An Open Letter from ExtraHop CEO Jesse Rothstein

The Time Has Come for Radical Transparency in Network Performance Monitoring

Data has gotten so big and is moving so fast that many companies can't keep up. I'm talking about the kind of data that matters: electronic health records that directly impact quality of patient care; payment information that can lead to identity theft and financial loss; and all the personal, social, and transactional data flying across the networks on which people and businesses rely.

ExtraHop CEO Jesse RothsteinExtraHop CEO Jesse Rothstein

According to the Global Cloud Index, "global IP traffic has increased fivefold over the past five years, and will increase threefold over the next five years." Between 2014 and 2019, IP traffic is expected to grow 23 percent annually.

For many years, the way to manage all of that traffic -- and to optimize the performance, availability, and security of the systems that underpin it -- has come in the form of Network Performance Monitoring tools. The problem is that these tools, comprised of packet sniffers, flow analyzers, and network probes, do not scale to the demands of modern IT. Not even close. Capturing and retroactively analyzing packets at 1Gbps speeds was difficult. At 10Gbps, 40Gbps, and 100Gbps, it's inconvenient, expensive, and ultimately infeasible.

Scale is only the first problem with this legacy approach. NPM technologies are not architected to deal with the complexity and dynamism of modern IT, which includes hybrid and public cloud deployments, highly abstracted software-defined networks, and geographically distributed operations. Rather, they are built for the static, on-premises environments that existed a decade ago.

Not surprisingly, the marketing of these solutions has, in many cases, evolved much faster than the technologies themselves. It's much easier to adopt new terminology than it is to evolve a legacy platform.

But that needs to stop. The right way to deal with increasing complexity and dynamism is not to to slap more marketing shine on dull legacy gear. The right thing to do is to adapt your technology, your business model, and your way of thinking. So these are my challenges to the NPM market:

  1. Adopt radical transparency. Be honest about what you have made and what it can do. Right now, apples-to-apples comparisons of competitive offerings are nearly impossible because so few NPM or ITOM vendors publish their performance numbers. Even when they do, definitions are often confusing, or outright misleading, making it a massive challenge to put those numbers in context. IT buyers deserve to be able to make a fair, real, honest comparison of vendor offerings, which is nearly impossible in the current climate where performance numbers are obscured and terms are loosely defined.

  2. Prove it! I challenge every NPM vendor to put their product through a third-party lab test. It's time for all of us to put our money where our mouths are. When you make bold claims about the performance and functionality of your product, get them tested, and share the results. How can buyers trust you if you don't?

  3. Build better systems. The only way to earn market share and customer trust is to innovate. The 2016 Gartner Magic Quadrant for NPMD noted that there has been little innovation in the space, with core NPM functionality and ease-of-use remaining largely stagnant. There's an enormous opportunity here for vendors that can escape this trend. If you want to make bold claims, then I challenge you to build the tech to back those claims up.

In the next 18-24 months we will see legacy solutions continue to fail in deployment because they simply can't scale to meet even the bare minimum of modern IT's requirements. Capturing, storing, and sniffing packets was a relatively straightforward and simple process for "fast" Ethernet supporting 100Mbps of throughput. At 100Gbps, capturing and storing terabytes worth of packets requires massive time and infrastructure investments, not to mention the hours of a person's life just to sniff a tiny subset of those packets. Letting go of legacy architectures and embracing new ones, such as wire data and stream analytics, are the only ways to achieve the scale that is quickly becoming a must-have.

We've chosen the path of adaptation and radical honesty, and you can find information about our product's performance and other capabilities, researched independently by a third party, here.

In the coming weeks and months, we'll continue to ask ourselves hard questions and provide honest answers.

Who's with us?

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