Buyer's Handbook: Navigating the network analytics software buying process Article 5 of 5

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Compare offerings from network analytics market leaders

Learn how 10 top network analytics tools compare when it comes to vendor type, deployment mode, specific features and technical support options.

The network analytics market is a mix of traditional enterprise networking vendors along with well-known pure-play suppliers, niche players and ambitious startups. These distinctions are extremely important as you select a network analytics tool, as each vendor type provides certain benefits for your current network environment.

To help simplify the buying process, here we examine 10 top network analytics tools that represent each of these vendor groups and point out deployment models, specific features and technical support capabilities.

First, let's review the different types of network analytics vendors.

Vendors in the network analytics market

If your company operates a network equipped primarily by a single vendor, that vendor's analytics platform will likely offer additional features and benefits within its proprietary ecosystem. Additionally, larger vendors have more depth and resources in providing ongoing support capabilities on a global and 24/7 basis.

Pure-play vendors, on the other hand, tend to focus more on the flexibility and integrations within their platform. Thus, these companies will tout their ability to work well in multivendor environments by integrating their software with other enterprise applications or through tools like open APIs. While some of their services may not be as comprehensive as those offered by major networking providers, the niche vendors profiled here offer substantial long-term support and troubleshooting capacities.

Lastly, nimble startups are most likely to offer unique features that set them apart from other vendors. Within the current network analytics market, these distinctions are usually represented by interesting uses of AI and deep analytics to solve unique customer problems. While these vendors may offer features that others don't, keep in mind that ongoing support and the long-term success of these companies are factors to consider in the overall decision-making process.

Aruba Networks NetInsight

Management architecture: Cloud-managed

The NetInsight analytics platform focuses on wireless, mobile computing and IoT. Data is fed from multiple sources, including the Aruba wireless LAN controller, individual Aruba wireless access points (APs), external Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol and user authentication servers. All data is sent to a data collector hardware appliance that's managed on-premises. The collected data is then analyzed in the cloud for self-optimization, application assurance, base lining and anomaly detection.

Notable features: NetInsight can be integrated with Aruba wireless networks, including the AirWave network management and ClearPass management platforms. NetInsight also offers Green AP mode. When enabled, the AI within the analytics platform determines which wireless APs aren't in use and shuts down the radios to conserve energy without affecting end-device connectivity.

Technical support options: Aruba provides 24/7 global phone and web ticketing services and software downloads. The company also offers an online knowledge base and hosts an active online customer and vendor community known as Airheads Community.

CA Technologies CA Performance Management

Management architecture: On premises

CA Performance Management is an on-premises hardware or virtual machine (VM) multivendor platform. This end-to-end network analytics platform integrates well with traditional software-defined networking (SDN), SD-WAN and hybrid/multi-cloud environments. It's one of the more comprehensive platforms in our list of vendors in the network analytics market due to its level of granularity, scalability and deep learning diagnostics. This lets network administrators fine-tune their networks so they can deliver highly optimized applications and end-user performance.

Notable features: CA Performance Management is designed for multivendor environments, as it integrates well with products from most of the major enterprise-grade network vendors. It's designed for environments with complex network architectures, including highly virtualized data centers, SDN, network functions virtualization and multi-clouds. CA Performance Management can combine network monitoring and analytics into a single management and viewing dashboard. APIs enable the automation of tasks through third-party software integrations.

Technical support options: CA Technologies offers 24/7 global phone, chat and online case support. The company also provides online training, software downloads, documentation, a knowledge base and a CA Performance Management customer community.

Cisco DNA Analytics and Assurance

Management architecture: On premises

The Cisco DNA Analytics and Assurance product is part of the company's Digital Network Architecture (DNA) end-to-end network management platform. According to Cisco, the Analytics and Assurance component of DNA turns every point on the network into a sensor. This enables Cisco devices to begin streaming standard and network telemetry information to the analytics collector, and allows the analytics platform to automate the preemptive remediation of performance issues through automated configuration changes.

Notable features: The product offers proprietary integrations with Cisco networking hardware, including routers and wireless LANs. Its ability to turn wireless APs into intelligent sensors enables the Analytics and Assurance platform to capture user and device behavior data, thus letting enterprises resolve issues as they occur. Cisco also has exclusive partnerships with third-party end-device manufacturers that provide out-of-the box deep analysis. For example, DNA Analytics and Assurance pulls in end-user performance data from Apple iOS devices to help network administrators better identify application performance issues and disconnects.

Technical support options: The company offers global 24/7 access to its Technical Assistance Center support organization, both online and via phone. Cisco also provides comprehensive design, configuration and troubleshooting documentation. Software downloads are available through Cisco's customer-facing portal.

Editor's note: Using extensive research into the network analytics market, TechTarget editors focused this article series on 10 products that address monitoring all or part of a corporate network or hybrid/multi-cloud environment using advanced data collection, data pooling and analytics. Our research included data from TechTarget surveys and reports from other well-respected research firms.

ExtraHop Performance Analytics

Management architecture: On premises

The ExtraHop Performance Analytics multivendor network analytics platform provides complete end-to-end monitoring and analysis for wired, wireless and hybrid/multi-cloud architectures. The product is highly scalable and works with most enterprise-grade network vendor hardware and software. It can also be installed in popular public clouds, including AWS and Microsoft Azure. This open platform enables administrators to use APIs to stream analytics data to third-party applications, including network orchestration and service desk ticketing systems.

Notable features: The platform includes off-the-shelf monitoring capabilities for a wide range of popular apps. For monitoring and analysis of other applications and communication flows, application performance management agents are deployed in key areas throughout the on-premises and cloud network. These agents come in both appliance-based and VM deployment options. The key benefit of these agents is they offer continuous packet capture, which can provide deep insight for optimization and root cause analysis.

Technical support options: ExtraHop offers two tiers of support: Platinum, offering 24/7 phone access; and Gold, offering business-hour access. Other support options include software downloads, online documentation, a user community, free online training and a customer portal for web tickets.

Extreme Networks ExtremeAnalytics

Management architecture: On premises

The ExtremeAnalytics platform is geared toward existing customers of ExtremeSwitching, ExtremeRouting and ExtremeMobility hardware and software products. This end-to-end analytics platform collects standard Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), flow and packet capture data. Additionally, it collects streaming network telemetry data from Extreme Networks' hardware. The platform can also be extended by installing ExtremeAnalytics VMs inside one or more of the public cloud provider networks, including AWS, Microsoft  Azure and Google Cloud.

Notable features: ExtremeAnalytics provides tight integration with other Extreme products to turn these components into telemetry and packet capture devices. ExtremeAnalytics also contains a database that immediately identifies more than 2,300 applications and more than 10,000 detection-based fingerprints using the collected data across the network. Thus, it isn't necessary to install agents or probes throughout the network.

Technical support options: Extreme offers 24/7 phone and online support. Customers also have online access to product documentation, software downloads, an online knowledge base and an online user community called The Hub.

Juniper Networks AppFormix

Management architecture: On-premises

AppFormix is a distributed, end-to-end network analytics platform that operates on physical or virtual hardware inside the corporate network or public clouds such as AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. The platform collects real-time streaming network telemetry data from compatible Juniper hardware in addition to standard telemetry information, such as SNMP, syslog and flow data.

Notable features: This platform integrates with the Junos Telemetry Interface -- a streaming telemetry engine that pushes data to AppFormix in real time for deep analysis of network states and health. This information can then be used for automated network changes or to trigger events to API-connected tools such as network management, orchestration platforms or ticketing applications. AppFormix is also part of the Contrail Enterprise Multicloud platform, which pushes policy orchestration and analytics capabilities into public cloud networks.

Technical support options: Juniper offers 24/7 phone support broken into global geographic regions. Other support options include an online portal, documentation, knowledge base, software downloads and the J-Net online Juniper user community.

LiveAction LiveNX

Management architecture: On premises

LiveNX is an on-premises network analytics platform that can be implemented on private LANs or extended into public IaaS clouds. The multivendor platform is compatible with most enterprise-grade networking equipment. The product is best known for troubleshooting quality of service issues for voice and video applications. LiveNX can also be used for capacity planning, monitoring user traffic behavior and to detect potential security threats.

Notable features: The LiveNX endpoint agent software can be installed on client devices as well as on servers located both on premises and in the cloud. The software collects pertinent device health and data flow information that is sent to the LiveNX collector for analysis. LiveNX can also be installed in popular public clouds. Pre-packaged VMs are available for AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud, and only require a license.

Technical support options: LiveAction offers 24/7 phone support for emergencies. For all other support needs, phone support is available Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT. Other support options include email, documentation, FAQs and the LiveAction community forum.

Mist Systems

Management architecture: Cloud-managed

The Mist wireless LAN analytics platform is designed to provide automated root cause determination and proactive self-healing automation through the analysis of wireless network telemetry. Data is collected using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy technologies. Mist was recently acquired by Juniper Networks, so it's likely that future integrations of the Mist technology will be inside Juniper's SD-WAN and IoT management products.

Notable features: Mist uses detailed wireless analytics to provide wayfinding services inside buildings, proximity notifications and geofencing based on the user's location.

Technical support options: Mist provides 24/7 phone and email support with specific service-level agreement guarantees. Customers can also access product documentation and hardware installation guides.

Nyansa Voyance

Management architecture: Cloud-managed

Nyansa is a pure-play vendor that's focused on its cloud-managed Voyance network traffic analytics platform. The product collects data from clients, applications and servers -- in addition to network flow, Wi-Fi and packet capture data. This information is then analyzed to create detailed network baselines that can be used to detect network and security anomalies. The product can also preemptively recommend configuration changes with detailed steps for optimizing an end-user's network and applications. Out-of-the-box analytics data can also be shared with other cloud network management tools, such as Splunk and ServiceNow.

Notable features: Voyance software crawlers are installed in strategic parts of a customer's network to collect streaming network telemetry data. These crawlers can be deployed as VMs or hardware appliances. The physical or virtual switch then mirrors network uplink ports and sends all this data to the crawler to collect important telemetry information and stream it to the Voyance collector.

Technical support options: Nyansa offers 24/7 web and email support, but it doesn't currently offer phone support. Other customer support options include training webinars and access to the Nyansa Support Center that offers various tools and product documentation.

Riverbed Technology SteelCentral NPM

Management architecture: On premises

The SteelCentral Network Performance Management platform can be deployed on premises as a physical appliance or a VM. It can also be deployed in the AWS cloud using a bring your own device, or BYOD, licensing model. This product is helpful for customers that wish to gain deep visibility into their multivendor and hybrid network architectures. The network analytics market platform relies on lightweight agents installed on endpoints and servers to collect packet capture data, which is then imported into the SteelCentral Transaction analyzer for deep analysis. The platform can monitor the end-to-end health of an entire network as well as provide preemptive optimization, root cause analysis and cyberthreat anomaly detection.

Notable features: SteelCentral offers three different NPM modules: the AppResponse packet capture tool that can be deployed both on-premises and in the cloud; the NetProfiler flow collector and analysis module; and the Advanced Security module, which offers specific security benefits to customers, including forensic profiling and distributed denial-of-service detection capabilities.

Technical support options: The company offers 24/7 hardware and software support through phone, email and online channels. Additionally, customers can access all product documentation, software downloads and a knowledgebase, and can join and participate in the Riverbed user community.

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