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Monitoring goes out-of-band

A new data access switch from Gigamon boosts the number of SPAN ports on the network for out-of-band monitoring.

There aren't enough SPAN ports to go around. The typical switch has no more than two.

Plugging into those ports to monitor traffic and data has therefore become a challenge. Either there aren't enough SPAN ports, or plugging into one could disrupt the flow of network traffic.

"Network and security personnel face the challenge of managing an increasing number and types of disparate monitoring tools, which are necessary to maintain and protect the rapidly growing volume of traffic on both the enterprise and service provider networks," Jeffrey Nudler, senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, said in a statement.

Gigamon Systems, however, wants to address the SPAN-port shortage. The vendor this week announced advancements to its flagship GigaVUE-MP data access switch that the company said offers "out-of-band" monitoring capabilities.

GigaVUE-MP Version 2.0 sits on the network, but being out-of-band means the appliance extracts data and feeds it to today's variety of monitoring products, without interrupting the traffic flow.

Gigamon vice president of marketing and sales Tom Gallatin compared the appliance to a power strip -- it's a place to plug in network tools to get data, without interrupting the flow of traffic. Those tools include sniffers, VoIP analyzers, intrusion detection and prevention systems, network monitors and data recorders.

"You're not interfering with other tools and devices," Gallatin said. "It's like a utility socket for data."

Steve Steinke, senior network analyst at The 451 Group, a New York research firm, said instead of plugging certain tools into the one or two SPAN ports on a switch, network managers can plug them into the GigaVUE, which offers several ports, to extract diagnostic and forensic data.

"It's there to monitor and gather information on the traffic without being in line with the traffic," he said. "It's kind of like a separate network. You plug it into the network at a central point and you can do your forensic, diagnostic and management jobs."

GigaVUE's latest incarnation includes advanced mapping and 10 Gbit scalability and allows "any-to-any" connectivity from multiple data sources to multiple network monitoring tools. GigaVUE-MP 2.0 has 20 ports of 10/100/1000 Ethernet, 1U modular chassis and is stackable up to 32 chassis for 640 ports.

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