What is a Network TAP (Terminal Access Point)

A network TAP is an external network device that creates a “copy” of the traffic for use by various monitoring devices. It allows traffic mirroring and is an intrical part of an organization's network stack. The TAP device is introduced at a point in the path of the network that is felt should be observed, so that it can copy data packets and send them to a monitoring device. The network designer will decide where the significant points for the network TAPs should be placed in the network infrastructure, based on the reason for network interface observation: data gathering, analysis, general network monitoring (such as for saturation and latency), or more critical, such as for intrusion detection, etc.
Tapping create a coppy of the traffic, the network TAP does not modify the network traffic in any way. The traffic on the network is unaffected by the act of tapping and monitoring. Since the monitoring is performed on a copy of the traffic by a device external to the network, via a TAP network adapter, this deployment is often referred to as 'out of band'.

A TAP acts as an ‘unobtrusive observer’ of the traffic, and just feeds a copy of the data to the attached device, often a monitoring tool or a TAP aggregation device (Packet Broker). This provides full network visibility at that point. At the same time, however, should the TAP or monitoring device fail, it will in no way affect the traffic or its flow and thus ensures that the network remains active and secure.

Taps come in both passive and active versions – each type having its own particular advantages for network monitoring in high density networks.
Active TAPs take part in the link negotiations and often provide additional functionality like TAP aggregation.
In a copper network TAPs must always be powered. Niagara's active TAPs provide fail-safe circuitry ensuring that traffic keeps flowing through the network when the power fails on the TAP device.

Another effective type of tap is the passive fiber tap. Fiber optic taps are coiled into the optical fiber line and mirror all network traffic without introducing a point of failure and provide the secure access of network data in optical networks. Passive optical taps do not require any power and are therefor trully passive devices.

 

NN Tap overview-1

Niagara Network Taps

Niagara Networks offers passive or active taps. A wide range of connectors and fibre types are supported.

Active Taps

Active Taps

Are based on an active switching configuration for generating a “copy” of the traffic. “Copy” traffic is regenerated and there is no loss of signal power. In the case of power failure, “copied” traffic may be lost, but network traffic flows uninterrupted.

Passive Taps

Passive Taps

Are based on optical coupler (splitter) so that the tapped network point and appliance are always connected. Passive taps don't need a power supply in order for them to work!