DirectAccess IPv6 Transition Protocols Explained

Introduction

From a client perspective, DirectAccess is an IPv6-only solution. The DirectAccess client communicates with the DirectAccess server exclusively using IPv6. However, IPv6 is not widely deployed, so the most common scenario will find your DirectAccess clients and servers on the IPv4 Internet.

To facilitate DirectAccess client to server communication with IPv6 when the client is on the IPv4 Internet, IPv6 transition protocols are employed. These protocols effectively tunnel IPv6 packets in IPv4 packets. DirectAccess makes use of three IPv6 transition protocols for client to server connections – 6to4, Teredo, and IP-HTTPS.

DirectAccess Transition Protocols

6to4 – The 6to4 IPv6 transition protocol works by encapsulating IPv6 packets in IPv4 packets using IP protocol 41. 6to4 does not work when the client or the server is behind a NAT, so this IPv6 transition protocol is only used when the client and server are assigned public IPv4 addresses. DirectAccess clients with public IPv4 addresses aren’t common though, and there are some challenges with the stability of 6to4. From experience I can tell you that 6to4 often fails when clients use a cellular Wi-Fi hotspot, for example. For this reason it is generally recommended that you proactively disable this transition protocol to avoid potential issues in the future.

TeredoTeredo is an IPv6 transition protocol that is designed to work when a DirectAccess client (but not the DirectAccess server) is behind a NAT. It works by encapsulating IPv6 packets in IPv4 packets using UDP on port 3544. Teredo will be used any time the DirectAccess client has a private IPv4 address, or when the client has a public IPv4 address and the 6to4 protocol is unavailable (e.g. 6to4 is disabled, or outbound access to IP protocol 41 is restricted by firewall policy). To support Teredo, the DirectAccess server must be configured with two consecutive public IPv4 addresses. In addition, Teredo uses ICMP for NAT detection (e.g. cone, restricted, symmetric), so ICMPv4 echo requests must be allowed inbound to any host with which the DirectAccess client communicates.

IP-HTTPSIP-HTTPS is an IPv6 transition protocol that works by encapsulating IPv6 packets in IPv4 packets using HTTP with SSL/TLS. It is the IPv6 transition protocol of last resort, and will be used any time that 6to4 or Teredo aren’t available. The advantage to using IP-HTTPS is ubiquitous firewall access. Any network with access to the public Internet should, at a minimum, allow outbound HTTP and HTTPS. In some deployment scenarios, IP-HTTPS can be disadvantageous. For example, when Windows 7 DirectAccess clients leverage this IPv6 transition protocol, IPsec-encrypted traffic is encrypted again using SSL/TLS. This double encryption results in high processing overhead and often translates to poor performance and limited scalability. Windows 8 and later clients do not suffer this limitation, as they support null encryption which eliminates the negative effects imposed by double encryption. For the best results using IP-HTTPS, use an application delivery controller to offload SSL, or deploy Windows 8 or later clients. In any case, do not collocate the client-based VPN role on the DirectAccess server, as doing so will remove support for null encryption completely and force even Windows 8 and later clients to perform double encryption for IP-HTTPS traffic.

DirectAccess Server Configuration

To support the 6to4 and Teredo IPv6 transition protocols, the DirectAccess server must be configured with two network interfaces; one internal and one external. The DirectAccess server must have public IPv4 addresses assigned to its external network interface. For Teredo in particular, the DirectAccess server requires two consecutive public IPv4 addresses. Beginning with Windows Server 2012, DirectAccess provides support for DMZ/perimeter network deployment behind a NAT device using RFC1918 private IPv4 addresses with either one or two network interfaces. In this deployment scenario, the DirectAccess server only supports the use of the IP-HTTPS IPv6 transition protocol. 6to4 and Teredo are not available when the DirectAccess server is located behind a NAT device and these IPv6 transition protocols should be disabled on all DirectAccess clients.

Windows Server 2012 Remote Access Management Service Memory Leak

When Windows Server 2012 is configured for DirectAccess or client-based remote access Virtual Private Networking (VPN), a memory leak may occur in the Remote Access Management service when remote clients access the Internet using the DirectAccess or VPN connection. Microsoft knowledgebase article KB2895930 describes the issue in detail and includes a link to the hotfix to resolve this issue.

Microsoft Windows Server 2012/R2 DirectAccess

Troubleshooting Name Resolution Issues on DirectAccess Clients

When troubleshooting name resolution issues on a Windows client, NSlookup is an essential tool. However, it is important to understand that using NSlookup on a DirectAccess client might not always work as you expect. Although using NSlookup on a DirectAccess client will work normally when the client is on the corporate network, it will not provide the correct results to queries for internal hostnames when the DirectAccess client is outside of the corporate network without taking additional steps. This is because when a DirectAccess client is outside the corporate network, the Name Resolution Policy Table (NRPT) is enabled. The NRPT provides policy-based name resolution routing for DirectAccess clients, sending name resolution requests for certain namespaces to specific DNS servers. You can view the NRPT on a Windows 8.x DirectAccess client by issuing the following PowerShell command:

Get-DnsClientNrptPolicy

Troubleshooting Name Resolution Issues on DirectAccess Clients

You can view the NRPT on a Windows 7 DirectAccess client by issuing the following netsh command:

netsh namespace show policy

Troubleshooting Name Resolution Issues on DirectAccess Clients

Here you’ll notice that the namespace .lab.richardhicks.net is configured to use the DNS64 service running on the DirectAccess server at 2002:62bd:d898:3333::1. Notice also that the host nls.lab.richardhicks.net is not configured to use a DNS server. This effectively exempts this host from the NRPT, forcing name resolution requests for this Fully-Qualified Domain Name (FQDN) to be delivered to the DNS servers configured on the network adapter.

A Working Example

With the NRPT enabled, which occurs whenever the DirectAccess client is outside of the corporate network, a name resolution request for app1.lab.richardhicks.net would be sent to the DNS64 service on the DirectAccess server. A name resolution request for technet.microsoft.com would be sent to the DNS servers assigned to the network adapter because the NRPT contains no entry for this namespace. And even though the host nls.lab.richardhicks.net is a part of the internal namespace, a name resolution request for this host would also be sent to the DNS servers assigned to the network adapter because it has been specifically exempted from the NRPT.

NSlookup

The NSlookup utility is unaware of the NRPT. Whenever you use NSlookup it will, by default, automatically send queries directly to the DNS servers configured on the network adapter, regardless of the NRPT. If you wish to use NSlookup to test name resolution for external hostnames, use it as you normally would. However, if you wish to use NSlookup to resolve internal hostnames over the DirectAccess connection, you will need to tell NSlookup to use the DNS64 service running on the DirectAccess server. You can do this by running NSlookup interactively and using the server command to point it to the IPv6 address of the DNS64 service, which you can find in the NRPT.

Troubleshooting Name Resolution Issues on DirectAccess Clients

This also applies to the PowerShell cmdlet Resolve-DNSname. Here you’ll use the -Server switch to specify the DNS64 server’s IPv6 address.

Resolve-DNSName –Server <DNS64_IPv6_Address> app1.lab.richardhicks.net

Troubleshooting Name Resolution Issues on DirectAccess Clients

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