Beyond the Blog: What is Network Visibility (and How to Use It)
In this age of cloud, high-speed hybrid infrastructures, and widespread encryption, IT’s task of securing it all is more challenging than ever. Enhanced visibility into the network is a key part of the solution, but it isn’t always easy to understand how everything fits together in such a complex, multifaceted landscape.
To help shed some light, we asked Greg Mayfield, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Gigamon, to make the case for comprehensive network visibility, such as what’s offered by the Gigamon Visibility Platform.
Defining Network Visibility
Our first question was simple: what is network visibility? (It was also no accident, as this was the title of his recent blog post.)
“Network visibility is the capability to see to see all the data traversing your network,” says Mayfield. “We provide not only that capability, but also the ability to deliver that data to any and all tools that need to see it, in the form they can best handle and stripped of irrelevant data that would just waste cycles to process. We really help customers understand what’s going on by efficiently tapping into the real source of truth, network data.”
One of the common misconceptions, says Mayfield, is that an enterprise can achieve sufficient network visibility with discrete spot solutions peppered around the infrastructure. “People should realize that when they take that approach, they’re only looking at a subset of the network traffic from a specific location and not getting a full view across the entire network.”
In other words, when you think about visibility, think of the entire network rather than must looking at just one location with one device and one set of traffic. True network visibility, such as offered by the Gigamon Visibility platform, involves centralizing data from multiple locations, analyzing both it and its metadata — that is, data collected about the data — to derive actionable insights.
So, say you decide to adopt comprehensive network visibility in your organization. What will be some of the key advantages you’ll enjoy?
First and most importantly, says Mayfield, you will then be able to adopt a big-picture, infrastructure-wide perspective, which directly impacts your business’s bottom line. “Our products can have a huge impact on customers’ businesses, since better visibility enables better security, better incident detection and speedy incident responses.”
A great example, he says, comes in the ability of Gigamon to extend the ROI of existing infrastructure. “Organizations are continually upgrading network speed and bandwidth: 1Gb, 10Gb, 40Gb, 100Gb. Alone, most of their in-place monitoring solutions will have trouble keeping pace with these ever-expanding capacities.”
The Gigamon® platform offers the unique ability to overcome those mismatches by intelligently forwarding only the most appropriate traffic to the existing firewalls, taps and so on.
“Consequently, by delivering Gigamon-level network visibility, we save customers from expending capital on new equipment they don’t actually need,” says Mayfield. “We don’t just sell them products, we help their bottom line and contribute real strategic value.”
Questions to Consider
So comprehensive network visibility is an asset to today’s organizations, and the Gigamon Visibility Platform offers real strategic value. But maybe you’re not sold yet. What are some other advantages Gigamon confers? What questions, we asked Mayfield, should prospective users be asking themselves?
- Are we outgrowing or overloading our tools? Mayfield: “Say you’re upgrading to a hundred gigs. What’s the plan for your existing monitoring tools? Can they handle all that new data at such higher speeds? Gigamon can offer relief without blowing the IT budget on a truckload of new monitoring solutions.”
- How are we identifying threats in encrypted traffic? Mayfield: “Just about all applications now use encrypted traffic: cloud, web and so forth. Do you have a plan if an encrypted threat comes in? Data breaches related to encrypted traffic are happening more and more, so organizations need fast and reliable visibility into that traffic.”
- Does the IT team feel overwhelmed responding to incidents? Mayfield: “It’s often quite a manual process, moving from one discrete monitoring solution to another, often from different vendors. Automation would be a blessing. Gigamon can enhance the functioning of alert and analysis tools from vendors like Splunk, automatically controlling what information they receive to expedite incident identification and response, with less running around.”
Cloud, Encryption and Other Takeaways
Working on the cutting edge of network visibility, we asked Mayfield, what areas do you think customers should be most focused on today?
His answer came quick: “A lot of organizations are moving toward the cloud, and while it offers tremendous opportunity to grow business, it also brings real challenges and risks. One key point to understand is that while AWS, Azure or whomever provides the cloud platform, it’s up to the enterprise to actually implement security. Our products can help make it more effective.”
He re-stresses the importance of comprehensive visibility into encrypted data, too.
“It’s important for enterprises to realize what a valuable capability selectively decrypting suspicious information running across a network can be, while leaving the good data untouched,” says Mayfield. “If they’re not doing this it’s a tremendous lost opportunity, as they’re forfeiting better control and understanding of what’s happening in their networks, and more importantly, the ability to mitigate any encrypted threats.”
Thanks to Mayfield for sharing his expertise with us. Be sure to read his full blog post, “What is Network Visibility?” for additional insights into the strategic value of network visibility and how it’s evolving in the age of cloud and other disruptive technologies.