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2018

Today many companies around the world choose a Cisco networking infrastructure to service their physical and virtual networking needs for enterprise and data center operations. Cisco is incorporating various new technologies, like the Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) and software defined networking (SDN) into their networking equipment. These enterprises are planning to migrate to the latest SDN based technologies to help IT engineers improve their network infrastructure. However, new technologies cause disruptions in existing monitoring strategies. This includes mirroring technologies for packet and flow data e.g. switched port analyzer (SPAN), remote SPAN (RSPAN), encapsulated remote SPAN (ERSPAN), and VLAN access-list (VACL) that have issues with encapsulation and other new technologies.

This creates a need to have a visibility architecture to overcome the limitations and maximize the use of the Cisco equipment, while at the same time, having the right monitoring solution would enable monitoring of application performance on the underlying network.

In this blog, we will review a few challenges with packet capture in the ACI network and then discuss the solution to overcome this challenge and perform network troubleshooting.

 

Challenges of Data visibility in ACI

The Cisco ACI architecture focuses on distributed applications. It uses a centralized controller and an overlay structure to create, deliver, and automate application policies throughout the network. Access to data monitoring can be accomplished either by use of taps or SPAN-related technology, depending upon the architecture implementation. However, issues like duplicate packets and the need for data filtering capabilities still exist and creates a significant burden for many monitoring tools. For instance, redundant traffic streams and a distributed leaf and spine architecture means that one should tap in multiple places to collect all the monitoring data needed in this architecture. This creates a significant amount of duplicate data from the BiDi taps that needs to be removed from the monitoring stream. To complicate matters, leaf portions of the networks are running at 40 Gbps and the spine portions can run at up to 100 Gbps. Removal of 40 Gbps duplicate packets can be very expensive for any monitoring tools at line rate.

VXLAN headers are often used to create the ACI network overlays. Unfortunately, many monitoring tools do not understand the VXLAN headers, so they need to be removed from the monitoring data by an NPB before the data can be sent to the tool(s). SSL encrypted data issues are often another problem for tools as well. Besides the ACI architecture, there are concerns with using SPAN and SPAN-related technologies in an ACI environment.

 

The Combined Solution

CA Tech and Ixia (a Keysight business) have partnered together to provide a powerful solution to overcome the above challenges and provide the right solution for your monitoring needs.

 

 

CA Application Delivery Analysis can help you prove how well your network delivers applications to users with application delivery analysis of performance and availability of SLA measurements. It helps you focus investments on the areas that require it most and later quantify the before and after, validate the impact of those changes and verify your investment decisions. Ixia’s Network Visibility Solutions (NVS), including TAPs and network packet brokers (NPB), complement CA application delivery solution to create the best-in-class scalable and resilient application monitoring solutions that IT professional need and want to purchase.

Ixia’s NVS solutions helps to remove unnecessary packet data and packet headers (at line rates of 40 Gbps or higher) before transmission across the network. It provides data filtering, aggregation and packet slicing capabilities. It can perform data rate throttling and load balancing to reduce 40 Gbps traffic so that it can be processed easily by CA Application delivery analysis solution.

 

Below diagram shows a simple network deployment of combined solution.

 

 

Feel free to reach out to me at AnujGupta for more detailed discussions on this topic.#

Joint solution empowers IT with visibility into cloud to ensure optimal end-user experience.

Today, the business leaders move their services to the public cloud without consulting or even notifying IT of the change, until an issue arises. While this has become common, IT teams are still responsible for finding and fixing problems, remaining accountable for not just performance and security but also for the end user experience. And the challenge of maintaining control does not stop with the initial deployment. From a recent Gartner survey on the cloud monitoring challenges, more than 50 percent engineers said they were “blind to what happens in the cloud” while 32 percent cited visibility gaps and the majority felt the data shared by cloud providers did not meet their needs.

Notwithstanding, moving applications to the public cloud creates stumbling blocks for application and IT teams, as they no longer have the visibility needed to be effective. Yet it is critical that applications continue to deliver high levels of responsiveness and availability—at all times, no matter if the application is deployed in the data center, private cloud, public cloud, or a combination of all three.

 

The good news is that, the CA Technologies and Keysight (Ixia) have teamed together to develop a best practices approach to monitor packet data in the cloud. The joint CA Application Delivery Analysis (CA ADA) and Ixia CloudLens™ solutions provide the end-to-end response-time-monitoring capabilities that the IT team needs to track and optimize the end-user experience, no matter where the application is deployed. With CA ADA, which provides deep insight into TCP/IP conversations across multi-tiered applications, you can quickly identify the domain in which issues arise, so you can do faster incident triage and resolution. Ixia’s visibility solutions complement CA ADA by providing the full end-to-end visibility of physical, virtual, and cloud network traffic it needs. The joint solution can detect user experience issues as they occur and before customers become aware, so they can be quickly addressed.

 

 

 

 

CA Application Delivery Analysis (ADA) provides the end-to-end response-time-monitoring capabilities that the IT teams need to measure and report on the performance of applications across your infrastructure, quickly isolate and fix performance bottlenecks, and optimize the end-user experience. The solution is efficient to deploy and manage, delivering performance and availability measurements that are based on real multi-tiered application response times, without requiring synthetic tests or agents. CA ADA continually collects performance metrics, automatically establishes intelligent baselines, and instantly generates alerts when performance starts to deteriorate. Convenient application scorecards provide an at-a-glance view of critical application performance, while SLA reporting summarizes both performance and availability of applications.

 

 

 

After my recent blog on performance dashboards, I want to follow up by clarifying some IT terminology prevalent in the modern software factory: business intelligence (BI) and business analytics (BA). While superficially similar, there’s a very important distinction between the terms:

  • BI uses past and current data to generate insights to improve near-term success for the organization
  • BA analyzes the same data with a different goal: to help the organization make well-informed assumptions, uncover or anticipate trends, and prepare the organization for the future

 

We immediately see a distinct difference in these definitions: BI provides insights to optimize the organization for near-term success, while BA is used to prepare the organization to adapt to a foreseeable future landscape. Optimizing a business versus adapting a business is a huge distinction: A blacksmith in 1910 would use BI to understand that he needs fewer horseshoes in inventory, but BA would be more likely to tell him he needs to get into the tire business.

 

That’s not to say that BI is less important than BA; past and current data are always crucial in creating and maintaining efficiencies as well as identifying and resolving operational and strategic issues in order to optimize the business in the present. Despite the need to anticipate the future as accurately as possible and position our organization to thrive in a changing world, we’ll always need to understand our present state to increase productivity and limit costs—the perennial, all-important fundamentals.

 

While BI will always be useful, the modern economy is defined by change, and as we all know, change in IT leads to more change in IT—causing the pace of change to accelerate. For that reason, analysis of big data is very valuable in understanding where organizations (and society at large) are headed. Because consumer choice is a dominating force that compels technological change, collecting consumer data allows analysts to use data mining, quantitative analysis and predictive modeling—all elements of BA—to adapt a business to align with consumer trends.

 

Keep in mind that BA is different from data science. Most would agree that data scientists do not try to answer specific questions; rather, they examine data and allow the data features (aka the data itself) to guide the analysis.

 

BI—knowing how many horseshoes to keep in inventory—has always had a place in the business community. BA—learning that tires are the future of transportation—has become a more and more important tool. Organizations are investing more resources in data warehousing and huge data stores, cleaning up and maintaining data integrity, and new and sophisticated analysis techniques. As they do, organizations will look to CA and other state-of-the-art technology companies for the best tools and the best practices.

 

I'm a Sr. Services Consultant with CA Services; I look forward to using my experience to respond to your comments and questions.Please post them below—I value your feedback.