Recently a blog reader asked me an interesting question. He wanted to know if it would be possible to replace the variety of network traffic inspection and analysis products with a single box running multiple applications. He was interested in some sort of common interface to packets that could perform the collection function and make traffic available to other products.
There are several ways to look at this issue. First, one can do that already using a commodity hardware platform. It is possible to run multiple traffic inspection applications against a single interface now, but one has to be careful as the number of applications increases. We use this approach with Sguil, where Snort listens to generate alerts, SANCP listens to create session records, Daemonlogger listens to log full content data, PADS listens to generate host records, and so on.
Second, one could buy a fairly open packet capture box and create virtual interfaces which provide a traffic stream to applications. Options which come to mind include Solera Networks capture appliances and Endace Ninja platforms. These typically run Linux and act as a high-end option for packet capture.
Third, one could think of a network tap (like a Net Optics regeneration tap or a Gigamon GigaVUE as that common interface to packet data. The tap collects traffic and then sends it to multiple products. This is a very common scenario for a simple reason: few vendors are willing to accept the decisions made by another vendor regarding packet capture. Everyone wants to collect data themselves, using their own NICs, or drivers, or libraries. That's perfectly understandable but it makes it tough for users who end up managing so many separate boxes.
What do you think?