Trying Gigamon

I believe I first learned of Gigamon at the 2006 RSA show. I mentioned their appliance 1 1/2 years ago in my post Pervasive Network Awareness via Interop SpyNet. Today I finally got a chance to cable a GigaVUE 422 in my lab.

Gigamon describes their appliance as a "data access switch," but I prefer the term "traffic access switch." You can think of the GigaVUE as an advanced appliance for tapping, accepting tap or SPAN output, and filtering, combining, separating, and otherwise manipulating copies of that traffic for monitoring purposes.

The device I received contained one fixed panel (far left in the image), plus four configurable daughter cards. This model has fixed fiber ports. At the extreme left of the image you'll see two RJ-45 ports. The top one is a copper network management port, while the lower is a console cable.

The first daughter card, to the right of the fixed panel, is a GigaPORT 4 port copper expansion module. That card also has four SFP slots for either copper or fiber SFPs; they're empty here. The next daughter card is a GigaTAP-TX copper tap module. The final daughter card is a GigaTAP-SX fiber tap module. You'll notice I have room for one more daughter card, at the far right.

If I had time to create a pretty network diagram, I would show how everything is cabled. Absent that, I'll describe the setup. I have three servers and one network tap that are relevant.

  1. 2950iii is a Dell Poweredge 2950iii acting as a network sensor. One of its NICs is directly cabled to the network management port of the GigaVUE via a gray cable, to test remote network access. (I could have also connected the GigaVUE network port to a switch.) The black console cable is connected to the serial port of the 2950iii for console access. Another NIC on the 2950iii is connected to a "tool" port on the GigaVUE. This port is the second green Cat 5 cable (from the left, without a white tag).

  2. r200a is a Dell R200 acting as a network device. It has one copper NIC and one fiber NIC that are usually directly connected to the r200b server listed below. Instead, each of those ports is connected to the GigaVUE, which is acting as a tap.

  3. r200b is another Dell R200 acting as a network device. It also has one copper NIC and one fiber NIC that are usually directly connected to the r200a server. Instead, each of those ports is connected to the GigaVUE, which is acting as a tap.

  4. Finally, I have a Net Optics iTap watching a different network segment. The iTap is acting as a traffic source for the GigaVUE, and is cabled via the first green Cat 5 cable on the GigaVUE.

To summarize, I have the GigaVUE acting as an acceptor of network traffic (from the iTap), an interceptor of network traffic (via the fiber and copper tap modules), and as a source of network traffic (being sent to the 2950iii). On the GigaVUE this translates into the following:

  • Port 5 is a "network" port, connected to the iTap.

  • Port 7 is a "tool" port, connected to the 2950iii.

  • Ports 9 and 10 are tap ports, connected to copper NICs on r200a and r200b.

  • Ports 13 and 14 are tap ports, connected to fiber NICs on r200a and r200b.

Given this setup, I wanted to configure the GigaVUE so I could get traffic from Ports 5, 9, 10, 13, and 14 sent to port 7.

After logging in via the console cable, I configured ports 9 and 10 so that their traffic was available to other ports on the GigaVUE. By default (and when power is lost), these ports passively pass traffic.

GigaVUE>config port-params 9 taptx active
GigaVUE>config port-pair 9 10 alias copper-tap

Next I told the box I wanted port 7 as my "tool" port. This means it will transmit traffic it sees (none yet) to the 2950iii acting as a network sensor.

GigaVUE>config port-type 7 tool

I told GigaVUE to send traffic that it sees from the iTap on port 5 to port 7.

GigaVUE>config connect 5 to 7

At this point I could sniff traffic on the 2950iii and see packets from the iTap, sent through the GigaVUE.

Finally I configured the two sets of tap ports to transmit what they saw to the tool port as well.

GigaVUE>config connect 9 to 7
GigaVUE>config connect 10 to 7
GigaVUE>config connect 13 to 7
GigaVUE>config connect 14 to 7

At this point traffic sent between r200a and r200b on their copper and fiber ports, plus traffic from the iTap, appeared on the sniffing interface of the 2950iii sensor -- courtesy of the GigaVUE.

I decided to try a few simple filtering actions to control what traffic was seen by the 2950iii sensor.

The first filter told the GigaVUE to not show traffic with destination port 22. This filter applies at the tool port, so traffic to dest port 22 makes it into the GigaVUE but is dropped before it can leave the box.

GigaVUE>config filter deny portdst 22 alias ignore-ssh-dst
GigaVUE>config port-filter 7 ignore-ssh-dst

The second filter removes traffic from source port 22.

GigaVUE>config filter deny portsrc 22 alias ignore-ssh-src
GigaVUE>config port-filter 7 ignore-ssh-src

The final two commands remove these filters.

GigaVUE>delete port-filter 7 ignore-ssh-dst
GigaVUE>delete port-filter 7 ignore-ssh-src

This is a really cursory trial, but I wanted to document the few commands I did perform. If you have any questions, feel free to post them here. I'll ask the Gigamon team to respond here, or directly to you if you so desire in your comment. Thanks to Gigamon for providing a demo box for me to try. I wanted to get some "hands-on" time with this device so I can decide if I need this sort of flexibility in production monitoring environments.

Here's another image, from a higher angle.


Seth Hall said…
Thanks for evaluating their hardware. I've wanted to talk to them for a while but haven't had time. My only question for them, is if they support something similar to what I've been documenting here:

Splitting sessions of traffic out to a cluster of similarly configured IDS boxes seems to be the direction things are headed for commodity hardware IDS.
Joe said…

I'm very interested in hearing your final comments on the GigaVUE when you are finished reviewing. At this time, I only know of 2 companies with a product like this, Gigamon and VSS Monitoring ( However, at RSA, I was told by the NetOptics team that they were going to have something similar ready in the fall. I have an immediate need for 2 of these devices already.
Anonymous said…
While perhaps a bit pricey at first glance, I've found that the amount of time and hassle that the Gigamon device saves you is totally worth it. We have a 420 and the older model which it replaced and I have been totally satisfied.

Our next step is to do some in-line tapping so as to remove any additional load/complexity on the victim network devices. I'd be interested in hearing about any experiences people have had doing in-line tapping with Gigamon.
Anonymous said…
Would you be able to tell if you have oversubscribed port 7 in your example and was causing traffic to be dropped?
Anonymous said…
snmp trap, or syslog.
Anonymous said…

There is similar solution now available from a company called Anue. I am now evaluating Gigamon and ANue; anue box is much easier to configure as it has a GUI as opposed to the CLI.

Anonymous said…
Anyone used these SFP slots? Will MSA compliant SFP work or must you use Gigamon proprietary SFPs?

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