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> Chapter 33 - Virtual Domains > Virtual Domains in Transparent mode > Transparent Mode Overview

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Transparent Mode Overview

In transparent mode, a VDOM becomes a layer-2 IP forwarding bridge. This means that Ethernet frames are forwarded based on destination MAC address, and no other routing is performed. All incoming traffic that is accepted by the firewall, is broadcast out on all interfaces.

In transparent mode the VDOM is a forwarding bridge, not a switch. A switch can develop a port table and associated MAC addresses, so that it can bridge two ports to deliver the traffic instead of broadcasting to all ports. In transparent mode, the VDOM does not following this switch behavior, but instead is the forwarding bridge that broadcasts all packets out over all interfaces, subject to security policies.

Differences between NAT/Route and Transparent mode

The differences between NAT/Route mode and Transparent mode include:

Differences between NAT/Route and Transparent modes
Features NAT/Route mode Transparent mode
Specific Management IP address required No Yes
Perform Network Address Translation (NAT) Yes Yes
Stateful packet inspection Yes Yes
Layer-2 forwarding Yes Yes
Layer-3 routing Yes No
Unicast Routing / Policy Based routing Yes No
DHCP server Yes No
IPsec VPN Yes Yes
PPTP/L2TP VPN Yes No
SSL VPN Yes No
Security features Yes Yes
VLAN support Yes Yes - limited to VLAN trunks.
Ping servers (dead gateway detection) Yes No

To provide administrative access to a FortiGate unit or VDOM in Transparent mode, you must define a management IP address and a gateway. This step is not required in NAT/Route mode where you can access the FortiGate unit through the assigned IP address of any interface where administrative access is permitted.

If you incorrectly set the Transparent mode management IP address for your FortiGate unit, you will be unable to access your unit through the web-based manager. In this situation, you will need to connect to the FortiGate unit using the console cable and change the settings so you can access the unit. Alternately, if your unit has an LCD panel, you can change the operation mode and interface information through the LCD panel.

Operation mode differences in VDOMs

A VDOM, such as root, can have a maximum of 255 interfaces in Network Address Translation (NAT) mode or Transparent mode. This includes VLANs, other virtual interfaces, and physical interfaces. To have more than a total of 255 interfaces configured, you need multiple VDOMs with multiple interfaces on each.

In Transparent mode without VDOMs enabled, all interfaces on the FortiGate unit act as a bridge — all traffic coming in on one interface is sent back out on all the other interfaces. This effectively turns the FortiGate unit into a two interface unit no matter how many physical interfaces it has. When VDOMs are enabled, this allows you to determine how many interfaces to assign to a VDOM running in Transparent mode. If there are reasons for assigning more than two interfaces based on your network topology, you are able to. However, the benefit of VDOMs in this case is that you have the functionality of Transparent mode, but you can use interfaces for NAT/Route traffic as well.

You can add more VDOMs to separate groups of VLAN subinterfaces. When using a FortiGate unit to serve multiple organizations, this configuration simplifies administration because you see only the security policies and settings for the VDOM you are configuring.

One essential application of VDOMs is to prevent problems caused when a FortiGate unit is connected to a layer-2 switch that has a global MAC table. FortiGate units normally forward ARP requests to all interfaces, including VLAN subinterfaces. It is then possible for the switch to receive duplicate ARP packets on different VLANs. Some layer-2 switches reset when this happens. As ARP requests are only forwarded to interfaces in the same VDOM, you can solve this problem by creating a VDOM for each VLAN.

For more information about Transparent mode, see the Transparent Mode & Internal Segmentation Firewall (ISFW) handbook.