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Virtual Instruments plans probe 'n' sniff tools for Ethernet networks

But Arista bloodhounds are hot on its heels - analyst

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Fibre Channel networking probester Virtual Instruments is going to expand into Ethernet-based file network probing and analysis, according to the 451 analysis group. The analysts also reckon an IPO is coming but said that Ethernet switching speed freak Arista is set on entering Ethernet network analysis too, giving VI real competition in the Ethernet space.

Virtual Instruments (VI) technology sticks a probe into Fibre Channel networks, sniffs all the traffic, from end to end, and works out what's going on. We've seen a report from the 451 Research group which says VI is looking forward to reaching a $100m annual revenue run rate by the end of the year, expanding its probe's reach and thinking about going for an IPO in 2014.

VI developments are said to include adding Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) top-of-rack-switch support to its software SAN Availability Probe product for SNMP analysis type work. A new hardware and software technology is being developed for VI's mainstream probe with NAS (network-attached storage) support added to it. This expands VI's relevance to file-based networks and also means it can cover both file and block access in unified storage networks. This platform would be extensible. 451 expects the first release to occur possibly by December this year when VI might attain a $25m quarter and hence a $100m annual run rate.

There might be an IPO some time in 2014 and then, in 2015, an update to VI's technology with 10Gbit Ethernet support, better FCoE support and, if enough customers need it, 16Gbit/s Fibre Channel support. With Brocade selling 16Gbit/s FC switches now, and Emulex and QLogic having 16Gbit/s FC host bus adapters available, this VI schedule looks a tad slow, especially as more players - like Arista - aim to enter the Ethernet traffic analysis market.

Arista doesn't need a probe: it has Ethernet switches and they see all the traffic coming through them as a matter of course. It's allocating some of its switch ports as network taps and feeding traffic data to analytics software. Emulex's hoped-for Endace acquisition could tie in here, adding its network analysis skills via an API link to the Arista switch.

The Ethernet network tap-dancing class is getting more members by the day. No doubt VI will play the independent vendor card but its technology will have to be ace to win out over Arista and any other Ethernet switch vendor that pulls the same technology trick as Bechtolsheim's baby. There's also a distant prospect that Brocade, evaluating its strategy under new CEO Lloyd Carney, could think its Fibre Channel switches could provide taps as well, and so feed an expanded Endace traffic analysis product set. VI might not retain its effective monopoly in deep Fibre Channel probesterdom for that much longer. ®

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