To solve the problem of NPM and APM, there are a few different approaches, ranging from in-device agents and probes to external boxes like network packet brokers. Each of their own fit within the ecosystem, with attendant advantages and limitations.
Network Packet Brokers
Network Packet Brokers have emerged as a leading NPM approach for data center environments. The approach was facilitated by vendors who developed NPBs. A new generation of NPB vendors are now emerging that use SDN techniques to turn commodity platforms into programmable, lower-cost NPB devices. Some of them employ the OpenFlow protocol that was made popular as part of the SDN movement. OpenFlow is a logical switch abstraction and means for programming network elements. Early in the advent of SDN, ONF developed an open source sample project, SampleTap application, to illustrate the use of OpenFlow for monitoring.
NPBs enable many consumers of network configuration, health, and performance statistics, including network and service management platforms, security management applications, orchestration/automation solutions, and for carriers, their Operational Support Systems (OSS).
While not new, NPBs have migrated from purpose-built hardware, to white boxes, with expanding feature sets. OEMs are beginning to integrate NPB capabilities directly into their data center switches. An increasing number of networking OEMs have implemented NBP support directly in their networking devices, which may alleviate the need for dedicated NPB hardware. However, there is a tradeoff between the functionality that can be embedded, vs. a standalone NBP, which typically provide extensive functionality and rich APIs to enable access to the network data.
Converged Performance Management Platforms