Cisco Stealthwatch Review

Provides valuable security knowledge and helps us improve network performance


What is our primary use case?

From a security perspective, we are watching for behind the scenes data exfiltration, or tubulous, or malicious network traffic, that our other tools may not be detecting at a basic network layer.

We are also using it for performance issues in trying to figure out if a site is experiencing issues with slowness. Also, we try to determine things like whether we are exceeding the bandwidth of the link or whether there is a bottleneck or something that's not negotiating correctly on the network.

Also, we use it for TAP to try and do inline network traffic analysis from a security perspective or from a performance perspective as well.

How has it helped my organization?

It has definitely helped us improve our mean time to resolution on network issues.

From a security perspective, I think they've been good as far as giving us knowledge.

I wouldn't say it's really transformed what we do. It's just another tool that gives us the information we need or helps alarms for us. But it only alarms on a handful of things. I think there are six or eight alerts that we've deemed critical.

Beyond that, it's just mostly the performance where I think it helps out. But that's like any NetFlow performance tool. Having insight into what's going across your network is critical for any huge network to function correctly.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature of this solution is the ability to do TAPs because we have a distributed network.

The ability to set up one tool to stream that data over to us has been helpful because that way, we don't have to have other infrastructure and be really close to where the activity is. 

The security features have been good for helping create some correlation. For example, when you tap in, what else happens from the network perspective. 

Otherwise, just the general network performance monitoring is probably the number one thing that gets used. If we're having slowness issues then it can tell us what the bandwidth and usage are. We can find things like what is using up all the bandwidth and then find out how can we break that apart or route that differently, through a different WAN connection or internet connection.

What needs improvement?

An issue that we are having is that people have tools to do a security analysis of network traffic and people have tools that do NetFlow analysis, but typically the security tools do the NetFlow as well. We need the security piece and there are many good NetFlow tools out there, but they don't have that. I feel like they didn't segregate the product classes enough.

When you're doing research, you are looking for network traffic analysis, not NetFlow tools or network performance monitoring. This is the type of thing that I have been running into. You have to search for something that sounds very much like the other things, but it's not.

Many of these tools require extensive on-premises hardware to run. It is for their own performance and to support their own tools, including machine learning. It's as though you have to buy this hardware stack, and I feel that contributes to the price. This is versus having my collected data and then feeding it up into the cloud. I feel like a lot of monitoring tools or a lot of analysis tools are going that route. I don't think that StealthWatch is there, yet. It isn't good when you get to the point where you need to buy a huge stack of hardware. Instead, I just pay a license for how much data I send to the cloud. It is maintained there and that way, year after year I don't have to buy new hardware when it goes end-of-life.

For how long have I used the solution?

The company has been using Cisco Stealthwatch for a couple of years, but I have only been with the company for less than one year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I have not been made aware of any stability issues with the tool. 

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

My understanding is that it has been easy to scale, although I was not around for it. We have not had astronomical growth, but it sounds like it runs stable and there haven't been any performance issues with it.

We have 10 to 20 threat prevention engineers and network engineers of various levels who use it.

How are customer service and technical support?

I have not been in contact with technical support.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I have not used another similar solution in the past. I think the only thing that would even come close was using Azure Advanced Threat Analytics, but that only really analyzes network traffic coming to the domain. It checks, for example, if there is sketchy network traffic hitting your domain controllers.

In my previous jobs, I used network performance tools, but nothing that was the same as StealthWatch where it combines that performance and security analysis together.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

This is an expensive product. We have quit paying for support because we don't want to have to upgrade it and keep paying for it.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

I looked at the capabilities of SolarWinds NetFlow and realized that it can't replace our Cisco StealthWatch.

What other advice do I have?

We are using the previous version.

Our situation was that it was really expensive to keep up maintenance and the hardware was about to go end of life, which meant that we had to purchase a new hardware stack. Also, we were trying to get out of the data center business, so keeping StealthWatch is not really an option.

It doesn't fit where our company wants to go, but at the same time, it's one of three products out there that actually does what it does. Otherwise, you have to start linking NetFlow into the UEBA space.

My advice for anybody who is considering StealthWatch is that if you're going to maintain an on-prem network, I think it's a good solution. That is if you want to feed the bill and have something that is top of the line. But if you have a cloud journey underway and you're trying to downsize your data centers, it's going to add a big hardware footprint. This is just something to consider.

Overall, this is a good product but it would be better if it were cheaper and it fit our future plans better. Everybody had been happy with it, and the major reasons we're getting away from it are the footprint and the costs.

I would rate this solution an eight out of ten.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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