Troubleshooting VLAN issues

Troubleshooting VLAN issues

Several problems can occur with your VLANs. Since VLANs are interfaces with IP addresses, they behave as interfaces and can have similar problems that you can diagnose with tools such as ping, traceroute, packet sniffing, and diag debug.

 

Asymmetric routing

You might discover unexpectedly that hosts on some networks are unable to reach certain other networks. This occurs when request and response packets follow different paths. If the FortiGate unit recognizes the response packets, but not the requests, it blocks the packets as invalid. Also, if the FortiGate unit recognizes the same packets repeated on multiple interfaces, it blocks the session as a potential attack.

This is asymmetric routing. By default, the FortiGate unit blocks packets or drops the session when this happens. You can configure the FortiGate unit to permit asymmetric routing by using the following CLI commands:

config system settings set asymroute enable

end

 

If VDOMs are enabled, this command is per VDOM. You must set it for each VDOM that has the problem as following:

config vdom

edit <vdom_name>

config system settings set asymroute enable

end end

 

If this solves your blocked traffic issue, you know that asymmetric routing is the cause. But allowing asymmetric routing is not the best solution, because it reduces the security of your network.

For a long-term solution, it is better to change your routing configuration or change how your FortiGate unit connects to your network.

If you enable asymmetric routing, antivirus and intrusion prevention systems will not be effective. Your FortiGate unit will be unaware of connections and treat each packet individually. It will become a stateless firewall.

set l2forward enable end

where  <name_str> is the name of an interface.

If VDOMs are enabled, this command is per VDOM. You must set it for each VDOM that has the problem as following:

config vdom

edit <vdom_name>

config system interface edit <name_str>

set l2forward enable end

end

 

If you enable layer-2 traffic, you may experience a problem if packets are allowed to repeatedly loop through the network. This repeated looping, very similar to a broadcast storm, occurs when you have more than one layer-2 path to a destination. Traffic may overflow and bring your network to a halt. You can break the loop by enabling Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) on your network’s switches and routers. For more information, see “STP forwarding”.

 

ARP traffic

Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) packets are vital to communication on a network, and ARP support is enabled on FortiGate unit interfaces by default. Normally you want ARP packets to pass through the FortiGate unit, especially if it is sitting between a client and a server or between a client and a router.

ARP traffic can cause problems, especially in transparent mode where ARP packets arriving on one interface are sent to all other interfaces including VLAN subinterfaces. Some layer-2 switches become unstable when they detect the same MAC address originating on more than one switch interface or from more than one VLAN. This instability can occur if the layer-2 switch does not maintain separate MAC address tables for each VLAN. Unstable switches may reset and cause network traffic to slow down considerably.

The default ARP timeout value is 5 minutes (300 seconds). So usually ARP entries are removed after 5 minutes. However, some conditions can cause arp entries to remain on the list for a longer time. This is not a configurable value. Enter the  get system arp CLI command to view the ARP list.

 

Multiple VDOMs solution

By default, physical interfaces are in the root domain. If you do not configure any of your VLANs in the root VDOM, it will not matter how many interfaces are in the root VDOM.

The multiple VDOMs solution is to configure multiple VDOMs on the FortiGate unit, one for each VLAN. In this solution, you configure one inbound and one outbound VLAN interface in each VDOM. ARP packets are not forwarded between VDOMs. This configuration limits the VLANs in a VDOM and correspondingly reduces the administration needed per VDOM.

As a result of this configuration, the switches do not receive multiple ARP packets with duplicate MACs. Instead, the switches receive ARP packets with different VLAN IDs and different MACs. Your switches are stable.

 

However, you should not use the multiple VDOMs solution under any of the following conditions:

  • You have more VLANs than licensed VDOMs
  • You do not have enough physical interfaces

Instead, use one of two possible solutions, depending on which operation mode you are using:

  • In NAT mode, you can use the vlan forward CLI command.
  • In transparent mode, you can use the forward-domain CLI command. But you still need to be careful in some rare configurations.

 

Vlanforward solution

If you are using NAT mode, the solution is to use the vlanforward CLI command for the interface in question. By default, this command is enabled and will forward VLAN traffic to all VLANs on this interface. When disabled, each VLAN on this physical interface can send traffic only to the same VLAN. There is no cross-talk between VLANs, and ARP packets are forced to take one path along the network which prevents the multiple paths problem.

In the following example, vlanforward is disabled on port1. All VLANs configured on port1 will be separate and will not forward any traffic to each other.

config system interface edit port1

set vlanforward disable

end

 

Layer2 and Arp traffic

By default, FortiGate units do not pass layer-2 traffic. If there are layer-2 protocols such as IPX, PPTP or L2TP in use on your network, you need to configure your FortiGate unit interfaces to pass these protocols without blocking. Another type of layer-2 traffic is ARP traffic.

You can allow these layer-2 protocols using the CLI command:

config system interface edit <name_str>

set l2forward enable end

where  <name_str> is the name of an interface.

 

If VDOMs are enabled, this command is per VDOM. You must set it for each VDOM that has the problem as following:

config vdom

edit <vdom_name>

config system interface edit <name_str>

set l2forward enable end

end

 

If you enable layer-2 traffic, you may experience a problem if packets are allowed to repeatedly loop through the network. This repeated looping, very similar to a broadcast storm, occurs when you have more than one layer-2 path to a destination. Traffic may overflow and bring your network to a halt. You can break the loop by enabling Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) on your network’s switches and routers. For more information, see “STP forwarding”.

 

ARP traffic

Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) packets are vital to communication on a network, and ARP support is enabled on FortiGate unit interfaces by default. Normally you want ARP packets to pass through the FortiGate unit, especially if it is sitting between a client and a server or between a client and a router.

ARP traffic can cause problems, especially in transparent mode where ARP packets arriving on one interface are sent to all other interfaces including VLAN subinterfaces. Some layer-2 switches become unstable when they detect the same MAC address originating on more than one switch interface or from more than one VLAN. This instability can occur if the layer-2 switch does not maintain separate MAC address tables for each VLAN. Unstable switches may reset and cause network traffic to slow down considerably.

The default ARP timeout value is 5 minutes (300 seconds). So usually ARP entries are removed after 5 minutes. However, some conditions can cause arp entries to remain on the list for a longer time. This is not a configurable value. Enter the  get system arp CLI command to view the ARP list.

 

Multiple VDOMs solution

By default, physical interfaces are in the root domain. If you do not configure any of your VLANs in the root VDOM, it will not matter how many interfaces are in the root VDOM.

The multiple VDOMs solution is to configure multiple VDOMs on the FortiGate unit, one for each VLAN. In this solution, you configure one inbound and one outbound VLAN interface in each VDOM. ARP packets are not

forwarded between VDOMs. This configuration limits the VLANs in a VDOM and correspondingly reduces the administration needed per VDOM.

As a result of this configuration, the switches do not receive multiple ARP packets with duplicate MACs. Instead, the switches receive ARP packets with different VLAN IDs and different MACs. Your switches are stable.

However, you should not use the multiple VDOMs solution under any of the following conditions:

  • You have more VLANs than licensed VDOMs
  • You do not have enough physical interfaces

Instead, use one of two possible solutions, depending on which operation mode you are using:

  • In NAT mode, you can use the vlan forward CLI command.
  • In transparent mode, you can use the forward-domain CLI command. But you still need to be careful in some rare configurations.

 

Vlanforward solution

If you are using NAT mode, the solution is to use the vlanforward CLI command for the interface in question. By default, this command is enabled and will forward VLAN traffic to all VLANs on this interface. When disabled, each VLAN on this physical interface can send traffic only to the same VLAN. There is no cross-talk between VLANs, and ARP packets are forced to take one path along the network which prevents the multiple paths problem.

In the following example, vlanforward is disabled on port1. All VLANs configured on port1 will be separate and will not forward any traffic to each other.

 

config system interface edit port1

set vlanforward disable

end

 

Forwarddomain solution

If you are using transparent mode, the solution is to use the forward-domain CLI command. This command tags VLAN traffic as belonging to a particular collision group, and only VLANs tagged as part of that collision group receive that traffic. It is like an additional set of VLANs. By default, all interfaces and VLANs are part of forward-domain collision group 0. The many benefits of this solution include reduced administration, the need for fewer physical interfaces, and the availability of more flexible network solutions.

In the following example, forward-domain collision group 340 includes VLAN 340 traffic on port1 and untagged traffic on port 2. Forward-domain collision group 341 includes VLAN 341 traffic on port 1 and untagged traffic on port 3. All other interfaces are part of forward-domain collision group 0 by default. This configuration separates VLANs 340 and 341 from each other on port 1, and prevents the ARP packet problems from before.

 

Use these CLI commands:

config system interface edit port1

next

edit port2

set forward_domain 340 next

edit port3

set forward_domain 341 next

edit port1-340

set forward_domain 340 set interface port1

set vlanid 340 next

edit port1-341

set forward_domain 341 set interface port1

set vlanid 341

end

 

You may experience connection issues with layer-2 traffic, such as ping, if your network configuration has:

  • Packets going through the FortiGate unit in transparent mode more than once
  • More than one forwarding domain (such as incoming on one forwarding domain and outgoing on another)
  • IPS and AV enabled.

Now IPS and AV is applied the first time packets go through the FortiGate unit, but not on subsequent passes. Only applying IPS and AV to this first pass fixes the network layer-2 related connection issues.

 

NetBIOS

Computers running Microsoft Windows operating systems that are connected through a network rely on a WINS server to resolve host names to IP addresses. The hosts communicate with the WINS server by using the NetBIOS protocol.

To support this type of network, you need to enable the forwarding of NetBIOS requests to a WINS server. The following example will forward NetBIOS requests on the internal interface for the WINS server located at an IP address of 192.168.111.222.

config system interface edit internal

set netbios_forward enable set wins-ip 192.168.111.222

end

These commands apply only in NAT mode. If VDOMs are enabled, these commands are per VDOM. You must set them for each VDOM that has the problem.

 

STP forwarding

The FortiGate unit does not participate in the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP). STP is an IEEE 802.1 protocol that ensures there are no layer-2 loops on the network. Loops are created when there is more than one route for traffic to take and that traffic is broadcast back to the original switch. This loop floods the network with traffic, reducing available bandwidth to nothing.

If you use your FortiGate unit in a network topology that relies on STP for network loop protection, you need to make changes to your FortiGate configuration. Otherwise, STP recognizes your FortiGate unit as a blocked link and forwards the data to another path. By default, your FortiGate unit blocks STP as well as other non-IP protocol traffic.

Using the CLI, you can enable forwarding of STP and other layer-2 protocols through the interface. In this example, layer-2 forwarding is enabled on the external interface:

config system interface

edit external

set l2forward enable set stpforward enable

end

 

By substituting different commands for stpforward enable, you can also allow layer-2 protocols such as IPX, PPTP or L2TP to be used on the network.

 

Too many VLAN interfaces

Any virtual domain can have a maximum of 255 interfaces in transparent mode. This includes VLANs, other virtual interfaces, and physical interfaces. NAT mode supports from 255 to 8192 depending on the FortiGate model. This total number of interfaces includes VLANs, other virtual interfaces, and physical interfaces.

Your FortiGate unit may allow you to configure more interfaces than this. However, if you configure more than 255 interfaces, your system will become unstable and, over time, will not work properly. As all interfaces are used, they will overflow the routing table that stores the interface information, and connections will fail. When you try to add more interfaces, an error message will state that the maximum limit has already been reached.

If you see this error message, chances are you already have too many VLANs on your system and your routing has become unstable. To verify, delete a VLAN and try to add it back. If you have too many, you will not be able to add it back on to the system. In this case, you will need to remove enough interfaces (including VLANs) so that the total number of interfaces drops to 255 or less. After doing this, you should also reboot your FortiGate unit to clean up its memory and buffers, or you will continue to experience unstable behavior.

To configure more than 255 interfaces on your FortiGate unit in transparent mode, you have to configure multiple VDOMs, each with many VLANs. However, if you want to create more than the default 10 VDOMs (or a maximum of 2550 interfaces), you must buy a license for additional VDOMs and your FortiGate must be able to be licensed for more than 10 VDOMs.

With these extra licenses, you can configure up to 500 VDOMs, with each VDOM containing up to 255 VLANs in transparent mode. This is a theoretical maximum of over 127 500 interfaces. However, system resources will quickly get used up before reaching that theoretical maximum. To achieve the maximum number of VDOMs, you need to have top-end hardware with the most resources possible.

In NAT mode, if you have a top-end model, the maximum interfaces per VDOM can be as high as 8192, enough for all the VLANs in your configuration.

Your FortiGate unit has limited resources, such as CPU load and memory, that are divided between all configured VDOMs. When running 250 or more VDOMs, you may need to monitor the system resources to ensure there is enough to support the con- figured traffic processing.


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