Barefoot Networks Plunges Into Network Monitoring

Barefoot Networks today announced Barefoot Deep Insight. The company says it’s a network monitoring system that gives visibility into every packet in a network.

Deep Insight leverages Barefoot’s Tofino programmable switch chip along with analytics software. Not every switch will need the programmable chip, said Roberto Mari, director of product management at Barefoot Networks. They can be strategically-placed switches. “You can add these Tofino switches with telemetry, attaching them to the apps and servers that are most sensitive,” said Mari.

Then, in conjunction, Barefoot Deep Insight provides analytics software that can run on commodity servers. “We built this solution to be able to scale,” said Mari. “You can start with just one server and use that for a functional evolution. If [customers] want to deploy telemetry in more places in their networks, they can grow as they need.”

In addition, the P4 language is a key component in deploying Deep Insight. Developers can pre-package P4 programs on a switch to execute the features they require, eliminating the need to develop data-plane code.

The Deep Insight monitoring platform gives insight into packets in the network, answering questions such as:

Asked why network operators would need this level of granularity about packets, Mari said they want to know how efficient their network is, whether it has bottlenecks, whether the network is optimizing all its links. “We can track all that,” he said. “It’s very relevant if you want to implement specific packet planning.”

The packet monitoring can also tell where problems originate and which applications are the victim of the problem. Prem Jonnalagadda, a director of product management at Barefoot, said if operators don’t have this visibility, they focus on what’s failing rather than what’s causing the failure.

An intelligent triggering mechanism of Deep Insight allows only the interesting networking events to be detected and reported in real time. Irrelevant data and noise is automatically filtered out.

Traditional Network Monitoring

Typically, network monitoring involves almost a parallel network, according to Mari. “Taps make a copy of the packet and then send the traffic to a packet broker, which is almost like a parallel switch,” he said. “This solution is very expensive and difficult to deploy.” Barefoot says many of today’s networks are stuck in the 20th century, using tools such as traceroute, ping, SNMP, and NetFlow.

“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,” said Nick McKeown, co-founder and chief scientist at Barefoot Networks, in a statement.

Barefoot’s monitoring will compete with packet-broker vendors such as Gigamon and NetScout.

In related news, Barefoot recently announced that several large technology companies have begun deploying Barefoot’s Tofino into their production networks, including Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent.