Brooke Jameson

Brooke Jameson

Product Marketing Manager

Last Updated

What is Packet Capture?

Packet capture (PCAP) is the compilation of network occurrences for review and analysis. The capturing of these network packets helps both network and security teams understand what is happening on a network, whether it be an application performance issue, security threat, or other event within the network. There are many use cases for packet capture due to the vast benefits it provides to network and security teams.

Packet capture is just the first step in the process because after packets are captured and compiled, they must be analyzed and turned into usable insights. NETSCOUT solutions are powered by Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) at scale to transform raw packet data into actionable intelligence that can be leveraged for network and application performance management, DDoS protection, cybersecurity, and more.

What Does Packet Capture Do?

Packet capture compiles network packets for several uses. These uses include incident investigation, security breach investigation, performance degradation triage, detecting intrusion attempts, and much more. Further, this is not limited to enterprise networks as carrier service providers can also use packet capture to understand customer experience issues, such as dropped calls. It must be noted that packet capture simply collects the packets and they must analyzed manually or by an automated solution, such as NETSCOUT to get a full understanding of what is happening on the network.

Packets provide accurate, whole data for the happenings on any network; there is no hiding in a packet. This is why NETSCOUT leverages packet data to power our solutions.

How Does Packet Capture Work?

Packet capture is fueled by instrumentation. It uses switches, TAPs, SPANs, and other network equipment or hardware to gather up and store packet data. It works by creating copies of packets that flow through a specific part of the network to be used for troubleshooting or investigation.

Network TAPs are one of the best solutions for large, complex networks as they are a dedicated piece of network equipment that solely collects and copies packet data. TAPs also do not introduce a performance penalty on the network, allowing networks to perform at their best even when packets are being captured. SPANs, switches, and other solutions are still a viable option, but are multi-functional devices instead of a specialized piece of equipment.

Why Should IT Teams be Using Packet Capture Solutions?

There are several benefits IT teams can take advantage of by using packet capture solutions:

  1. Flexibility: Packet data can be used to collect a wide range of information. By extracting the proper metadata from the packet, you can focus on specific use cases and problem resolutions, whether it be for security, application performance, or user experience use cases.
  2. Data Quality: There is no better source of network data than a packet. Capturing packets allows IT teams to harness the power of packet data to uncover the causes of issues within the network and swiftly triage problems.
  3. Multifunctional Data: Teams can use the same data source to uncover and remedy application performance issues, security breaches, DDoS attacks, and much more with packet capture. This lowers the overall investment to have a unified approach to network performance and availability.

How Does NETSCOUT Help?

NETSCOUT helps IT teams harness the power of the packet. With patented Adaptive Service Intelligence (ASI) technology, NETSCOUT allows teams to transform raw packet data into actionable intelligence and metadata. This reduces the labor needed to decipher packet data by extracting the most important, accurate information from the packet and placing it in front of team members to expedite mean time to knowledge (MTTK) and mean time to repair (MTTR). NETSCOUT gets the right data, to the right people, at the right time. 

This data feeds into NETSCOUT nGenius Enterprise Performance Management (powered by nGeniusONE, InfiniStreamNG, and vSTREAM), Omnis Network Security (powered by Omnis Cyber Intelligence and CyberStream), Arbor DDoS, and other solutions to provide powerful network and application monitoring, cybersecurity, and availability solution sets.