Network Critical adds massive scalability to packet broker appliances

Network Critical expands the SmartNA PortPlus packet broker appliances they introduced last year from a single box to up to five, while still keeping the system simple to use.

The Drag-n-Vu interface

Network Critical, which provides network visibility with packet-level access, has announced a major expansion to its family of SmartNA PortPlus packet broker appliances. The new element is the additional of scalability that is both massive and relatively easy to manage, and can take the appliances from 54 to 194 ports.

Network Critical is a well-established UK-based company with a US operation, which makes packet level access solutions to provide visibility in the network environment.

“We have been doing this for many years, starting in the TAP business, and expanding to where we now have 5000 customers worldwide,” said Alastair Hartrup, Global CEO of Network Critical. “Our scale-out solutions have quite a different structure, and we can build upon them in a very granular fashion.”

Their market is not limited to larger customers, but extends to more downmarket firms, because the channel is a key part of the go-to-market model.

“80 per cent of our business today goes through channel partners, and we work directly with them,” Hartrup said. It’s a fairly select channel.

“We have a few dozen partners worldwide, and they tend to specialize in test and measurement, or else with specialized security solutions,” Hartrup added.

Network Critical initially brought SmartNA PortPlus packet broker appliances to market a year ago. What they are doing now is scaling them out massively.

Alastair Hartrup, Global CEO of Network Critical

“What we brought to market last year was a single box solution with 54 ports and now we have scaled it up with the ability to add four extra boxes – up to 94 ports,” Hartrup said. “It’s a totally different concept. The standalone box gave 54 ports – which is still a significant number, but this allows true scale-out capability. We thought that for the North American market in particular, there was significant demand for this kind of large-capacity solution.”

Network Critical is emphasizing that the scale-out process is extremely simple, giving customers much more flexibility, and giving Network Critical and their partners additional use cases for this offering.

“In terms of look and feel, it’s the same as last year’s box, but this is completely plug and play, so it is extremely simple for customers to use,” Hartrup stated. “They can now add boxes whenever they want.” The additional boxes are all managed as part of the same configuration, and through the same single-pane management interface.

The PortPlus system uses the same patented Drag-n-Vu filter ruler engine and interface originally introduced several years ago on Network Critical’s SmartNA-X HD solutions, a family specifically aimed at the SME market with a lower price point. Drag-n-Vu allows filtering traffic based on IP addresses, protocols, ports and VLANs, while making it easy to add complex filter rules and port mapping.

“This added scalability combined with ease of use puts us into a whole different area of networking and makes things much more flexible,” Hartrup said.

“We think that this will significantly expand the use cases,” he added. “It should be attractive to mobile operators, who aggregate a lot. It will also fit into a very broad range of environments from small, medium through large. That’s because it’s scale out, so customers can now buy one box through five boxes.”

Aside from being able to offer a much more powerful product, Hartrup said that channel partners should be pleased that such a scalable solution is still simple to explain – and thus sell – to the customer.

“It’s easy to explain the value proposition,” he emphasized. “The Drag-n-Vu interface means that this doesn’t require a huge amount of skill to manage.”

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