A network packet broker or NPB is an appliance or chassis that aggregates tapped network traffic and filters the data before it is sent to various network monitoring and security related tools. The NPB adds intelligent grooming and security enhancements such as deduplication, SSL decryption, data masking, and application and threat intelligence. Major NPB vendors are companies such as Gigamon and Ixia (now part of Keysight).
NPBs serve a vital function within an enterprise, telco or government network but there isn’t one size NPB that fits all needs. Also, high-end NPBs from market leaders such as Gigamon are very costly. As a result, customers must decide on exactly which features, and functions are crucial for their operations. For example, a hospital or financial company may be particularly sensitive to data privacy concerns due to regulations and therefore masking personally identifiable information (PII) is a fundamental requirement. Whereas another entity may be focused solely on security concerns.
NPB customers should evaluate the entire market and in many cases less feature rich NPBs from companies such as Garland Technology are perfectly adequate and very cost effective. Accolade Technology SmartNICs also provide common functions that are found in NPBs such as deduplication. In future posts we will discuss the various features available to replace or augment NPBs.