Networking hardware makers are seeing a unique opportunity in analytics. Why? All the data passes through their pipes. Extreme Networks has grabbed onto this trend with the release of an analytics product that was rolled out at the Super Bowl on Sunday, providing detailed information about the digital activity on the wireless network in MetLife Stadium.

Digging Deep

Extreme today officially launched Purview, a technology built from the ground up inside the Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs), or custom chips, that drive its networking hardware. Purview is an analytics platform that provides a dashboard of information including tools for understanding user engagement, application performance and security monitoring. 

In short, it allows the networking and IT managers to get more detailed and granular information about who is doing what and where. Analysts say this is an important step in taking the analytics trends down to the network level. "There is a thirst for analytics and information," said Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. "The only way to really understand what customers are doing is to have visibility with the network. That's what Purview does." 

Extreme has rolled out Purview in partnership with the NFL, and the release is neatly timed to report data on the Super Bowl. It came in handy, given that with this Super Bowl sufficiently lopsided, people may have needed more distractions. 

Some examples of the data gathered during the game: At the peak, 13,500 of the 82,529 connected their mobile device to the WiFi networks. More than five pictures per second were uploaded to Instagram, and social networks were the most widely used application. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram consumed 10 percent of all the bandwidth used at the Super Bowl.

Tapping In

Purview has been deployed in Extreme's wireless network in four NFL stadiums: Gillette (Patriots), Lincoln Financial Field (Eagles), Ford Field (Lions), and Metlife (Giants and Jets). New England Patriots. Philly, Detrit and Metlife. Monitoring the user experience. Provide stats on the upcoming Super Bowl.

Because Extreme's technology is build into the chip-level, Extreme claims better performance from other technology solutions that "tap into" the network and try to observe the data as it's moving through the network. Competitors such as Riverbed Networks, Gigamon and Netscout also provide analytics platforms, but Extreme is saying it's ASIC approach is unique.

"The Coreflow ASIC gives us scaleability and depth, and context for the information. We can provide analytics about the user, user devices," said Ali Kafel, director of marketing with Extreme. "The third differentiation is granular application response."

Learning Opportunities

The advantage of the ASIC approach, according to Extreme, is performance. Many networking hardware vendors have moved toward "merchant silicon," or general-purpose chips supplied by the likes of Broadcom, Intel and Marvel. An ASIC approach is more expensive and requires customized design and implementation by the hardware vendor, but it often results in higher performance.

Extreme officials say the CoreFlow ASIC that serves as the foundation of Purview supports 20 gigabits per second of throughput and can handle 1 million application flows. Competing merchant-silicon chips only support 4,000 concurrent flows, says Markus Nispel, VP of solutions architecture with Extreme.

There are several use cases, including application performance monitoring and "policy control," which means that the network can be programmed to meter or gate certain applications that are known to hog bandwidth or cause problems.

Why the NFL?

The NFL was interested in the technology because not only can it use the technology to provide better network performance, but it can use the data and analytics to understand what its customers want and deliver new digital products.

"The NFL looks at this as a business tool, the more they know about fan experience, the more they can learn about it," Kafel told CMSWire.

Another Extreme customer, Joanna Young, CIO, University of New Hampshire, says the university will use the analytics to understand network use trends. "This valuable insight will be critical in maximizing our use of IT resources while meeting the demanding and ever-increasing needs of the users on our network from guests to employees to our students.”