Why Sampling Sucks for Network Observability

March 1, 2024

Why Sampling Sucks for Network Observability

ElastiFlow isn't just another way to monitor your network; it's the best way to understand it.

Is your job to monitor and manage the network, identify issues as quickly and accurately as possible, eliminate blind spots, improve security, and do this all with efficient and effective use of resources? Do the suits in charge of the budget have any idea of the challenge they've given you? You have some tough decisions to make. You may feel like it’s time to admit that Thomas Sowell was right when he said "There are no solutions; there are only trade-offs."

You can collect all of the data all of the time, but that requires resources. Not just compute resources, but intelligence and expertise to sort through all of that data to make sense of it all or more tools to do that. You can collect some of the data, either what you deem as "most important" or what can be reasonably sampled with the resources available, but accuracy goes down and blind spots go up. Sampling sucks and granularity is too resource intensive. What if I told you that you don't have to sacrifice one for the other, that there is a solution?

In the fast-paced world of network management, you're the one keeping the conversation flowing, ensuring that every word and whisper of data is heard loud and clear. As a network engineer, system engineer, or network architect, you've probably felt the frustration of NetFlow sampling. It's like overhearing only bits and pieces of a critical discussion—you get the gist, but the devil's in the details, and those are missing.

That's where ElastiFlow steps in. Consider the attached images: one shows an IPERF test that stands out clearly, even with a sampling rate as sparse as 1 in 1024 flows. It's the loud and clear voice in a crowd, impossible to miss.

Sampling sucks code
Sampling Suck Screen Shot

On the other hand, something as nefarious as an NMAP scan of thousands of ports—something you would not want to miss—is akin to a subtle nod or a whispered aside that goes mostly unnoticed. It's there, but the sampling rate overlooks 99.9% of the scan, detecting only 8 services (not including the IPERF test) out of the 8,007 ports actually scanned. This leaves you asking the question, "Was it a port scan, or just business as usual?"

Port Scans
Screen shot - port scans

This is exactly why building network segmentation policies solely on sampled data is like trying to follow a complex dialogue after skipping every other sentence. You might get a sense of the conversation, but you'll miss the subtleties that could change the entire meaning. Take the example nmap scan above, with NetObserv's unsampled flow support you can see the entire picture where instead of 8 ports being detected all 8007 ports that were scanned are seen:

All 8,007 ports were scanned.

For those of you who've had to make do with fragments of information, NetObserv from ElastiFlow is your solution. It's not about drowning in data; it's about having the complete, unfiltered conversation that enables you to make smarter decisions, fine-tune your network's performance, and fortify your security.

Don’t settle for half-heard conversations, get every detail. It's time to expect more from your tools and insist on full visibility.

ElastiFlow's Complete Network Insight Revolution

Picture this: financial services with their high-speed transactions needing nanosecond precision, healthcare industries juggling life-critical data, or telecom giants handling petabytes of data as if it’s nothing. This is your domain, where every bit of data could mean the difference between a seamless operation and a catastrophic failure.

Flow sampling has been the go-to, a necessary evil because the sheer volume of data made it seemingly impossible to capture and analyze everything. It's been like trying to understand global weather patterns by looking out your window—limited, risky, and frankly, not good enough. Industries reliant on digital transactions, real-time communication, and critical data flows can't afford to play guessing games with their network traffic.

But here’s where the game changes: ElastiFlow steps onto the scene with a  bold solution that makes flow sampling look like a relic of the past. Imagine capturing 1:1, unsampled flow data. Every packet, every byte, every bit of data is yours to analyze, understand, and leverage. No more guesswork, no more hoping you’ve caught the anomalies in your skimpy sample data.

ElastiFlow isn’t just offering a tool; it’s offering a paradigm shift. It’s time to leave flow sampling in the dust and step into an era of complete network visibility and efficiency. Welcome to the future, folks. It’s time to demand more, see everything, and compromise on nothing.

The Peril of Partial Data in Flow Sampling

You're in a constant battle, with threats lurking around every digital corner, every single day. The use of flow sampling is akin to rolling the dice, hoping that the slice of data you're examining mirrors the entirety of your network traffic. It's a risky assumption because, let's face it, sampling only gives you a glimpse, not the full picture.

When a security incident occurs, the ability to learn from it and respond effectively is crucial. Here's where the crux of the problem with flow sampling lies: it captures just a fraction of your traffic data. This limitation means you might miss vital signs of anomalies or lack the comprehensive data needed for a deep dive analysis. The result? 

Insufficient data, flawed decision making, and delayed response.

This underscores a fundamental truth: when it comes to safeguarding your network, partial visibility just doesn't cut it. The stakes are too high for guesswork.

The End of Compromise with ElastiFlow’s Unsampled Visibility

You've been through the wringer with flow sampling, forced to make do with scraps of data, hoping it’s enough to keep your network secure, efficient, and reliable. You've seen how this gamble can leave you blind to the intricacies of your network's traffic, making you play a high-stakes game with odds stacked against you. It’s been a necessary evil because, let's face it, the data tsunami was just too massive to handle otherwise. Or so you thought.

But here's the cold, hard truth: settling for flow sampling is like trying to win a Formula 1 race on a bicycle. Sure, you’re moving, but are you really competing? Enter ElastiFlow with the turbocharged engine you’ve been waiting for: 1:1, unsampled flow data. This is not just an upgrade; it's a complete overhaul of how you approach network data analysis.

With ElastiFlow, we obliterate the notion that you have to compromise on data visibility due to storage constraints. Thanks to our integration with Elasticsearch's TSDS compression, we're handing you a 70% reduction in storage needs. This isn't just about saving space; it's about unleashing potential. It’s about turning the floodgates of data into a laser-focused stream of actionable insights, without drowning in costs or complexity.

Let's recap the reality here: you're not just network engineers, system engineers, and network architects. You're the magicians behind the curtain, the ones making the digital world tick. And it's high time your tools matched your expertise. 1:1 unsampled flow data isn't just an option; it's the future. A future where you're no longer guessing, but knowing. A future where every decision is informed, every anomaly is detected, and every threat is neutralized before it can blink.

So here’s the bottom line: ditch the outdated practice of flow sampling. Embrace the clarity, precision, and efficiency of 1:1 unsampled flow data with ElastiFlow. It's not just about keeping up; it's about setting the pace, leading the charge, and redefining what's possible in network management.

In this digital age, being "good enough" just doesn’t cut it anymore. With ElastiFlow, you're not just participating in the race; you're poised to win it. Welcome to the forefront of network data analysis. Welcome to the era of no compromises. Welcome to ElastiFlow.

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