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Monday, 10 May 2021 13:45

How network context helps cloud observability

By George Tsoukas Gigamon
George Tsoukas, ANZ Manager, Gigamon George Tsoukas, ANZ Manager, Gigamon

GUEST OPINION by George Tsoukas, Gigamon ANZ:  Growing innovative solutions provided by every cloud vendor have enabled applications to span different public clouds, utilising the best of every cloud service to provide the best experience for end users.

A simple web application running on the Internet may have the front end hosted on AWS, data stored on Azure, and machine-learning algorithms running on Google Cloud.

This inherently creates a wider surface, with each facet operating within a different set of rules and requiring a different set of monitoring and analysing capabilities. The volume of data flowing cannot be stored in runtime and used for quick analysis and decision-making to figure out if traffic flow is a potential security threat.

This issue has largely been solved by looking at ‘data about data’, or metadata. But most of the solutions available still require capturing data at the endpoint itself, then creating metadata and sending it to a place where it can be analysed for threats.

This can give an incomplete picture if the network context is not available or if the endpoint is not capable of creating and providing metadata, as with IoT devices.

In such scenarios, network context can play a vital role, and as it’s been said, the data on the network is the single source of truth, since it cannot be modified or changed: It is what it is on the network.

Imagine a scenario in which each car on the road reports back its location and where it’s headed. That’s useful information to optimise traffic, find anomalies and so forth.

In that situation, network metadata from Gigamon Hawk can be viewed as a new dimension of visibility within the system. It will be like having a camera at every intersection that verifies where each car actually is and what direction it is travelling, even for cars that don’t have the capability to report their own status.

The solution provides a single place to capture and see all traffic, whether it is in a public cloud, a private cloud, or an on-premises network. This network context, captured from all sources and providing metadata about the network, can become a powerful source of truth about the data.

New Relic is one of the leading providers of observability platforms, enabling customers to gain rich insights into their applications and endpoints. Hawk can empower this observability platform further by providing detailed metadata about the network context.

Rich network context provided by Hawk can provide metadata from all sources at the same level and make any solution more powerful. The metadata elements shown on the left side of the diagram are provided by the network sample data source of the New Relic Agent, and the elements on the right are provided by Hawk.

Certain attributes overlap and can help to build a stronger understanding of the network context, but in situations where these attributes are not available, such as IoT devices, Gigamon Hawk can not only provide similar attributes but also a huge list of other attributes that can help build better insight.

The best part is that these attributes can be collected from multiple environments, such as a public or private cloud and an on-premises device, and sent to any location for analysis.

This provides very powerful insights that can help create dashboards on New Relic or any observability platform that can show data collected from several locations at same level, and if you have the data from the endpoint and actual network, you could quickly and easily spot a threat or unusual traffic pattern.

Imagine a single dashboard displaying a full overview of what is going on in a network, on top of individual detailed dashboards that can quickly isolate the problem and identify where to look for it.

Two dashboards that Hawk has enabled by working with New Relic’s API and JSON ingestion provide valuable data in a single place can reduce problem solving significantly. These dashboards show just few examples.

Once IT professionals understand how the traffic flows within a web application from front end to data store or machine-learning workload, they can easily define a context that can instantly highlight any behaviour that seems irrelevant.

As stated in Securing Internet of Things devices using the network context, the network context would become the only source of truth for securing a network in which agent-based solutions such as IoT networks cannot be deployed.

Gigamon Hawk can seamlessly merge into existing environments and provide complete network context and empower existing solutions to do more with less effort.

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