The third presenter for the first day of Network Field Day 2 was Gigamon. I’d seen them before at a couple of trade shows, so I was somewhat aware of what their product was capable of. When we arrived at their offices, we grabbed a quick lunch as the Gigamon people setup for their presentation. They wheeled a rack of equipment over to the side of the room, all of it painted in bright orange. We started off with Jim Berkman, Director of Worldwide Channel Marketing giving us a little overview of who Gigamon was and what they could do.
Gigamon is a company that specializes in creating devices to assist in monitoring your network. They don’t make Network Management Systems (NMS) like Solarwinds or HP, though. What they do make is a box capable of being inserted into a packet stream and redirecting traffic flows to appropriate tools. If anyone has ever configured a SPAN port on a switch, you know what kind of a pain that can be, especially if you need to extend that SPAN port across multiple devices. Gigamon gives you the ability to drop their equipment in-line with your existing infrastructure and move the packets to the appropriate tools at wire speed. Yes, even at 10GBE. This would allow you to relocate devices in your data center to more convenient locations and worry less about having your NMS or Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) located right next to your SPANned devices.
Gigamon delved into the capabilities of their lineup, from a lowly unit designed for small deployments all the way to a chassis-based solution that will take anything you throw at it. We also got to hear from a field engineer about his latest deployment with a European mobile provider that was using their product for redirecting all their 3G data traffic to packet analyzers and filters, which set off the Big Brother vibe with a couple of delegates. As Gigamon later said, “We just provide capability to send packets somewhere. Where you send them is your business.” Still, the possiblities behind being able to shunt packets to tools at wire speed for very large flows is interesing to say the least. Gigamon also told us about their ability to strip packet headers for things like MPLS and VN-Tag. This got the attention of the delegates, as now we can monitor and manage MPLS flows without worrying about how to strip off the vairable-length headers that can be attached to them. Ivan Pepelnjak asked about support for VXLAN header stripping, but the answer wasn’t really clear. That’s mostly likely because the implementation ideas around VXLAN are still up in the air for most people.
We didn’t get a demo from Gigamon (as there really wouldn’t be much to see) but we did get a good Q&A session as well as a tour of their facilities. All the assembly and testing of their units happens on-site, so it was very interesting to see the development areas as well as the burn-in lab where these boxes are tested for a week straight before shipping. A quick anecdote: when previously asked by someone what happens when a Gigamon unit is Dead on Arrival (DOA), Gigamon replied they weren’t sure, as they’ve never had a DOA box in their 6-year existence.
As Kurt Bales put it, “Gigamon is the greatest thing I never knew I needed!” The use-case for their equipment is very compelling, as the monitoring of high speed traffic flows is becoming harder and harder to manage as the amount of packets flying through the data center increases. Gigamon gives you the ability to direct that traffic wherever it is needed, whether it be NMS or filter. They can also do it without slowing down your carefully designed infrastructure. I would highly recommend taking a look at their products if you find yourself in need of creating a lot of SPAN ports to service packet flows to various different tools.
Tech Field Day Disclaimer
Gigamon was a sponsor of Network Field Day 2, as as such was responsible for paying a portion of my travel and lodging fees. They also provided us with lunch and a Gigamon folio pad, as well as a USB drive containing presentations and markting collateral. At no time did Gigamon ask for, nor where they promised any kind of consideration in the drafting of this review. The analysis and opinions herein are mine and mine alone.