Since network packet brokers (NPBs) first came on the scene less than five years ago, they’ve quickly become a foundational element of next-generation networks. Network operators rely on NPBs to help manage the exponential growth of data traffic by monitoring network performance, security, congestion, service experience, and subscriber behavior. As operators need a more effective and scalable way of analyzing the increasing amount of mobile traffic on the network due to 4G services, a new class of NPBs is emerging to meet changing demands.
A recent white paper by Heavy Reading on behalf of Brocade examines the expanded role that NPBs will play in next-generation networks. The paper by Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Jim Hodges looks at how NPBs are evolving and presents a use case that provides a granular view of the role NPBs perform in network functions virtualization (NFV)-enabled networks.
The concept of an appliance-based NPB emerged only about four years ago, as providers began to need more security and traffic management techniques. These appliance-based legacy NPBs have largely met requirements to aggregate, replicate, filter, and forward network traffic to analytics tool farms, but they require manual programming for new traffic recipients or changing forwarding rules, making them expensive and time-consuming to scale.
The paper argues NPBs will play a greater role as New IP networks reach their commercial peak, making it important for NPBs to evolve in response to next-generation requirements. According to Hodges, the future of IP networks relies on ensuring that end users have access to personalized real-time applications delivered over open and orchestrated interfaces. To meet these demands, network operators need real-time visibility into applications and access to programmable per-flow forwarding capabilities.
The paper highlights a new class of NPBs emerging to meet these needs. To support the New IP requirements inherent with cloud-based and virtualized networks, the New IP NPBs must include attributes such as:
- Software-driven architecture: Separates the control and forwarding plane in software, and has the potential to support virtualized network packet brokers (vNPB).
- Enhanced programmable forwarding features: Support additional forwarding features that enable next-generation mobile networks to more dynamically program flows bound to them through an application programming interface (API).
- Advanced analytics enablement: Responds to software-based advanced analytics to support orchestration of software-defined networking (SDN)- and NFV-based services.
To illustrate how New IP NPBs work in practice, the paper features a 4G mobile network use case to document the value proposition of the NPBs on a more granular level. The use case shows a New IP NPB deployed in vNPB configuration in an NFV IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS)-enabled 4G mobile network.
Read the paper, “Network Packet Brokers for New IP Networks” to learn more.