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 (formerly NetScaler) 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 ADC (formerly 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

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