Cisco port monitor

Switches are integral parts of a network, as they dictate the flow of communication between servers, workstations, and all other network devices. As one of the major manufacturers of network switches, Cisco has provided organizations with a myriad of models that serve diverse hardware requirements and functions. Cisco switches, like any other network components, are predisposed to performance degradation and malfunctions, and many times, this can be attributed to the mismanagement of Cisco switch ports.

It's imperative to monitor Cisco ports for their availability, as it helps determine underutilized, overutilized, and disabled ports. Also, ports are potential hotspots for malicious actors to break into, so the traffic passing via these ports should be constantly monitored. Manual inspection of individual ports for availability and performance isn't feasible due to the enormous scale of networks. To eliminate these concerns and to streamline port monitoring, network administrators should invest in a dedicated Cisco port monitor.

Network pitfalls encountered without a Cisco port monitor

The following are some of the major pitfalls faced by network administrators without a dedicated Cisco port monitor in place:

  • Inefficient port-device mapping: Networks, particularly enterprise class networks, house a deluge of Cisco switches, with each switch containing a multitude of ports. Given the sheer volume of ports a network administrator has to deal with, it becomes increasingly difficult to manually detect the devices linked to individual ports. Port-device mapping is crucial, as it helps hasten troubleshooting and maintenance; without a dedicated Cisco port monitor, this becomes difficult to scale.
  • Traffic and bandwidth bottlenecks: It's crucial to identify Cisco ports that consume inordinate levels of bandwidth, as they adversely impact network performance. It's also imperative to identify ports that allow unauthorized traffic, which might compromise network security. As networks scale, identification of port bandwidth consumption and traffic levels becomes incredibly difficult without a dedicated Cisco port monitor.
  • Security vulnerabilities: Certain ports may remain continually open, presenting a potential network vulnerability. Malicious actors can access open ports to obtain data and disrupt network operations. It thus becomes vital to close unused ports, which becomes a hassle while scaling up.
  • Inaccurate audit: With manifold switches across the network, it becomes difficult to audit port activity, and scaling up only aggravates this ordeal. Port activity needs to be monitored to know who did what and when, and for this purpose, the history of port activity has to be logged. Achieving this with scale isn't feasible unless the organization has a sizeable workforce to do so.

Port mirroring: What challenges the conventional Cisco port monitoring approach presents

Port mirroring, also known as Switched Port Analyzer (SPAN) with respect to Cisco switches, is the process by which port traffic to the port under observation (source port) is duplicated or mirrored, and sent across to a port (destination port) on the same switch to be captured or monitored using analyzer software on the device connected to that port.

Cisco SPAN modes

Cisco SPAN enables you to monitor traffic via three modes:

  • Local SPAN: Monitor traffic on a switch to which you are directly connected.
  • Remote SPAN (RSPAN): Monitor traffic on a remote port, but get the captured packets sent to a port on your local switch for collection.
  • Encapsulated Remote SPAN (ERSPAN): The same process as RSPAN, except the transfer of mirrored packets to your local switch is carried by Generic Routing Encapsulation (GRE).

Challenges encountered using the SPAN approach

  • SPAN requires the switches to be explicitly configured to capture and monitor port traffic. Needless to say, this isn't scalable when faced with large-scale networks.
  • Spanning an entire VLAN, for instance, can result in multiple copies of the same data, making LAN troubleshooting more difficult, as well as impacting the speed of the switch's CPU.
  • The more you use SPAN, the more likely you are to drop packets. However, the fact that SPANs can be managed remotely means that changing the configuration is less time consuming, but still requires a network engineer.
  • When using SPAN, there's a possibility that packets might get dropped due to oversubscription. Also, corrupt packets might get discarded without any notification, hindering analysis.
  • SPAN is better suited to situations where dropped packets do not affect network analysis, or where cost is an issue.
  • SPAN gives you all of the capabilities to capture packets on any Cisco switch, whether or not you are directly connected to that switch. However, you need to have a spare port on a switch that can become the collection point for duplicated packets.

OpManager: A fresh approach to Cisco port monitoring

OpManager is a comprehensive network monitoring tool with which network administrators can monitor their network infrastructure for performance, health, and availability. It also doubles as a Cisco port monitor to check all your switch ports for availability, port speed, traffic, bandwidth utilization, etc. OpManager is compatible with almost all of Cisco's switch models, and can integrate with them seamlessly.

Cisco port monitoring: The OpManager way

OpManager's built-in port monitoring module probes the target Cisco ports in your network by sending IP packets to each port. Based on the response from the ports, OpManager classifies ports as open, listening, or closed. This renders visibility into the availability of the ports, the services running on them, and the devices mapped to each port.

OpManager's Cisco port monitor's capabilities include:

End-to-end port-device mapping

OpManager's Cisco port monitor helps map the devices connected to individual ports virtually on its web console. For this, you'll have to upload the mapping of the physical ports and switch ports in a CSV file into OpManager. OpManager's Cisco port monitor automatically retrieves the VLAN details and the virtual IP addresses of a device, then detects all the devices connected to a port. Apart from this, OpManager also allows you to block or unblock a switch port from within the web client. This prevents unsolicited traffic entering via those ports, bolstering network security.

Interface performance monitoring

OpManager's built-in Cisco port monitor module monitors interfaces for performance and availability. OpManager monitors critical metrics of interfaces like link speed, hop count, time delay, bandwidth utilization, traffic data, etc. OpManager presents this data in the form of graphs, dials, and tables on the device's dedicated snapshot page.

Multi-vendor and device support

OpManager possesses more than 53,000 vendor templates and 9,000 device templates. It'ss compatible with almost all of Cisco's switch series and models ,and integrates with them seamlessly. OpManager also has more than 230 predefined interface templates, which are associated to interfaces as soon as they are discovered. These templates associate relevant performance monitors to interfaces for performance and availability monitoring.

Cisco port fault management

OpManager detects anomalies in port activity and reports them via alert notifications. Using OpManager, configure multi-level thresholds for performance metrics and monitor for violations. The violations are depicted using color-coded alarms based on severity levels. These alarms can be escalated to concerned personnel if left unattended, and can be acknowledged to avoid redundant examination. The alerts can also be broadcasted via multiple media like email, SMS, or Slack notifications.

Cisco port activity history and audit

OpManager's Cisco port monitor logs all the events performed using the tool with the name of the user, and the date and time of the event. This helps administrators track and audit the changes made using OpManager. Administrators can also track the device that was previously connected to a Cisco switch port from the previous scan results saved in the history.

Port performance and availability reporting

OpManager's Cisco port monitor offers holistic reports on your Cisco switch port's availability. These reports can be scheduled or extracted on demand, and can be exported as CSV, PDF, or XLS files. Apart from availability reports, OpManager also provides reports on:

  • Switches by Usage
  • Switches by Task Name
  • Switches by Vendor
  • Switch Ports by ifSpeed
  • Switch Port by ifType
  • Device with Virtual IP

To learn more about how OpManager can help monitor your ports, download a 30-day free trial, or register for a personalized demo.

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