Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing and NAT

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing and NATOver the last few weeks, I’ve worked with numerous organizations and individuals troubleshooting connectivity and performance issues associated with Windows 10 Always On VPN, and specifically connections using the Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2) VPN protocol. An issue that appears with some regularity is when Windows 10 clients fail to connect with error 809. In this scenario, the server will accept connections without issue for a period of time and then suddenly stop accepting requests. When this happens, existing connections continue to work without issue in most cases. Frequently this occurs with Windows Server Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) servers configured in a clustered array behind an External Load Balancer (ELB).

Network Address Translation

It is not uncommon to use Network Address Translation (NAT) when configuring Always On VPN. In fact, for most deployments the public IP address for the VPN server resides not on the VPN server, but on an edge firewall or load balancer connected directly to the Internet. The firewall/load balancer is then configured to translate the destination address to the private IP address assigned to the VPN server in the perimeter/DMZ or the internal network. This is known a Destination NAT (DNAT). Using this configuration, the client’s original source IP address is left intact. This configuration presents no issues for Always On VPN.

Source Address Translation

When troubleshooting these issues, the common denominator seems to be the use of Full NAT, which includes translating the source address in addition to the destination. This results in VPN client requests arriving at the VPN server as appearing not to come from the client’s original IP address, but the IP address of the network device (firewall or load balancer) that is translating the request. Full NAT may be explicitly configured by an administrator, or in the case of many load balancers, configured implicitly because the load balancer is effectively proxying the connection.

Known Issues

IKEv2 VPN connections use IPsec for encryption, and by default, Windows limits the number of IPsec Security Associations (SAs) coming from a single IP address. When a NAT device is performing destination/full NAT, the VPN server sees all inbound IKEv2 VPN requests as coming from the same IP address. When this happens, clients connecting using IKEv2 may fail to connect, most commonly when the server is under moderate to heavy load.

Resolution

The way to resolve this issue is to ensure that any load balancers or NAT devices are not translating the source address but are performing destination NAT only. The following is configuration guidance for F5, Citrix ADC (formerly NetScaler), and Kemp load balancers.

F5

On the F5 BIG-IP load balancer, navigate to the Properties > Configuration page of the IKEv2 UDP 500 virtual server and choose None from the Source Address Translation drop-down list. Repeat this step for the IKEv2 UDP 4500 virtual server.

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing and NAT

Citrix ADC

On the Citrix ADC load balancer, navigate to System > Settings > Configure Modes and check the option to Use Subnet IP.

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing and NAT

Next, navigate to Traffic Management > Load Balancing > Service Groups and select the IKEv2 UDP 500 service group. In the Settings section click edit and select Use Client IP. Repeat these steps for the IKEv2 UDP 4500 service group.

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing and NAT

Kemp

On the Kemp LoadMaster load balancer, navigate to Virtual Services > View/Modify Services and click Modify on the IKEv2 UDP 500 virtual service. Expand Standard Options and select Transparency. Repeat this step for the IKEv2 UDP 4500 virtual service.

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing and NAT

Caveat

Making the changes above may introduce routing issues in your environment. When configuring these settings, it may be necessary to configure the VPN server’s default gateway to use the load balancer to ensure proper routing. If this is not possible, consider implementing the workaround below.

Workaround

To fully resolve this issue the above changes should be made to ensure the VPN server can see the client’s original source IP address. If that’s not possible for any reason, the following registry key can be configured to increase the number of established SAs from a single IP address. Be advised this is only a partial workaround and may not fully eliminate failed IKEv2 connections. There are other settings in Windows that can prevent multiple connections from a single IP address which are not adjustable at this time.

To implement this registry change, open an elevated PowerShell command window on the RRAS server and run the following commands. Repeat these commands on all RRAS servers in the organization.

New-ItemProperty -Path ‘HKLM:SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\IKEEXT\Parameters\’ -Name IkeNumEstablishedForInitialQuery -PropertyType DWORD -Value 50000 -Force

Restart-Service IKEEXT -Force -PassThru

Additional Information

IPsec Traffic May Be Blocked When A Computer is Behind a Load Balancer

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with Citrix NetScaler ADC

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with F5 BIG-IP

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with Kemp LoadMaster

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with Citrix NetScaler ADC

Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing with Citrix NetScaler ADCThe Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2) VPN protocol is the protocol of choice when the highest level of security is required for Always On VPN connections. It uses IPsec and features configurable security parameters that allow administrators to adjust policies to meet their specific security requirements. IKEv2 is not without some important limitations, but organizations may insist on the use of IKEv2 to provide the greatest protection possible for remote connected clients. Due to complexities of the IKEv2 transport, special configuration on the Citrix ADC is required when load balancing this workload.

Special Note: In December 2019 a serious security vulnerability was discovered on the Citrix ADC that gives an unauthenticated attacker the ability to arbitrarily execute code on the appliance. As of this writing a fix is not available (due end of January 2020) but a temporary workaround can be found here.

Load Balancing IKEv2

When an Always On VPN client establishes a connection using IKEv2, communication begins on UDP port 500, but switches to UDP port 4500 if Network Address Translation (NAT) is detected in the communication path between the client and the server. Because UDP is connectionless, custom configuration is required to ensure that VPN clients maintain connectivity to the same backend VPN server during this transition.

Initial Configuration

Load balancing IKEv2 using the Citrix ADC is similar to other workloads. Below are specific settings and parameters required to load balance IKEv2 using the Citrix ADC.

Note: This article is not a comprehensive configuration guide for the Citrix ADC. It assumes the administrator is familiar with basic load balancing concepts and has experience configuring the Citrix ADC.

Service Settings

The load balancing services for IKEv2 VPN will use UDP ports 500 and 4500. Create the service group and assign group members for UDP 500 as follows.

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with Citrix NetScaler ADC

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with Citrix NetScaler ADC

Repeat the steps above to create the service group for UDP port 4500.

Virtual Server Settings

Two virtual servers are required, one for UDP port 500 and one for UDP port 4500. Ensure that the service group using UDP port 500 is bound to the virtual server using the same port.

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with Citrix NetScaler ADC

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with Citrix NetScaler ADC

Repeat the steps above to create the virtual service for UDP port 4500.

Service Monitoring

Since IKEv2 uses the UDP protocol, the only option for service monitoring is to use PING, which is configured by default. Ensure that the firewall on the VPN server allows inbound ICMPv4 and ICMPv6 Echo Request. The default PING monitor on the Citrix ADC will ping the resource every 5 seconds. If a different interval is required, the administrator can edit the PING monitor and bind that to the service or service group as necessary.

Persistency Group

A Persistency Group on the Citrix ADC will be configured to ensure that IKEv2 VPN client requests from the same client are always routed to the same backend server. Follow the steps below to create a Persistency Group and assign it to both IKEv2 virtual servers created previously.

  1. In the Citrix ADC management console expand Traffic Management > Load Balancing > Persistency Groups.
  2. Click Add.
  3. Enter a descriptive name for the Persistency Group.
  4. Select SOURCEIP from the Persistence drop-down list.
  5. Next to the Virtual Server Name section click the Add button.
  6. Add both previously configured IKEv2 virtual servers for UDP 500 and 4500.
  7. Click Create.

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with Citrix NetScaler ADC

Use Client IP

To ensure reliable connectivity for IKEv2 VPN connections it is necessary for the VPN server to see the client’s original source IP address. Follow the steps below to configure the Service Group to forward the client’s IP address to the VPN server.

  1. In the Citrix ADC management console expand System, click Settings, and then click Configure Modes.
  2. Select Use Subnet IP.
  3. Click Ok.Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing and NAT
  4. Expand Traffic Management, click Load Balancing, and then click Service Groups.
  5. Select the IKEv2 UDP 500 Service Group.
  6. Click Edit in the Settings section.
  7. Select Use Client IP.
  8. Repeat these steps on the IKEv2 UDP 4500 Service Group.Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing and NAT

Note: Making the above changes will require configuring the VPN server to use the Citrix ADC as its default gateway.

Additional Information

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing and NAT

Windows 10 Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing with Citrix NetScaler ADC

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Features and Limitations

Windows 10 AlWAYS On VPN and IKEv2 Fragmentation

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Security Configuration

Windows 10 Always On VPN Certificate Requirements for IKEv2

Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing with Citrix NetScaler ADC

Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing with Citrix NetScaler ADCOne of the many advantages of using Windows Server Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) as the VPN server to support Windows 10 Always On VPN connections is that it includes support for the Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP). SSTP is a TLS-based VPN protocol that is easy to configure and deploy and is very firewall friendly. This ensures consistent and reliable connectivity even behind restrictive firewalls. The Citrix Application Delivery Controller (ADC), formerly known as NetScaler, is a popular platform for load balancing Always On VPN connections. In this article I’ll describe how to configure load balancing on the Citrix ADC for RRAS VPN connections using the SSTP VPN protocol.

Special Note: In December 2019 a serious security vulnerability was discovered on the Citrix ADC that gives an unauthenticated attacker the ability to arbitrarily execute code on the appliance. As of this writing a fix is not available (due end of January 2020) but a temporary workaround can be found here.

Load Balancing SSTP

Previously I’ve written about some of the use cases and benefits of SSTP load balancing as well as the options for offloading TLS for SSTP VPN connections. Load balancing SSTP eliminates single points of failure and enables support for multiple RRAS VPN servers to increase scalability. It is generally recommended that the Citrix ADC be configured to pass through encrypted SSTP VPN connections. However, TLS offloading can be configured to improve performance and reduce resource utilization on VPN servers, if required.

Configuration

Load balancing SSTP on the Citrix ADC is straightforward and not unlike load balancing a common HTTPS web server. Below are specific settings and parameters required to load balance SSTP using the Citrix ADC.

Note: This article is not a comprehensive configuration guide for the Citrix ADC. It assumes the administrator is familiar with basic load balancing concepts and has experience configuring the Citrix ADC.

Service Settings

The load balancing service for SSTP VPN should be configured to use TCP port 443 and the SSL_BRIDGE protocol. If TLS offload is required, TCP port 80 and the HTTP protocol can be configured. Additional configuration is required on the RRAS server when TLS offload is enabled, however. Detailed information for configuring RRAS and SSTP for TLS offload can be found here.

Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing with Citrix NetScaler ADC

Virtual Server Settings

The virtual server is configured to use TCP port 443. It is recommended to use SSLSESSION persistence.

Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing with Citrix NetScaler ADC

The LEASTCONNECTION load balancing method is the recommend option for load balancing method.

Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing with Citrix NetScaler ADC

Service Monitoring

Using the default TCP monitor (tcp-default) is not recommended for monitoring SSTP, as a simple TCP port check does not accurately reflect the health of the SSTP service running on the RRAS server. To more precisely monitor the SSTP service status, a new custom monitor must be created and bound to the load balancing services. Follow the steps below to configure a custom SSTP VPN monitor on the Citrix ADC.

  1. Open the Citrix ADC management console and expand Traffic Management.
  2. Select Monitors.
  3. Click Add.
  4. Enter a descriptive name in the Name field.
  5. Select HTTP form the Type drop-down list and click Select.
  6. Adjust the Interval and Response Time-out values according to your requirements.
  7. Enter 401 in the Response Codes field and click the “+” button.
  8. In the Response Codes field click the “x” next to 200.
  9. In the HTTP Request field enter HEAD /sra_{BA195980-CD49-458b-9E23-C84EE0ADCD75}/.
  10. Check the box next to Secure (not required if TLS offload is enabled).
  11. Select ns_default_ssl_profile_backend from the SSL profile drop-down list (not required if TLS offload is enabled).
  12. Click Create.

Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing with Citrix NetScaler ADC

Once complete, bind the new service monitor to the load balancing services or service groups accordingly.

TLS Offload

It is generally recommended that TLS offload not be enabled for SSTP VPN. However, if TLS offload is desired, it is configured in much the same way as a common HTTPS web server. Specific guidance for enabling TLS offload on the Citrix ADC can be found here. Details for configuring RRAS and SSTP to support TLS offload can be found here.

Certificates

When enabling TLS offload for SSTP VPN connections it is recommended that the public SSL certificate be installed on the RRAS server, even though TLS processing will be handled on the Citrix ADC and HTTP will be used between the Citrix ADC and the RRAS server. If installing the public SSL certificate on the RRAS server is not an option, additional configuration will be required. Specifically, TLS offload for SSTP must be configured using the Enable-SSTPOffload.ps1 PowerShell script, which can be found here.

Once the script has been downloaded, open an elevated PowerShell command window and enter the following command.

.\Enable-SSTPOffload.ps1 -CertificateHash [SHA256 Certificate Hash of Public SSL Certificate] -Restart

Example:

.\Enable-SSTPOffload.ps1 -CertificateHash ‘C3AB8FF13720E8AD9047DD39466B3C8974E592C2FA383D4A3960714CAEF0C4F2’ -Restart

Re-Encryption

When offloading TLS for SSTP VPN connections, all traffic between the Citrix ADC and the RRAS server will be sent in the clear using HTTP. In some instances, TLS offload is required only for traffic inspection, not performance gain. In this scenario the Citrix ADC will be configured to terminate and then re-encrypt connections to the RRAS server. When terminating TLS on the Citrix ADC and re-encrypting connections to the RRAS server is required, the same certificate must be used on both the Citrix ADC and the RRAS server. Using different certificates on the RRAS server and the load balancer is not supported.

Additional Information

Windows 10 Always On VPN Load Balancing and SSL Offload

SSL Offload Configuration for Citrix ADC (NetScaler)

Windows 10 Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing with Kemp LoadMaster

Windows 10 Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing with F5 BIG-IP

Windows 10 Always On VPN Connects then Disconnects

Windows 10 Always On VPN SSL Certificate Requirements for SSTP

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing Issue with Kemp LoadMaster

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing Issue with Kemp LoadMasterA recent update to the Kemp LoadMaster load balancer may cause failed connections for Always On VPN connections using IKEv2. SSTP VPN connections are unaffected.

Load Balancing IKEv2

When using the Kemp LoadMaster load balancer to load balance IKEv2, custom configuration is required to ensure proper operation. Specifically, the virtual service must be configured to use “port following” to ensure both the initial request on UDP port 500 and the subsequent request on UDP port 4500 are sent to the same real server. This requires the virtual service to be configured to operate at layer 7. Detailed configuration guidance for load balancing IKEv2 on the Kemp LoadMaster load balancer can be found here.

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing Issue with Kemp LoadMaster

Issues with LMOS 7.2.48.0

A recent release of the Load Master Operating System (LMOS) v7.2.48.0 introduced a bug that affects UDP services configured to operate at layer 7, which includes IKEv2. This bug breaks Always On VPN connections using IKEv2, resulting in failed connections. When this occurs, the administrator may encounter an error 809 message for device tunnel or user tunnel.

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing Issue with Kemp LoadMaster

Update Available

Administrators who use the Kemp LoadMaster load balancer to load balance Always On VPN IKEv2 connections and have updated to LMOS 7.2.48.0 are encouraged to update to LMOS 7.2.48.1 immediately. This latest update includes a fix that resolves broken IKEv2 load balancing for Always On VPN. Once the LoadMaster has been updated to 7.2.48.1, Always On VPN connections using IKEv2 should complete successfully.

Additional Information

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing and NAT

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with Kemp LoadMaster Load Balancer

Windows 10 Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing with Kemp LoadMaster Load Balancer

Windows 10 Always On VPN Load Balancing with Kemp LoadMaster in Azure

Windows 10 Always On VPN Load Balancing Deployment Guide for Kemp Load Balancers

Always On VPN Load Balancing with Kemp in Azure

Always On VPN Load Balancing with Kemp in AzureIn a recent post I discussed options for load balancing Windows Server Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) in Microsoft Azure for Always On VPN. There are many choices available to the administrator, however the best alternative is to use a dedicated Application Delivery Controller (ADC), or load balancer. The Kemp LoadMaster load balancer is an excellent choice here, as it is easy to configure and deploy. It is also very cost effective and offers flexible licensing plans, including a metered licensing option.

Deploy LoadMaster in Azure

To provision a Kemp LoadMaster load balancer in Microsoft Azure, open the Azure management console and perform the following steps.

1. Click Create Resource.
2. Enter LoadMaster in the search field.
3. Click on LoadMaster Load Balancer ADC Content Switch.

Always On VPN Load Balancing with Kemp in Azure

4. Choose an appropriate license model from the Select a software plan drop-down list.
5. Click Create.

Prepare Azure Instance

Follow the steps below to provision the Azure VM hosting the Kemp LoadMaster load balancer.

1. Choose an Azure subscription to and resource group to deploy the resources to.
2. Provide instance details such as virtual machine name, region, availability options, and image size.
3. Select an authentication type and upload the SSH private key or provide a username and password.
4. Click Next:Disks >.

Always On VPN Load Balancing with Kemp in Azure

5. Select an OS disk type.
6. Click Next: Networking >.

Always On VPN Load Balancing with Kemp in Azure

7. Select a virtual network and subnet for the load balancer.
8. Create or assign a public IP address.
9. Click Review + create.

Always On VPN Load Balancing with Kemp in Azure

LoadMaster Configuration

Once the virtual machine has been provisioned, open a web browser and navigate to the VM’s internal IP address on port 8443 to accept the licensing terms.

Always On VPN Load Balancing with Kemp in Azure

Next, log in with your Kemp ID and password to finish licensing the appliance.

Always On VPN Load Balancing with Kemp in Azure

Finally, log in to the appliance using the username ‘bal’ and the password provided when the virtual machine was configured.

Always On VPN Load Balancing with Kemp in Azure

Azure Network Security Group

A Network Security Group (NSG) is automatically configured and associated with the LoadMaster’s network interface when the appliance is created. Additional inbound security rules must be added to allow VPN client connectivity.

In the Azure management console open the properties for the LoadMaster NSG and follow the steps below to configure security rules to allow inbound VPN protocols.

SSTP

1. Click Inbound security rules.
2. Click Add.
3. Choose Any from the Source drop-down list.
4. Enter * in the Source port ranges field.
5. Select Any from the Destination drop-down list.
6. Enter 443 in the Destination port ranges field.
7. Select the TCP protocol.
8. Select the Allow action.
9. Enter a value in the Priority field.
10. Enter a name for the service in the Name field.
11. Click Add.

Always On VPN Load Balancing with Kemp in Azure

IKEv2

1. Click Inbound security rules.
2. Click Add.
3. Choose Any from the Source drop-down list.
4. Enter * in the Source port ranges field.
5. Select Any from the Destination drop-down list.
6. Enter 500 in the Destination port ranges field.
7. Select the UDP protocol.
8. Select the Allow action.
9. Enter a value in the Priority field.
10. Enter a name for the service in the Name field.
11. Click Add.
12. Repeat the steps below for UDP port 4500.

Always On VPN Load Balancing with Kemp in Azure

Load Balancing SSTP and IKEv2

Refer to the following posts for detailed, prescriptive guidance for configuring the Kemp LoadMaster load balancer for Always On VPN load balancing.

Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing with Kemp LoadMaster

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with the Kemp LoadMaster

Always On VPN Load Balancing Deployment Guide for the Kemp LoadMaster

Summary

Although Windows Server RRAS is not a formally supported workload in Azure, it is still a popular and effective solution for Always On VPN deployments. The Kemp LoadMaster load balancer can be deployed quickly and easily to provide redundancy and increase scalability for larger deployments.

Additional Information

Windows 10 Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing with Kemp LoadMaster Load Balancers

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with Kemp LoadMaster Load Balancers

Windows 10 Always On VPN Load Balancing Deployment Guide for Kemp LoadMaster Load Balancers

Deploying the Kemp LoadMaster Load Balancer in Microsoft Azure

Always On VPN Load Balancing for RRAS in Azure

Always On VPN Load Balancing for RRAS in AzurePreviously I wrote about Always On VPN options for Microsoft Azure deployments. In that post I indicated that running Windows Server with the Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) role for VPN was an option to be considered, even though it is not a formally supported workload. Despite the lack of support by Microsoft, deploying RRAS in Azure works well and is quite popular. In fact, I recently published some configuration guidance for RRAS in Azure.

Load Balancing Options for RRAS

Multiple RRAS servers can be deployed in Azure to provide failover/redundancy or to increase capacity. While Windows Network Load Balancing (NLB) can be used on-premises for RRAS load balancing, NLB is not supported and doesn’t work in Azure. With that, there are several options for load balancing RRAS in Azure. They include DNS round robin, Azure Traffic Manager, the native Azure load balancer, Azure Application Gateway, or a dedicated load balancing virtual appliance.

DNS Round Robin

The easiest way to provide load balancing for RRAS in Azure is to use round robin DNS. However, using this method has some serious limitations. Simple DNS round robin can lead to connection attempts to a server that is offline. In addition, this method doesn’t accurately balance the load and often results in uneven distribution of client connections.

Azure Traffic Manager

Using Azure Traffic Manager is another alternative for load balancing RRAS in Azure. In this scenario each VPN server will have its own public IP address and FQDN for which Azure Traffic Manager will intelligently distribute traffic. Details on configuring Azure Traffic Manager for Always On VPN can be found here.

Azure Load Balancer

The native Azure load balancer can be configured to provide load balancing for RRAS in Azure. However, it has some serious limitations. Consider the following.

  • Supports Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) only.
  • Basic health check functionality (port probe only).
  • Limited visibility.
  • Does not work with IKEv2.
  • Does not support TLS offload for SSTP.

More information about the Azure Load Balancer can be found here.

Azure Application Gateway

The Azure Application Gateway can be used for load balancing RRAS SSTP VPN connections where advanced capabilities such as enhanced health checks and TLS offload are required. More information about the Azure Application Gateway can be found here.

Load Balancing Appliance

Using a dedicated Application Delivery Controller (ADC), or load balancer is a very effective way to eliminate single points of failure for Always On VPN deployments hosted in Azure. ADCs provide many advanced features and capabilities to ensure full support for all RRAS VPN protocols. In addition, ADCs offer much better visibility and granular control over VPN connections. There are many solutions available as virtual appliances in the Azure marketplace that can be deployed to provide RRAS load balancing in Azure.

Summary

Deploying Windows Server RRAS in Azure for Always On VPN can be a cost-effective solution for many organizations. Although not a formally supported workload, I’ve deployed it numerous times and it works quite well. Consider using a dedicated ADC to increase scalability or provide failover and redundancy for RRAS in Azure whenever possible.

Additional Information

Windows 10 Always On VPN Options for Azure Deployments

Windows 10 Always On VPN and RRAS in Microsoft Azure

Windows 10 Always On VPN with Microsoft Azure Gateway

Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing with Kemp LoadMaster

Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing with Kemp LoadMaster The Windows Server Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) includes support for the Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP), which is a Microsoft proprietary VPN protocol that uses SSL/TLS for security and privacy of VPN connections. The advantages of using SSTP for Always On VPN is that it is firewall friendly and ensures consistent remove connectivity even behind highly restrictive firewalls.

Load Balancing SSTP

In a recent post, I described some of the use cases and benefits of SSTP load balancing as well as the offloading of TLS for SSTP VPN connections. Using a load balancer for SSTP VPN connections increases scalability, and offloading TLS for SSTP reduces resource utilization and improves performance for VPN connections. There are positive security benefits too.

Note: A comprehensive reference with detailed, prescriptive guidance for configuring the Kemp LoadMaster for Always On VPN can be found in the Always On VPN Load Balancing Deployment Guide for Kemp Load Balancers. Download this free guide now!

Configuration

Enabling load balancing on the Kemp LoadMaster platform is fundamentally similar to load balancing HTTPS web servers. However, there are a few subtle but important differences.

Health Check

Using a standard TCP port check on the LoadMaster will not accurately reflect the health of the SSTP service running on the RRAS server. In addition, using a simple TCP port check could yield unexpected results. To ensure accurate service status monitoring, it is recommended that HTTP or HTTPS health checks be configured instead.

Real Server Check Method

Open the Kemp LoadMaster management console and follow the steps below to enable HTTP/HTTPS health checks for SSTP.

1. Expand Virtual Services in the navigation pane.
2. Click View/Modify Services.
3. Click Modify on the SSTP VPN virtual service.
4. Expand Real Servers.
5. Select HTTPS Protocol from the Real Server Check Method drop-down list. Alternatively, if TLS offload is enabled select HTTP Protocol.
6. In the URL field enter /sra_{BA195980-CD49-458b-9E23-C84EE0ADCD75}/ and click Set URL.
7. In the Status Codes field enter 401 and click Set Status Codes.
8. Check the box next to Use HTTP/1.1.
9. Select Head from the HTTP Method drop-down list.

Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing with Kemp LoadMaster

TLS Offload

It is generally recommended that TLS offload not be enabled for SSTP VPN. However, if TLS offload is desired, it is configured in much the same way as a common HTTPS web server. Specific guidance for enabling TLS offload on the Kemp LoadMaster load balancer can be found in the Always On VPN Load Balancing Deployment Guide for Kemp Load Balancers. Details for configuring RRAS and SSTP to support TLS offload can be found here.

Certificates

When enabling TLS offload for SSTP VPN connections it is recommended that the public SSL certificate be installed on the RRAS server, even though TLS processing will be handled on the LoadMaster and HTTP will be used between the LoadMaster and the RRAS server. If installing the public SSL certificate on the RRAS server is not an option, additional configuration will be required. Specifically, TLS offload for SSTP must be configured using the Enable-SSTPOffload PowerShell script, which can be found here.

Once the script has been downloaded, open an elevated PowerShell command window and enter the following command.

Enable-SSTPOffload -CertificateHash [SHA256 Certificate Hash of Public SSL Certificate] -Restart

Example:

Enable-SSTPOffload -CertificateHash “C3AB8FF13720E8AD9047DD39466B3C8974E592C2FA383D4A3960714CAEF0C4F2” -Restart

Re-Encryption

When offloading TLS for SSTP VPN connections, all traffic between the LoadMaster and the RRAS server will be sent in the clear using HTTP. In some instances, TLS offload is required only for traffic inspection, not performance gain. In this scenario the LoadMaster will be configured to terminate and then re-encrypt connections to the RRAS server. When terminating TLS on the LoadMaster and re-encrypting connections to the RRAS server is required, the same certificate must be used on both the LoadMaster and the RRAS server. Using different certificates on the RRAS server and the load balancer is not supported.

Additional Information

Windows 10 Always On VPN Load Balancing Deployment Guide for Kemp Load Balancers

Windows 10 Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing and SSL Offload

Windows 10 Always On VPN SSL Certificate Requirements for SSTP

Windows 10 Always On VPN ECDSA SSL Certificate Request for SSTP

Windows 10 Always On VPN SSTP Connects then Disconnects

Windows 10 Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing with F5 BIG-IP

Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing with F5 BIG-IP

Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing with F5 BIG-IP The Windows Server Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) includes support for the Secure Sockets Tunneling Protocol (SSTP), which is a Microsoft proprietary VPN protocol that uses SSL/TLS for security and privacy of VPN connections. The advantage of using SSTP for Always On VPN is that it is firewall friendly and ensures consistent remote connectivity even behind highly restrictive firewalls.

Load Balancing SSTP

In a recent post, I described some of the use cases and benefits of SSTP load balancing as well as the offloading of TLS for SSTP VPN connections. Using a load balancer for SSTP VPN connections increases scalability, and offloading TLS for SSTP reduces resource utilization and improves performance for VPN connections. There are positive security benefits too.

Configuration

Enabling load balancing for SSTP on the F5 BIG-IP platform is fundamentally similar to load balancing HTTPS web servers. However, there are a few subtle but important differences.

Default Monitor

The default HTTP and HTTPS monitors on the F5 will not accurately reflect the health of the SSTP service running on the RRAS server. In addition, using a simple TCP port monitor could yield unexpected results. To ensure accurate service status monitoring, a new custom monitor must be created to validate the health of the SSTP service.

Custom SSTP Monitor

Open the F5 BIG-IP management console and follow the steps below to create and assign a new custom monitor for SSTP.

Create Monitor

1. In the navigation tree highlight Local Traffic.
2. Click Monitors.
3. Click Create.

Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing with F5 BIG-IP

4. Enter a descriptive name in the Name field and from the Type drop-down list choose HTTP if TLS offload is enabled, or HTTPS if it is not.
5. In the Send String field enter HEAD /sra_{BA195980-CD49-458b-9E23-C84EE0ADCD75}/ HTTP/1.1\r\nHost:r\nConnection: Close\r\n\r\n.
6. In the Receive String field enter HTTP/1.1 401.
7. Click Finished.

Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing with F5 BIG-IP

Assign Monitor

1. Below Local Traffic click Pools.
2. Click on the SSTP VPN server pool.
3. In the Health Monitors section select the SSTP VPN health monitor from the Available list and make it Active.
4. Click Update.

Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing with F5 BIG-IP

CLI Configuration

If you prefer to configure the SSTP VPN monitor using the F5’s Command Line Interface (CLI), you can download the monitor configuration from my GitHub here.

TLS Offload

It is generally recommended that TLS offload not be enabled for SSTP VPN. However, if TLS offload is desired, it is configured in much the same way as a common HTTPS web server. Specific guidance for enabling TLS offload on the F5 BIG-IP can be found here. Details for configuring RRAS and SSTP to support TLS offload can be found here.

Certificates

When enabling TLS offload for SSTP VPN connections it is recommended that the public SSL certificate be installed on the RRAS server, even though TLS processing will be handled on the F5 and HTTP will be used between the F5 and the RRAS server. If installing the public SSL certificate on the RRAS server is not an option, additional configuration will be required. Specifically, TLS offload for SSTP must be configured using the Enable-SSTPOffload PowerShell script, which can be found here.

Once the script has been downloaded, open an elevated PowerShell command window and enter the following command.

Enable-SSTPOffload -CertificateHash [SHA256 Certificate Hash of Public SSL Certificate] -Restart

Example:

Enable-SSTPOffload -CertificateHash “C3AB8FF13720E8AD9047DD39466B3C8974E592C2FA383D4A3960714CAEF0C4F2” -Restart

Re-Encryption

When offloading TLS for SSTP VPN connections, all traffic between the F5 and the RRAS server will be sent in the clear using HTTP. In some instances, TLS offload is required only for traffic inspection, not performance gain. In this scenario the F5 will be configured to terminate and then re-encrypt connections to the RRAS server. When terminating TLS on the F5 and re-encrypting connections to the RRAS server is required, the same certificate must be used on both the F5 and the RRAS server. Using different certificates on the RRAS server and the load balancer is not supported.

Additional Information

Windows 10 Always On VPN SSTP Load Balancing and SSL Offload

Windows 10 Always On VPN SSL Certificate Requirements for SSTP

Windows 10 Always On VPN ECDSA SSL Certificate Request for SSTP

Windows 10 Always On VPN SSTP Connects then Disconnects

Windows 10 Always On VPN Load Balancing Deployment Guide for Kemp Load Balancers

 

Always On VPN IKEv2 Features and Limitations

Always On VPN IKEv2 Features and LimitationsThe Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2) VPN protocol is a popular choice for Windows 10 Always On VPN deployments. IKEv2 is a standards-based IPsec VPN protocol with customizable security parameters that allows administrators to provide the highest level of protection for remote clients. In addition, it provides important interoperability with a variety of VPN devices, including Microsoft Windows Server Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) and non-Microsoft platforms such as Cisco, Checkpoint, Palo Alto, and others.

IKEv2 Limitations

IKEv2 is clearly the protocol of choice in terms of security. It supports modern cryptography and is highly resistant to interception. It’s not without some operational challenges, however. Consider the following.

Firewalls

IKEv2 uses UDP ports 500 and 4500 for communication. Unfortunately, these ports are not always open. Often, they are blocked by network administrators to prevent users from bypassing security controls or attackers from exfiltrating data.

Fragmentation

IKEv2 packets can become quite large at times, especially when using client certificate authentication with the Protected Extensible Authentication Protocol (PEAP). This can result in fragmentation occurring at the network layer. Unfortunately, many firewalls and network devices are configured to block IP fragments by default. This can result in failed connection attempts from some locations but not others.

Load Balancing

Load balancing IKEv2 connections is not entirely straightforward. Without special configuration, load balancers can cause intermittent connectivity issues for Always On VPN connections. Guidance for configuring IKEv2 load balancing on the Kemp LoadMaster and the F5 BIG-IP can be found here:

IKEv2 Fragmentation

IKEv2 fragmentation can be enabled to avoid IP fragmentation and restore reliable connectivity. IKEv2 fragmentation is supported in Windows 10 and Windows Server beginning with v1803. Guidance for enabling IKEv2 fragmentation on Windows Server RRAS can be found here. Support for IKEv2 fragmentation on non-Microsoft firewall/VPN devices is vendor-specific. Consult with your device manufacturer for more information.

IKEv2 Security and RRAS

Be advised that the default security settings for IKEv2 on Windows Server RRAS are very poor. The minimum recommended security settings and guidelines for implementing them can be found here.

IKEv2 or TLS?

IKEv2 is recommend for deployments where the highest level of security and protection is required for remote connections. In these scenarios, the sacrifice of ubiquitous availability in favor of ultimate security might be desired.

SSTP or another TLS-based VPN protocol is recommended if reliable operation and connectivity are desired. SSTP and TLS VPNs can be configured to provide very good security by following the security and implementation guidelines found here.

IKEv2 with TLS Fallback

In theory, preferring IKEv2 and falling back to the Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) or another TLS-based VPN protocol when IKEv2 is unavailable would seem like a logical choice. This would ensure the highest level of protection, while still providing reliable connectivity. Unfortunately, the Windows VPN client doesn’t work this way in practice. Details here.

Additional Information

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with F5 BIG-IP

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with Kemp LoadMaster

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Fragmentation

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 and SSTP Fallback

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Security Configuration

Windows 10 Always On VPN Certificate Requirements for IKEv2

Windows 10 Always On VPN Protocol Recommendations for Windows Server RRAS

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with F5 BIG-IP

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with F5 BIG-IPThe Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2) is the protocol of choice for Always On VPN deployments where the highest level of security is required. Implementing Always On VPN at scale often requires multiple VPN servers to provide sufficient capacity and to provide redundancy. Commonly an Application Delivery Controller (ADC) or load balancer is configured in front of the VPN servers to provide scalability and high availability for Always On VPN.

Load Balancing IKEv2

In a recent post I described some of the unique challenges load balancing IKEv2 poses, and I demonstrated how to configure the Kemp LoadMaster load balancer to properly load balance IKEv2 VPN connections. In this post I’ll outline how to configure IKEv2 VPN load balancing on the F5 BIG-IP load balancer.

Note: This article assumes the administrator is familiar with basic F5 BIG-IP load balancer configuration, such as creating nodes, pools, virtual servers, etc.

Initial Configuration

Follow the steps below to create a virtual server on the F5 BIG-IP to load balance IKEv2 VPN connections.

Pool Configuration

To begin, create two pools on the load balancer. The first pool will be configured to use UDP port 500, and the second pool will be configured to use UDP port 4500. Each pool is configured with the VPN servers defined as the individual nodes.

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with F5 BIG-IP

Virtual Server Configuration

Next create two virtual servers, the first configured to use UDP port 500 and the second to use UDP port 4500.

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with F5 BIG-IP

To ensure reliable connectivity for IKEv2 connections it is necessary for the VPN server to see the client’s original source IP address. When configuring virtual server, select None from the Source Address Translation drop-down list.

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing and NAT

Persistence Profile

To ensure that both IKEv2 UDP 500 and 4500 packets are delivered to the same node, follow the steps below to create and assign a Persistence Profile.

1. Expand Local Traffic > Profiles and click Persistence.
2. Click Create.
3. Enter a descriptive name for the profile in the Name field.
4. Select Source Address Affinity from the Persistence Type drop-down list.
5. Click the Custom check box.
6. Select the option to Match Across Services.
7. Click Finished.

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with F5 BIG-IP

Assign the new persistence profile to both UDP 500 and 4500 virtual servers. Navigate to the Resources tab on each virtual server and select the new persistence profile from the Default Persistence Profile drop-down list. Be sure to do this for both virtual servers.

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with F5 BIG-IP

Additional Resources

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing and NAT

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with Kemp LoadMaster Load Balancer 

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Security Configuration

Windows 10 Always On VPN and IKEv2 Fragmentation

Windows 10 Always On VPN Certificate Requirements for IKEv2

Video: Windows 10 Always On VPN Load Balancing with the Kemp LoadMaster Load Balancer

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