When the founders of Gigamon first described their, as they called it, Data Access Switch, a lot of observers (including myself) thought it was a clever idea. We also thought it would be strictly a niche use case, likely to be absorbed into the incumbent vendors’ existing switch/routing product lines.
Twelve or so years later, the market for Network Monitoring Switches (or Network Packet Brokers as Gartner describes it) is large, thriving, representing between $600 million and $1 billion plus, growing in excess of 20 percent per year, which is substantially faster than the growth rate of the overall Network Equipment Market.
To be fair to the market researchers, there are differences in what equipment is counted in the category. Network Packet Brokers are generally used along with Network TAP and Network Bypass devices, so some researchers include those.
Since Niagara Networks is a full solution supplier with Network Packet Brokers, TAPs and Bypass Switches, the broader definition makes sense to us, so we prefer to describe these as products serving the Network Monitoring and Visibility Market.
Further, for a variety of reasons, regardless of which name you prefer, this is going to remain a separate equipment category with their own distinct use cases. In fact, the need for this type of equipment is growing.
Key Drivers for Network Monitoring and Visibility Market
1. Need for Higher Reliability and Availability
The past ten years have seen networked services become an increasingly important part of our daily lives, both personal and professional. This includes Google search, online shopping, Facebook, content streaming, online meetings, smart billboards, smart phones, and much more. The rise of the Internet of Everything will make it even more so.
The more dependent our personal and professional lives become on networked services, the more reliable they have to be. Network Visibility and Monitoring products are proving to be vital tools to prevent problems before they occur, enable rapid bypass of problem devices when issues do occur, and help quickly diagnose problems and identify root causes to get networks back to full operation.
2. Improving Efficiency and User Experience
Every network service provider, whether an internal enterprise IT team or a Tier 1 carrier, is faced with delivering more bandwidth at higher speed, without increasing the cost of the service at the same rate.
Network Visibility and Monitoring products like Niagara’s have become crucial tools for cloud service providers, SaaS providers, mobile carriers, and Cable MSOs, to be able to deliver glitch-free streaming content and outstanding user experience to their customers, while simultaneously achieving the operating efficiency that comes through high network utilization.
3. Better Security
Increasing threats to personal, enterprise, and government data across the globe will continue to drive the need for even more sophisticated security monitoring and protection tools, both at the Internet connectivity points and throughout the networks. Niagara Networks’ products, along with other vendors, are crucial tools for enabling delivery of the data to the analysis tools and threat prevention tools that enterprises, service providers, and governments need to ensure safety of data, infrastructure systems, and people.
Network Monitoring and Visibility Market: How big can it be?
A good rule of thumb is that for any computer system or network, allocating about five percent of the total resources to monitoring is pretty easy to justify. My crystal ball is no better than anyone else’s, but here is some simple arithmetic. Today, the total size of the network equipment market is in the range of US $65 billion. Five percent of that would be about $3 billion.
Note that five percent of the dollars doesn’t translate to five percent of the connections. Monitoring and filtering typically require more resources that switching or forwarding the traffic, which cost money. As an order of magnitude estimate, it probably represents on the order of one percent of the connections.
This represents a 300 percent increase in the roughly US $1 billion Network Monitoring Switch/Network Packet Broker market today, and a very bullish future for Niagara Networks and other leading vendors in this category.