Virtual Instruments Inc. launched its Traffic Analysis Point (TAP) appliance to go with its NetWisdom SAN optimization product. TAP helps organizations monitor and troubleshoot problems on Fibre Channel storage area networks (SAN).
The TAP appliance is available as a part of NetWisdom or as a standalone four-port appliance with an optional 1U rack-mountable chassis that will support 16 ports. Pricing for the standalone appliance starts at $300 per port.
TAP is an optical network sniffer that sits between a switch and SAN, copies all SAN traffic, strips away the payload and dumps header information into a database for analysis and diagnostics. When used with Virtual Instruments' NetWisdom SAN management suite, customers can set thresholds and alerts on the TAP to try and prevent problems before they occur.
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Virtual Instruments' CEO Mark Udahl said SAN management is difficult because storage networks are more like aggregated groups of channels than traditional networks, which have protocols, routing tables and hundreds of monitoring tools. "Fibre Channel gives you dedicated performance and very robust reliability," Udahl said. "But keeping track of the network aspect has always been a manual process."
TAP can also be used for virtualized system monitoring and application correlation. "Everybody is attracted to this idea of cloud computing, but they want to be able to see inside the cloud," Udahl said. "We can do that."
Burton Group analyst Chris Wolf said data path visibility has actually declined as network technology has advanced. "We've gone from an era where we had linear relationships between servers and storage, to an era that involves several layers of abstraction," he said. "It can come from server virtualization, storage virtualization and emerging technologies, such as single- and multiroot I/O virtualization."
"The complexities of both virtualized and physical infrastructure are going to help companies like Virtual Instruments," Wolf said, because storage administrators are looking for more visibility to help them manage Fibre Channel networks. "There's definitely a big swing toward being able to connect applications to their underlying physical devices," Wolf said. "I see this as one of the key emerging fields in 2009."
TAP architecture will allow it to eventually support Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) and iSCSI. "I expect Virtual Instruments to move pretty rapidly into Ethernet-based storage, including iSCSI and FCoE," Wolf said.