Barefoot Networks Integrates Network Monitoring

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By: Michael Vizard

Most of what passes for network monitoring today is an extrapolation of a best guess that requires a variety of third-party approaches. Barefoot Networks today unveiled Barefoot Deep Insight, a network monitoring tool the company claims is the first to provide visibility into every packet on the network.

Roberto Mari, director of product management for Barefoot Networks, says this capability is critical because as network packets congest the network in the form of microbursts that can occur every 100 microseconds. As such, those microbursts are invisible to other monitoring tools, says Mari.

Barefoot Deep Insight is based on an instance of the P4 programming language that Barefoot Networks employs on a Tofino chip to process network traffic at line rate speed using a built in forwarding plane that it create using P4. Barefoot Deep Insights applies that same forwarding plane technology specifically to network monitoring software that can be deployed on an X86 server, says Mari.

That approach makes it possible for Barefoot Deep Insight to identify the specific sequence of switches a packet traversed, the set of rules applied, how long a packet was buffered on any given switch as well as whether there were any delays.

By comparison Mari says that advance effectively makes most legacy approaches to networking obsolete.

“Most networking today is still stuck in the 20th century,” says Mari.

Barefoot Networks would not be the first networking company to turn to monitoring to generate revenue while waiting for mainstream adoption of its core platform. The Tofino chip that Barefoot Networks developed has been implemented in a switch by cloud service providers. But most enterprise IT organizations only rip and replace switches ever few years. Barefoot Networks is clearly hoping that by gaining access to its core software in the form of a monitoring application it might be only a matter of time before enterprise IT organizations appreciate what its core network switch technology can really do.