Who is cPacket?
cPacket occupies the space of both packet brokers and network analysis tools with their — to my knowledge — unique hardware platform. With custom silicon of their own design, cPacket appliances are able to perform not only granular packet capture like a packet broker does, but also on-box packet analysis which a packet broker does not.
Therefore, the core cPacket value proposition is that of deep packet inspection and analysis at line rate in a scalable, distributed manner. Rather than merely directing traffic to various tools for analysis by creating a visibility fabric, cPacket handles both the functions of visibility fabrics as well as traffic analysis tools.
What did they announce?
On February 16, 2016, cPacket announced the cVu 3240NG, a hardware appliance performing analysis and inspection with 32 ports of 40Gbps. The 3240NG is lossless.
In addition, cPacket enhanced their “Intelligent Monitoring Fabric” software capabilities with gap detection. This allows for immediate notification of microsecond problems in packet delivery that could impact businesses such as high frequency trading. cPacket highlights the real-time capability of their gap detection, contrasting it with other solutions that might only point out a problem after the fact.
Do you need this product?
The cPacket product set in general should be interesting to growing data centers with an increasing density of 10G and 40G ports that must be monitored. Visibility fabrics from Ixia Anue or Gigamon coupled with traffic analysis tools can be both expensive and subject to packet loss, as the volume coming in from the core network overwhelms the visibility fabric and/or the analysis tools. cPacket addresses these problematic scenarios.
While the cPacket solution is reportedly not cheap, it provides a scalable way forward as link bandwidth continues to grow in data centers. Their platforms are line-rate — no packet loss — and the analysis distributed.
The view from the hot aisle.
Architecturally, it’s interesting to note that cPacket doesn’t have to be used as a visibility fabric. The line-rate, real-time, distributed packet analysis functions are compelling by themselves. Therefore, there’s reason to look at cPacket even if you’re already happy with your visibility fabric. cPacket is a full-on packet analysis engine complete with history using the cSTOR appliance, reporting, data visualization, and event correlation. Therefore, it might make sense to use cPacket as a packet analysis tool that can grow as big as your data center links are likely to get.
For those making the leap to 100Gbps, cPacket has no official announcement as yet, but there is a 100Gbps appliance on their roadmap.