To help network managers and planners more easily access, edit, and share traffic data from the GÉANT network, a new solution has been architected by GÉANT’s software development team based on a suite of mostly open-source applications.
Words: Erik Reid, GÉANT
BRIAN (Backbone Router Interface Analytics) is a framework that aims to help the whole community by reproducing the functionalities of Cacti (the classic network monitoring and visualisation programme) while providing convenient and direct access for a wider range of data consumers such as Grafana, Tableau or external parties. BRIAN decouples data collection, storage and visualisation, using modern off-the-shelf technologies wherever possible, allowing network managers and planners to use the data in new ways as they see fit.
InfluxDB, which is supported almost universally by programming languages and data rendering frameworks, was selected as the back-end data storage technology. This is in stark contrast to the inconvenient and lossy RRD-based (Round Robin Database) storage format used with Cacti.
The visualisation experience, also previously provided by Cacti, is being mostly replaced by a Grafana front-end. Grafana is a widely used tool, familiar to networking and IT experts and benefits from regular development and active support.
“We’ve been relying on bespoke, complex tools for many years. BRIAN brings together a suite of tools that fully automates our network analytics.” Keith Slater, GÉANT Service Manager and BRIAN product owner
While BRIAN was being developed in 2020 and in the early months of 2021, GÉANT Operations has been simultaneously migrating from OpsDB to a new inventory system: VC4’s IMS. While this added an element of risk to an already complex task, it also gave the opportunity to leverage this migration and further decouple the new reporting framework from low-level network access. The result is a datadriven system, automatically reflecting and visualising as far as possible the current network topology, rather than being maintained manually and being at risk from user error.
While the GÉANT network backbone is now fully monitored by BRIAN, there remain a few services that are still monitored only by custom configurations in Cacti. Following BRIAN’s launch to the community in April 2021, the priority is now to address this and fully decommission Cacti.
To learn more about BRIAN and see the real-time data on the GÉANT network, visit brian.geant.org (requires authentication).
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