Gigamon Digging Into Virtual Machine Visibility on the Network

New tech will make it easier for network admins to track virtual machines across the network

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Jun 27, 2013
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In the modern era of virtualized infrastructure, getting complete network flow visibility is not as easy as it once was.

Virtual machine traffic is now the norm, and it's not limited to single servers anymore, with machines migrating across multiple servers in a data center environment or even across data centers. To help solve the problem of virtual machine network visibility, network visibility vendor Gigamon this week released its GigaVUE-VM 2.0 solution.

Huy Nguyen, senior director of product management at Gigamon, explained to Enterprise Networking Planet that Gigamon's foundation is all about extending visibility into all parts of the network. The prior releases of the GigaVU-VM solution were able to provide a degree of visibility into VMware virtualization environments that are now being enhanced with the new release.

"With GigaVUE-VM 2.0, we are now able to monitor virtual machine to virtual machine traffic, not only within the physical server but also across physical servers," Nguyen said. "It's all about visibility in motion."

Inter-host VM monitoring is already being done by data centers today, though the method is less than optimal. Nguyen noted that a common approach is by way of "hair pinning" out to a physical port. The problem with that approach is that it results in more access bandwidth leaving the same physical port. The Gigavue-VM 2.0 solution, in contrast, is a more bandwidth-efficient solution that doesn't tax the existing port.

As opposed to physical workloads, which were always tethered to specific hardware, virtual workloads can be transient and move around a network. The GigaVUE-VM 2.0 solution now has the capability to provide visibility into workloads in motion as well.

"The monitoring policy will now migrate with the virtual machine automatically," Nguyen said.

The virtual machine visibility into workloads in motion is also directly tied to Gigagmon's integration with VMware's vCenter.

"We integrate with vCenter, and when a virtual machine migrates, a notification is sent to our fabric manager," Nguyen said. "We send an update to the VM nodes that a migration has occurred and therefore the monitoring policy will also migrate with the virtual machine."

VMware's vCenter management platform already provides visibility into virtual machine traffic, though Nguyen stressed that Gigamon's solution is more complementary than competitive.

"With vCenter, there is the concept of mirrored ports, and we're taking that concept further," Nguyen explained. "We're filtering the right data to the right tools, and we're able to provide other capabilities."

Among those capabilities is the ability to truncate packets before they leave the physical server, which ends up providing more efficient bandwidth utilization. For example, a 1,518-byte jumbo frame can be truncated down to a 64-byte frame, where the monitoring tool only needs to look at the packet headers.

The GigaVUE-VM 2.0 also now has expanded visibility beyond just VMware's own virtual switch to Cisco's Nexus 1000v virtual switch technology as well. In terms of the actual virtualization hypervisor, though, today Gigamon only supports VMware. Support for other hypervisors, including KVM and Xen, are on the Gigamon roadmap.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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