Jeff Harris
Chief Marketing Officer

Ixia Wins the GUI War

December 20, 2016 by Jeff Harris

Network Packet Brokers (NPBs) are becoming the critical heart of enterprise networks.  They pull in data from everywhere and pump it out to all of your analytics, monitoring, and security tools.  We call the data tapping 'sources' and all of those analytics, monitoring, and security tools 'destinations.'  The more an enterprise has of each, the more complex the combinations.  As those physical and virtual networks change and expand, the NPB’s feeds data from the various network taps and into the enterprise’s security and monitoring tools will also need to change, to ensure that blind spots are not being inadvertently created.

Setting up the NPB should not be a major undertaking, but if you have a Gigamon NPB it can be according to an article from Zeus Kerravala in Network World.  The configuration tools used to set up and manage the NPBs themselves play a critical role in helping IT take full advantage of its capabilities.  The easier it is to configure, the easier it is to train meaning that you can have a wider range of IT operators taking advantage of it.  What the article highlights is what we already knew, that if the NPB is not easy to configure, manage and use, IT teams will not take advantage of its full capabilities.

So how do you quantify ease of use and management?  ZK Research compared the graphical configuration interface of Ixia’s NPBs with that of Gigamon, which uses a basic logic GUI or a traditional command line interface (CLI).  ZK Research interviewed customers that performed a number of configuration tasks using both vendors’ solutions, and highlighted some of the key differences. See how easy Ixia's GUI is to use for yourself.

Quick-changing filters

Monitoring filters are the rules that create the intelligence in an NPB:  when connections change, the filters need to be updated.  ZK’s research showed that a majority of businesses change connections between their monitoring tools and NPBs at least twice per month, and each change requires programming modifications.  Making these changes using Ixia’s interface was four times faster than with the rival solution – and the gap could be even wider if the connectivity changes are complex.  Half of the network managers they surveyed spend more than 50% of their time configuring monitoring tools, so these savings in time and manual effort add up quickly.

What’s more, when a new filter is created, it requires testing to ensure the data flow is correct.  ZK’s research found that an exhaustive test takes 1.5 to 2 hours to complete when a CLI is used.  Using Ixia’s GUI, exhaustive tests can be done in just 15 minutes.

Faster SPAN sessions

Creating SPAN sessions can be long and tedious using a CLI, as it’s a multi-stage process, requiring troubleshooting and verification steps during the making of each session.  ZK Research found that creating multiple span sessions could be done using Ixia’s GUI in a quarter of the time taken to do so compared with the rival product. 

Point and click

Even though experienced programmers will always tell you CLI is no problem, it times time to implement correctly, and even way more time to update.  That's because chances are that the person updating it may not be the same person that originally programmed it, meaning they have to take time to figure out the original programmer's logic.  While they get it right most of the time, most is not enough.  We all know point and click is easier to train, teach, and make repeatable.  Anyone remember life before browsers?

An intuitive interface means that processes are simplified and repeatable.  That makes them understandable to more junior team members - as well as more tired ones making changes at 2am.  Drag and drop GUIs that have auto-deconficltion to validate connections automatically reduces errors and frees up valuable resources.  After all, a truly efficient NPB solution has to do more than just help to eliminate network blind spots.  It must also be easy for IT teams to use - so they can fully realize its benefits. 

If you want a deeper dive into this analysis, see the white paper from ZK research analyzing how Simplified Programming of a Visibility Layer Can Have a Big Impact.