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Brocade targets mobile operators with net monitor suite

"Tap" can follow the workload with very low latency

Brocade has announced a network monitoring and management solution it hopes will attract the eye of LTE network operators.

Speaking to The Register's networking desk, Brocade's Phil Coates said the company is, in particular, addressing the shortcomings of traditional iron-based network monitoring systems.

Something like a deep packet inspection box plugged into a particular port and delivering traffic back to a management system doesn't match well with the increasingly-virtualised operations of an evolved packet core (EPC) network, Coates said.

The box is screwed into the rack and that's where it stays – but the workloads that are handling customer traffic, as processes in virtual machines, are mobile, and can easily move out of reach of the system trying to capture stats about their traffic.

Hence in the network visibility portfolio (announced here) there's a virtual packet broker (VPB) that can move around with workloads.

Asia-Pac boss Gary Denman added that carriers also want systems to be programmable enough to capture data down to the session level.

A (possibly controversial) example of this is in complying with law enforcement: even if you know you want a particular individual's traffic and have DPI handy, you're likely to end up with a flood of data that still has to be sifted down to what's in a warrant.

"Instead of setting hardware rules to get all of Richard's traffic, and later analyse it – now, we can turn around and look for traffic associated with a specific function, and get just that information", Coates explained.

A more mundane application is in trying to maintain network optimisation for traffic like video: a user streaming sports while on the train will move between cells. If the network monitoring/optimisation is solely hardware-based, there's going to be a lot of communication between boxes in base stations to keep the stream optimised.

Denman added that the explosion of over-the-top traffic is also in the company's sights, because mobile operators are struggling to adjust their billing models, partly because it's so hard to get detailed data about what applications are using network bandwidth.

Brocade's pitch is that the "tap" can follow the workload with very low latency – it can spin up in a millisecond, Coates said – the network can get a lot more responsive.

As well as the VPB, are more traditional hardware packet brokers (for the MLXe routers and ICX switches); packet probes; the Brocade Session Director, which handles control flow processing; the Brocade Visibility Manager admin application; and open APIs for the whole lot. ®

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