Accelops – An innovative take on Monitoring


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AccelOps – An innovation take on Monitoring

We at Infosecnirvana.com have done several posts on SIEM. One of the most common request from readers of our SIEM posts is to review Accelops. So this post is our answer to those repeated questions.

Introduction: 

How many of you remember Cisco MARS? Well, if you don’t, let me remind you that they were one of the earliest SIEM products around that stemmed from the infrastructure monitoring space. MARS was geared more towards monitoring and reviewing network infrastructure including their utilisation, performance availability and logs. After a brief run in enterprises that were Cisco heavy, the product died a natural death. People who were involved in the product left Cisco and started AccelOps (Accelerate Operations). As a product, they took the fundamentals of data collection and integrated infrastructure log, event monitoring to the data analytics platform. The result is a promising product called AccelOps.

They have since been acquired by Fortinet, marking their foray into the larger Enterprise SIEM market dominated by the likes of HP, IBM, Splunk etc.

AccelOps:

As you can guess, by virtue of collecting data from various sources like Network devices and servers, AccelOps is a product that provides fully integrated SIEM, file integrity monitoring (FIM), configuration management database (CMDB), and availability and performance monitoring (APM) capabilities in a single platform.

  • APM Capability: This is their strong suite and it is MARS on steroids. AccelOps excels in capturing statistics to provide insights into how the system health is. This is value in a MSSP/NOC/SOC setup as there is no need for an additional monitoring platform. Again, Syslog or SNMP are your best bets for APM.
  • File Integrity Monitoring: Very few SIEM products (think Alienvault) offer native FIM capabilities and to see it in AccelOps is refreshing. The way they do is no surprise as FIM can only be done effectively using an Agent-based approach and Accelops also does the same.
  • CMDB: Accelops has the capability to keep track of all the elements in an organisation’s network infrastructure like network devices, UPS, servers, storage, hyper-visors, and applications. Using the data, a Centralised Management Database (CMDB) is available in AccelOps. This again is very unique and even AlienVault with all its Unified SIEM branding, does not shine as much as AccelOps does.
  • SIEM: Now that all the data from various network infrastructure is available in AccelOps along with CMDB, the ability to cross-correlates, in real-time becomes easy and AccelOps does that using its own patented correlation engine. The SIEM capability comes with all the bells and whistles one would expect – Rules, Dashboards, Alerting, Analytics, Intelligence, etc.

Now let us look at the Strengths and Weakness of AccelOps as a product

The Good:

  • AccelOps’ combination of SIEM, FIM and APM capabilities in a single box helps in a Centralised operations as well as security monitoring.
  • AccelOps serves as a centralised data aggregation platform for system health data, network flow data as well as event log data.
  • AccelOps has a mature integration capability with traditional incident management and workflow tools like ServiceNow, ConnectWise, LanDesk and RemedyForce
  • From a deployment flexibility, AccelOps excels in virtualisation environments. However, they are also available in traditional form factors. If customers prefer cloud, they are also available for deployments in either public, private or hybrid clouds.
  • From an architecture perspective, they have 3 layered tiers.
    1. The Collector tier does exactly what the name suggests – collects data from end log sources.
    2. The Analytics tier receives data from the collector tier. This analytics tier is built on big data architecture fundamentals supporting a master/slave setup. In AccelOps terms, it is Supervisor/Worker setup.
    3. The Storage tier then serves as the data sink housing the CMDB and the big data file system.
  • Because of the architecture setup, the scalability is not an issue with AccelOps. It does scale well with clustering at Analytics and Storage tiers.

The Not So Good:

  • The most obvious is that AccelOps as a product has relatively low visibility in the market. However, this is bound to change with the Fortinet buy. They will hopefully be seen in more competitive bids and evaluations.
  • While AccelOps tries to be a “Jack of All”, it unfortunately is a master of none. This means that the product has poor support for some third-party security technologies, such as data loss prevention (DLP), application security testing, network forensics and deep packet inspection (DPI).  This hinders the product versatility in large environments.
  • Parsing is a key aspect of SIEM and in this area too AccelOps lacks extensive coverage as seen amongst competition. While most of the popular ones are parsed out of the box, the others require a custom parser development skills, which unfortunately requires steep learning curve or product support to help build.
  • While for Network engineers and analysts, the interface makes sense, from a SIEM view, the usability could definitely be improved. This issue is evident when looking at dashboards, report engines, alerts etc. which seem to be afflicted with information overdose.
  • Ease of deployment is there, however, the configuration takes a lot of time considering the fact that there are several tool integrations to be done before it can generate value. Some of the configurations are really complex and may lead to user or admin being spooked. We were reminded of the MARS days time and again while evaluating this product.
  • The UI, while presents data in a very informative way, suffers from too much clutter hindering usability. While this is a personal opinion, when compared against the likes of IBM, Splunk and even LogRhythm, the AccelOps UI does not excite. We hope that Fortinet brings to fore its UI maturity to AccelOps, thereby becoming much more savvy.
  • Correlation capabilities are very good when it comes to data visibility, compliance and infrastructure monitoring use cases. However, when it comes to Threat hunting, trend analysis, behaviour profiling, AccelOps has a lot of ground to cover.
  • Without Infrastructure data, AccelOps loses its edge. As a traditional SIEM collecting only Event logs makes it look like a pretty basic SIEM. This can be quite an issue in organisations where Infrastructure monitoring is already being done by other tools. Unless customers duplicate data sets across  the tools, the value is poor.

Conclusion:

All in All, the product is a well rounded performer when it comes to combined Infrastructure and Security monitoring, however in traditional SIEM bake-offs, they need a lot more flavour to make it exciting. Hopefully the Fortinet buy will do just that. We will continue to watch out for this product and its road map in coming months.

Until next time – Ciao!!!