCE).

Microsoft has their DEMon (Distributed Ethernet Monitoring) monitoring network that uses low-cost switches and an OpenFlow controller.

There are also the traditional packet monitoring switch manufacturers who are starting to get into the SDN market.  Companies like GigamonIXIA/AnuecPacket, and VSS Monitoring are working to insert their products into the SDN conversation.

It is apparent that SDN will continue to have an impact on the way networks have traditionally been designed.  Network packet monitoring is just one of the use cases of SDN.  SDN is having a disruptive effect on this market segment and the vendors who have offered these products in the past are having to change their product directions because of SDN.  If your organization has delayed deploying a packet monitoring solution because of the high cost of packet monitoring switches, then maybe these SDN solutions will allow you to create this capability for less capital expense.  Whether you use a SDN solution or use a traditional packet monitoring switch, having network visibility is key to operating a modern networked environment.


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