Barefoot Networks debuts monitoring system for total packet visibility

Barefoot Networks, a computer networking company, unveiled Barefoot Deep Insight today, which the organization claims to be the first network monitoring system to provide visibility into every packet in a network. The purpose of the solution is to interpret, analyze and identify the conditions that hinder packet flow in real time at line-rate, according to the company.

At a basic level, network visibility refers to keeping tabs on how switches, routers and other devices interact with each other. At another level, however, it is concerned with diving deep into network traffic, applying deep packet inspection to collect a mountain of information about the carriage of enterprise data. The benefits of network visibility are many fold with the ability to track and limit bandwidth, reduce downtime, troubleshoot and monitor traffic for abnormal behavior.

What makes Barefoot Deep Insight different in comparison to other network monitoring systems is it addresses fourth truths for every packet in the network, where a packet is understood as a unit of data that is transferred across the web, or any other packet-switched network, from its point of origin. These four truths include how the packet got there, why it is there, how long it was delayed and why it was delayed.

If, for example, the software detects a microburst — bursts of data packets forwarded in a rapid succession — it can pinpoint which application is causing the congestion, if the packet is part of the network and if an equal-cost multi-path (ECMP) routing is not load-balancing equally. It can also provide an operator with individual dropped packets and answer why they were dropped.

“Network monitoring is still stuck in the dark ages,” said Nick McKeown, co-founder and chief scientist at Barefoot Networks. “To get detailed visibility, some network owners are forced to deploy a second network that costs more than the first, just to watch what their network is doing. With Deep Insight, every switch in the network gathers data for you without any additional hardware, and without generating additional traffic. Deep Insight sits at the network edge, detecting and reporting network anomalies. Nothing like this has been possible before.”

According to Barefoot Networks, Deep Insight opens up various use cases, including the realms of network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined network (SDN), which form the backbone of today’s virtualized networks. The former involves decoupling software from hardware, whereas the latter involves controlling network behavior through a centralized control plane. With Deep Insight, in addition to Barefoot’s end-user programmable Ethernet switch dubbed “Tofino,” customers can triangulate performance issues in a service chain, and measure the performance degradation to identify impacted applications and flows. The solution is currently available on a pay-as-you-grow model, where customers pay for the volume of telemetry they need.

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