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

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 with Azure Gateway

Always On VPN with Azure GatewayRecently I wrote about VPN server deployment options for Windows 10 Always On VPN in Azure. In that post I indicated the native Azure VPN gateway could be used to support Always On VPN connections using Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2) and Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP). In this post I’ll outline the requirements and configuration steps for implementing this solution.

Requirements

To support Always On VPN, point-to-site VPN connections must be enabled on the Azure VPN gateway. Not all Azure VPN gateways are alike, and point-to-site connections are not supported in all scenarios. For Always On VPN, the Azure VPN gateway must meet the following requirements.

VPN SKU

The Azure VPN gateway SKU must be VpnGw1, VpnGw2, VpnGw3, VpnGw1AZ, VpnGw2AZ, or VpnGw3AZ. The Basic SKU is not supported.

VPN Type

The VPN type must be route-based. Policy-based VPN gateways are not supported for point-to-site VPN connections.

Limitations

Using the Azure VPN gateway for Always On VPN may not be ideal in all scenarios. The following limitations should be considered thoroughly before choosing the Azure VPN gateway for Always On VPN.

Device Tunnel

RADIUS/EAP authentication for user tunnel connections is not supported if the Azure VPN gateway is configured to support device tunnel with machine certificate authentication.

Maximum Connections

A maximum of 250, 500, and 1000 concurrent IKEv2 connections are supported when using the VpnGw1/AZ, VpnGw2/AZ, and VpnGw3/AZ SKUs, respectively (x2 for active/active gateway deployments). In addition, a maximum of 128 concurrent SSTP connections are supported for all VPN gateway SKUs (x2 for active/active gateway deployments).

Always On VPN with Azure Gateway

Reference: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/vpn-gateway/vpn-gateway-about-vpngateways#gwsku

RADIUS Requirements

To support Always On VPN connections, the Azure VPN gateway must be configured to authenticate to a RADIUS server. The RADIUS server must be reachable from the VPN gateway subnet. The RADIUS server can be hosted in Azure or on-premises. Before proceeding, ensure that any network routes, firewall rules, and site-to-site VPN tunnel configuration is in place to allow this communication.

RADIUS Configuration

Guidance for configuring Windows Server NPS for Always On VPN can be found here. The only difference when configuring NPS for use with Azure VPN gateway is the RADIUS client configuration.

Open the NPS management console (nps.msc) and follow the steps below to configure Windows Server NPS to support Always On VPN client connections from the Azure VPN gateway.

1. Expand RADIUS Clients and Servers.
2. Right-click RADIUS Clients and choose New.
3. Enter a descriptive name in the Friendly name field.
4. Enter the Azure VPN gateway subnet using CIDR notation in the Address (IP or DNS) field. The gateway subnet can be found by viewing the properties of the Azure VPN gateway in the Azure portal.
5. Enter the shared secret to be used for RADIUS communication in the Shared secret field.

Always On VPN with Azure Gateway

Azure VPN Gateway Configuration

To begin, provision a Virtual Network Gateway in Azure that meets the requirements outlined above. Guidance for implementing an Azure VPN gateway can be found here. Once complete, follow the steps below to enable support for Always On VPN client connections.

Enable Point-to-Site

Perform the following steps to enable point-to-site VPN connectivity.

1. In the navigation pane of the Azure VPN gateway settings click Point-to-site configuration.
2. Click Configure Now and specify an IPv4 address pool to be assigned to VPN clients. This IP address pool must be unique in the organization and must not overlap with any IP address ranges defined in the Azure virtual network.
3. From the Tunnel type drop-down list select IKEv2 and SSTP (SSL).
4. In the RADIUS authentication field enter the IPv4 address of the RADIUS server. At the time of this writing only a single IPv4 address is supported. If RADIUS redundancy is required, consider creating a load balanced NPS cluster.
5. In the Server secret field enter the RADIUS shared secret.
6. Click Save to save the configuration.

Always On VPN with Azure Gateway

VPN Client Configuration

Perform the following steps to configure a Windows 10 VPN client to connect to the Azure VPN gateway.

Download VPN Configuration

1. Click Point-to-site configuration.
2. Click Download VPN client.
3. Select EAPMSCHAv2 (yes, that’s correct even if EAP-TLS will be used!)
4. Click Download.
5. Open the downloaded zip file and extract the VpnSettings.XML file from the Generic folder.
6. Copy the FQDN in the VpnServer element in VpnSettings.XML. This is the FQDN that will be used in the template VPN connection and later in ProfileXML.

Always On VPN with Azure Gateway

Create a Test VPN Connection

On a Windows 10 device create a test VPN profile using the VPN server address copied previously. Configure EAP settings to match those configured on the NPS server and test connectivity.

Create an Always On VPN Connection

Once the VPN has been validated using the test profile created previously, the VPN server and EAP configuration from the test profile can be used to create the Always On VPN profile for publishing using Intune, SCCM, or PowerShell.

IKEv2 Security Configuration

The default IKEv2 security parameters used by the Azure VPN gateway are better than Windows Server, but the administrator will notice that a weak DH key (1024 bit) is used in phase 1 negotiation.

Always On VPN with Azure Gateway

Use the following PowerShell commands to update the default IKEv2 security parameters to recommended baseline defaults, including 2048-bit keys (DH group 14) and AES-128 for improved performance.

Connect-AzAccount
Select-AzSubscription -SubscriptionName [Azure Subscription Name]

$Gateway = [Gateway Name]
$ResourceGroup = [Resource Group Name]

$IPsecPolicy = New-AzVpnClientIpsecParameter -IpsecEncryption AES128 -IpsecIntegrity SHA256 -SALifeTime 28800 -SADataSize 102400000 -IkeEncryption AES128 -IkeIntegrity SHA256 -DhGroup DHGroup14 -PfsGroup PFS14

Set-AzVpnClientIpsecParameter -VirtualNetworkGatewayName $Gateway -ResourceGroupName $ResourceGroup -VpnClientIPsecParameter $IPsecPolicy

Note: Be sure to update the cryptography settings on the test VPN connection and in ProfileXML for Always On VPN connections to match the new VPN gateway settings. Failing to do so will result in an IPsec policy mismatch error.

Additional Information

Microsoft Azure VPN Gateway Overview

About Microsoft Azure Point-to-Site VPN

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Security Configuration

 

 

 

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