Kentik presented last at Networking Field Day 16 (#NFD16) and did a great job. I started with high expectations, since I was aware that previous KentiK NFD presentations received high reviews. And I was not disappointed.
Who or what is Kentik, you might ask? (Especially if you’ve missed its prior Network Field Day presentations.)
If you look at Kentik’s website, you’ll see NetFlow, reporting in SaaS form, and maybe BGP. Dig a little deeper and you’ll see snazzy graphics. At least, that’s where I previously had Kentik positioned in my head. I’ve been watching the NetFlow space for a while. My impression: There’s a lot of “me too” in the space — quick products that don’t support good drill-down, widely used products with rather limited data and reporting, and some products with slow/hard reporting. All to be avoided.
Scrutinizer has been on my “good NetFlow product” list. Kentik is certainly on that list as well!
The other thing I see with NetFlow tools is that after we do “who is eating my WAN bandwidth” and some other basics, many organizations don’t use the data that much. That’s a shame, since it can really help figure out what the flows are for an application — but most tools make it hard to stitch that together. I see that as why a lot of the NetFlow-centric products have pivoted into a security product pitch — witness Scrutinizer — there’s more spending there, and the product is more likely to get ongoing use. (Pardon any cynicism.)
After the presentation, I’d say Kentik is a company on a mission, and is now building on a strong database, reporting, NetFlow-based foundation:
Kentik had me when I heard:
If you’ve read my prior network management blogs, those are hot buttons for me. Most network management tools have legacy databases, don’t handle time-series data efficiently, are slow to report, and provide raw data rather than alerting to anomalies and providing actionable information. Most are also toolkits, requiring a lot of tweaking. Really? We don’t know how to automatically threshold and alert? We can’t use some basis statistics, e.g. running averages, with perhaps 15-minute buckets of data to detect anomalies (let alone machine intelligence)?
There are also a couple of tools that are SNMP polling monsters, proving that with the right approach, one server can efficiently pull in massive amounts of data. We’ll come back to that sometime in another blog about (not) polling IP phones. Those products have the data. The analysis and reporting, not so much? (Among the ones I’ve seen, anyway.)
It’s also great to see a tool that leverages all the wonderful coding tools and new technologies, and has a strong vision. I should probably also say “API.” And that gets the idea that we have to make the applications work across application, server, storage, network and security teams — break down the silos!
As we got into the demos (Avi Freedman, CEO, is clearly slide-averse), we touched on a few other themes. Well, a lot of things, actually — too much for this space (did I mention, watch the videos?). Among them:
As an example of the custom dimensions, the following image shows how DNS data can complement NetFlow data to show which CDNs (content delivery networks) a company’s users access most. Yes, Kentik does Sankey diagrams!
I haven’t really touched that much on the security aspect. It’s also there; see the presentations.
Kentik did talk a lot about their internal architecture. There’s a fascinating story there, about learning what they needed and how their product toolkit evolved to address their needs, providing the robustness and speed they wanted. But it’s not my story to tell (nor do I have space to do so).
Conclusion: If you’re looking for actionable data, especially NetFlow-based information for now, take a look at Kentik. And think beyond NetFlow, because Kentik certainly is doing so.
Comments are welcome, both in agreement or constructive disagreement about the above. I enjoy hearing from readers and carrying on deeper discussion via comments. Thanks in advance!
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Nick has over 20 years of experience in Security Operations and Security Sales. He is an avid student of cybersecurity and regularly engages with the Infosec community at events like BSides, RVASec, Derbycon and more. The son of an FBI forensics director, Nick holds a B.S. in Criminal Justice and is one of Cisco’s Fire Jumper Elite members. When he’s not working, he writes cyberpunk and punches aliens on his Playstation.
Virgilio “Bong” has sixteen years of professional experience in IT industry from academe, technical and customer support, pre-sales, post sales, project management, training and enablement. He has worked in Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC) as a member of the WAN and LAN Switching team. Bong now works for Tech Data as the Field Solutions Architect with a focus on Cisco Security and holds a few Cisco certifications including Fire Jumper Elite.
John is our CTO and the practice lead for a talented team of consultants focused on designing and delivering scalable and secure infrastructure solutions to customers across multiple industry verticals and technologies. Previously he has held several positions including Executive Director/Chief Architect for Global Network Services at JPMorgan Chase. In that capacity, he led a team managing network architecture and services. Prior to his role at JPMorgan Chase, John was a Distinguished Engineer at Cisco working across a number of verticals including Higher Education, Finance, Retail, Government, and Health Care.
He is an expert in working with groups to identify business needs, and align technology strategies to enable business strategies, building in agility and scalability to allow for future changes. John is experienced in the architecture and design of highly available, secure, network infrastructure and data centers, and has worked on projects worldwide. He has worked in both the business and regulatory environments for the design and deployment of complex IT infrastructures.