LAN Protocol Analysis Gets Better View

Network Instruments' new Test Access Ports can function at the real-time data rates of Gigabit Ethernet.

Gigabit Ethernet, being a full duplex protocol, presents network operators with a "gotcha" when they want to plug network or protocol analyzers into the span or mirror port on a network switch.

Because those ports consolidate send and receive onto a single channel, they cannot sustain the full data rates of Gigabit Ethernet, and they dont allow the analyzers to gain the full insight into whats happening on the network.

While other protocol analysis vendors have turned to third-party suppliers of Test Access Port hardware to get around that issue, Network Instruments LLC took matters into its own hands to create its own line of nTAPs (network Test Access Ports), which can copy full-duplex data streams into an analysis device without affecting network traffic.

"We just bought a third-party TAP in the past, but we had delivery and quality problems, so we decided to bring that in-house," said Douglas Smith, president and founder of the Minneapolis, Minn., firm.

Network Instruments new line of nTAPs works with its own network analyzers as well third-party network analyzers, intrusion-detection system devices and hardware-based probes.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read about Network Instruments earlier protocol analyzer, the Windows-based Observer 9.0.

Compared to third party TAPs, they "offer a little bit better failover capability and use SFP technology so they can plug and unplug different devices more easily," said George Hamilton, senior analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston.

As Gigabit Ethernet overtakes Fast Ethernet as the LAN connection of choice, more network operators may find that nTAPs offer greater insight into real-time traffic, believes Smith.

The Network Instruments nTAPS line supports a range of physical connectivity types, including a 10/100 TAP for older legacy systems and a 10/100/1000 TAP that auto-negotiates all speeds. It also includes a unique 10/100/1000 Copper nTAP and a 10/100/1000 Copper-to-Optical Conversion nTAP, which use SFP (Small Form Pluggable) technology. The line is available now.

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