Fastlane steers AF base network traffic analysis

Fastlane Software Systems Inc. has landed the first purchase order for its Xni network traffic analysis and security software tool, through a contract with the 15th Communications Squadron at Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu.

Xni is designed to provide a graphical view of network usage and traffic flows in real time by monitoring, recording and alarming network traffic based on the actual transactions between network hosts. Running on nondedicated Silicon Graphics Inc. workstations, the tool shows network bandwidth and protocol usage for every host or device on the network. Xni can be configured to track individual or groups of network applications to assess their impact on network resources.

Brian Sefton, chief executive officer of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Fastlane, said Xni is ideal for government agencies that are struggling with ways to maximize their bandwidth and to track, for subsequent internal budgeting and billing purposes, which users are using which portions of the local-area network. "By using it you can see how your networks or LANs are being used...to make your budget go further," Sefton said.

While the 15th Communications Squadron is the first federal entity to purchase the product, the National Security Agency, the Army, the Navy and the Institute for Defense Analysis have all downloaded the software to test it, he said.

Sgt. Louis Arthur is in charge of the squadron's enterprise network systems management. Before purchasing Xni, he was using freeware and shareware to profile utilization of the Internet gateway used by several thousand employees. "Immediately [with Xni], we were able to derive meaningful information about the utilization of our gateway," Arthur said. "It gives us a clear picture of the type of traffic that's taking place."

The product allows Arthur to chart network volume and to match volume levels to certain applications. He can monitor any increases in file transfers or traffic to nongovernment-related sites. Arthur could determine, for example, that the network was sluggish because of a dramatic increase of traffic from a commercial World Wide Web site generated by a user downloading software from the site.

While the primary purpose of the product is to provide network administrators with a clear, concise network profile, Arthur also has found that it can be used for security purposes. The product can provide Air Force officials with a permanent record of all network events, including each time data is transferred inside and outside of the agency. Xni's alarm functions can alert the administrator to any network event, such as the presence of an unauthorized machine on the network or hosts accessing sensitive servers.

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