Welcome!

Cloud Expo Authors: Bernard Golden, Roger Strukhoff, Elizabeth White, Carmen Gonzalez, Sandi Mappic

Related Topics: Linux, Web 2.0

Linux: Blog Feed Post

Dear Slashdot: You Get What You Pay For

Open Source SSL Accelerator solution not as cost effective or well-performing as you think

Open Source SSL Accelerator solution not as cost effective or well-performing as you think

o3 Magazine has a write up on building an SSL accelerator out of Open Source components. It's a compelling piece, to be sure, that was picked up by Slashdot and discussed extensively.

If o3 had stuck to its original goal - building an SSL accelerator on the cheap - it might have had better luck making its arguments. But it wanted to compare an Open Source solution to a commercial solution. That makes sense, the author was trying to show value in Open Source and that you don't need to shell out big bucks to achieve similar functionality. The problem is that there are very few - if any - commercial SSL accelerators on the market today. SSL acceleration has long been subsumed by load balancers/application delivery controllers and therefore a direct comparison between o3's Open Source solution and any commercially available solution would have been irrelevant; comparing apples to chicken is a pretty useless thing to do.

To the author's credit, he recognized this and therefore offered a complete Open Source solution that would more fairly be compared to existing commercial load balancers/application delivery controllers, specifically he chose BIG-IP 6900. The hardware platform was chosen, I assume, based on the SSL TPS rates to ensure a more fair comparison. Here's the author's description of the "full" Open Source solution:

The Open Source SSL Accelerator requires a dedicated server running Linux. Which Linux distribution does not matter, Ubuntu Server works just as well as CentOS or Fedora Core. A multi-core or multi-processor system is highly recommended, with an emphasis on processing power and to a lesser degree RAM. This would be a good opportunity to leverage new hardware options such as Solid State Drives for added performance. The only software requirement is Nginx (Engine-X) which is an Open Source web server project. Nginx is designed to handle a large number of transactions per second, and has very well designed I/O subsystem code, which is what gives it a serious advantage over other options such as Lighttpd and Apache. The solution can be extended by combining a balancer such as HAproxy and a cache solution such as Varnish. These could be placed on the Accelerator in the path between the Nginx and the back-end web servers.

o3 specs out this solution as running around $5000, which is less than 10% of the listed cost of a BIG-IP 6900. On the surface, this seems to be quite the deal. Why would you ever purchase a BIG-IP, or any other commercial load balancer/application delivery controller based on the features/price comparison offered?

Turns out there are quite a few reasons; reasons that were completely ignored by the author.

CHAINING PROXIES vs INTEGRATED SOLUTIONS
While all of the moving parts cited by the author (Nginx, Apache, HAproxy, Varnish) are all individually fine solutions, he suggests combining them to assemble a more complete application delivery solution that provides caching, Layer 7 inspection and transformation, and other advanced functionality. Indeed, combining these solutions does provide a deployment that is closer to the features offered by a commercial application delivery controller such as BIG-IP.

Unfortunately, none of these Open Source components are integrated. This necessitates an architecture based on chaining of proxies, regardless of their deployment on the same hardware (as suggested by the author) or on separate devices; in path, of course, but physically separated.

Chaining proxies incurs latency at every point in the process. If you chain proxies, you are going to incur latency in the form of:

  • TCP connection setup and teardown processing
  • Inspection of application data (layer 7 inspection is rarely computationally inexpensive)
  • Execution of functionality (caching, security, acceleration, etc...)
  • Transfer of data between proxies (when deployed on the same device this is minimized)
  • Multiple log files

This network sprawl degrades response time by adding latency at every hop and actually defeats the purposes for which they were deployed. The gains in performance achieved by offloading SSL to Nginx is almost immediately lost when multiple proxies are chained in order to provide the functionality required to match a commercial application delivery controller.

A chained proxy solution adds complexity, obscures visibility (impacts ability to troubleshoot) and makes audit paths more difficult to follow. Aggregated logging never mentioned, but this is a serious consideration, especially where regulatory compliance enters the picture. The issue of multiple log files is one that has long plagued IT departments everywhere, as they often require manual aggregation and correlation - which incurs time and costs. A third party solution is often required to support troubleshooting and transactional monitoring, which incurs additional costs in the form of acquisition, maintenance, and management not considered by the author.

Soft costs, too, are ignored by the author. The configuration of the multiple Open Source intermediaries required to match a commercial solution often require manual editing of configuration files; and must be configured individually. Commercial solutions - and specifically BIG-IP - reduce the time and effort required to configure such solutions by offering myriad options for management - standards-based API, scripting, command line, GUI, application templates and wizards, central management system, and integration as part of other standard data center management systems.

COMPRESSION SHOULD NEVER BE A BINARY CONFIGURATION
The author correctly identifies that offloading compression duties from back-end servers to an intermediary can result in improved performance of the application and greater efficiencies of the servers. NGinx supports industry-standard gzip compression.

The problem with this - and there is a problem - is that it is not always beneficial to apply compression. Years of extensive experience and testing prove that the use of compression can actually degrade performance. Factors such as size of application payload, type of content, and the speed of the network on which the application data will be transferred should all be considered when making the decision to compress or not compress.

This intelligence, this context-awareness, is not offered by this Open Source solution. o3's solution is on or off, with nothing in between. In situations where images are being delivered over a LAN, for example, this will not provide any significant performance benefit and in fact will likely degrade performance. Certainly NGinx could be configured to ignore images, but this does not solve the problem of the inherent uselessness of trying to compress content traversing a LAN and/or under a specific length.

SECURITY
Another overlooked item is security. Not just application security, but full TCP/IP stack security. The Open Source solution could easily add mod_security to the list to achieve parity with the application security features available in commercial solutions. That does not address the underlying stack security. The author suggests running on any standard Linux platform. To be sure, anyone building such a solution for deployment in a production environment will harden the base OS; potentially using SELinux to further lock down the system. No need to argue about this; it's assumed good administrators will harden such solutions.

But what will not be done - and can't be done - is securing the system against network and application attacks. Simple DoS, ARP poisoning, SYN floods, cookie tampering. The potential attacks against a system designed to sit in front of web and application servers are far more lengthy than this, but even these commonly seen attacks will not be addressed by o3's Open Source solution. By comparison, these types of attacks are part and parcel of BIG-IP; no additional modules or functionality necessary.

Furthermore, the performance numbers provided by o3 for their solution seem to indicate that testing was accomplished using 512-bit key certificates.  A single Opteron core can only process around 1500 1024-bit RSA operations per second. This means an 8-core CPU could only perform approximately 12,000 1024-bit RSA ops per second - assuming that's all they were doing. 512-bit keys run around five times faster than 1024-bit. The author states: "The system had no problems handling over 26,590 TPS" which seems to indicate it was not using the industry standard 1024-bit key based on the core capabilities of the processors to process RSA operations. In fact, 512-bit key certificates are no longer supported by most CAs due to their weak key strength.

Needless to say, if the testing used to determine the SSL TPS for BIG-IP were to use 512-bit keys, you'd see a marked increase in the number of SSL TPS in the data sheet.

YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
Look, o3 has a put together a fairly cool and cheap solution that accomplishes many of the same tasks as a commercial application delivery controller. That's not the point. The point is trying to compare a robust, integrated application delivery solution with a cobbled together set of components designed to mimic similar functionality is silly.

Not only that, the logic that claims it is more cost efficient is flawed.

Is the o3 solution cheaper? Sure- as long as we look only at acquisition. If we look at cost to application performance, to maintain the solution, to troubleshoot, and to manage it then no, no it isn't. You're trading in immediate CAPEX cost savings for long-term OPEX cost outlays.

And as is always the case, in every market, you get what you pay for. A $5000 car isn't going to last as long or perform as well as the $50,000 car, and it isn't going to come with warranties and support, either. It will do what you want, at least for a while, but you're on your own when you take the cheap route.

That said, you are welcome to do so. It is your data center, after all. Just be aware of what you're sacrificing and the potential issues with choosing the road less expensive.

Follow me on Twitter View Lori's profile on SlideShare friendfeedicon_facebook AddThis Feed Button Bookmark and Share

Related blogs and articles:

Technorati Tags: ,,,,,
,,,,,,,,
,,,,,
Categories:  ,  ,  

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Lori MacVittie

Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire product suite. Her role includes authorship of technical materials and participation in a number of community-based forums and industry standards organizations, among other efforts. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as network and systems development and administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she conducted product research and evaluation focused on integration with application and network architectures, and authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. Her most recent area of focus included SOA-related products and architectures. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

@CloudExpo Stories
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Ashar Baig, Research ...
In her General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Anne Plese, Senior Consultant, Cloud Product Marketing, at Verizon Enterprise, will focus on finding the right mix of renting vs. buying Oracle capacity to scale to meet business demands, and offer validated Oracle database TCO models for Oracle development and testing environments. Anne Plese is a marketing and technology enthusiast/realist with over 19+ years in high tech. At Verizon Enterprise, she focuses on driving growth for the Verizon Cloud pla...
StackIQ offers a comprehensive software suite that automates the deployment, provisioning, and management of Big Infrastructure. With StackIQ’s software, you can spin up fully configured big data clusters, quickly and consistently — from bare-metal up to the applications layer — and manage them efficiently. Our software’s modular architecture allows customers to integrate nearly any application with the StackIQ software stack.
As Platform as a Service (PaaS) matures as a category, developers should have the ability to use the programming language of their choice to build applications and have access to a wide array of services. Bluemix is IBM's open cloud development platform that enables users to easily build cloud-based, creative mobile and web applications without having to spend large amounts of time and resources on configuring infrastructure and multiple software licenses. In this track, you will learn about the...
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, will discuss how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money! Speaker Bio: ...
Compute virtualization has been transformational, yet security policy implementation and enforcement has lagged behind in agility and automation. There are a number of key considerations when implementing policy in private and hybrid clouds. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Holland Barry, VP of Technology at Catbird, will discuss the impact of this new paradigm and what organizations can do today to safely move to software-defined network and compute architectures, including: How normal ope...
Samsung VP Jacopo Lenzi, who headed the company's recent SmartThings acquisition under the auspices of Samsung's Open Innovaction Center (OIC), answered a few questions we had about the deal. This interview was in conjunction with our interview with SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson. IoT Journal: SmartThings was developed in an open, standards-agnostic platform, and will now be part of Samsung's Open Innovation Center. Can you elaborate on your commitment to keep the platform open? Jacopo Lenzi: S...
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic • Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff hap...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SOA Software, an API management leader, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SOA Software is a leading provider of API Management and SOA Governance products that equip business to deliver APIs and SOA together to drive their company to meet its business strategy quickly and effectively. SOA Software’s technology helps businesses to accel...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Utimaco will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Utimaco is a leading manufacturer of hardware based security solutions that provide the root of trust to keep cryptographic keys safe, secure critical digital infrastructures and protect high value data assets. Only Utimaco delivers a general-purpose hardware security module (HSM) as a customiz...
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
SYS-CON Events announced today that ElasticBox is holding a Hackathon at DevOps Summit, November 6 from 12 pm -4 pm at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. You can enter as an individual or team of up to 10 developers. A New Star Is Born Every Month! All completed ElasticBoxes will then be sent to a judging panel - 12 winners will be featured on the ElasticBox website in 2015. All entrants will receive five full enterprise licenses for one year + ElasticBox headphones + Elasti...
Once the decision has been made to move part or all of a workload to the cloud, a methodology for selecting that workload needs to be established. How do you move to the cloud? What does the discovery, assessment and planning look like? What workloads make sense? Which cloud model makes sense for each workload? What are the considerations for how to select the right cloud model? And how does that fit in with the overall IT tranformation? In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, John Hatem, head of V...
Cloud services are the newest tool in the arsenal of IT products in the market today. These cloud services integrate process and tools. In order to use these products effectively, organizations must have a good understanding of themselves and their business requirements. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Brian Lewis, Principal Architect at Verizon Cloud, will outline key areas of organizational focus, and how to formalize an actionable plan when migrating applications and internal services to...
SAP is delivering break-through innovation combined with fantastic user experience powered by the market-leading in-memory technology, SAP HANA. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Thorsten Leiduck, VP ISVs & Digital Commerce, SAP, will discuss how SAP and partners provide cloud and hybrid cloud solutions as well as real-time Big Data offerings that help companies of all sizes and industries run better. SAP launched an application challenge to award the most innovative SAP HANA and SAP ...
Ixia develops amazing products so its customers can connect the world. Ixia helps its customers provide an always-on user experience through fast, secure delivery of dynamic connected technologies and services. Through actionable insights that accelerate and secure application and service delivery, Ixia's customers benefit from faster time to market, optimized application performance and higher-quality deployments.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Calm.io has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of DevOps Summit Silicon Valley, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Calm.io is a cloud orchestration platform for AWS, vCenter, OpenStack, or bare metal, that runs your CL tools puppet, Chef, shell, git, Jenkins, nagios, and will soon support New Relic and Docker. It can run hosted, or on premise and provides VM automation / expiry, self-service portals,...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Aria Systems, the recurring revenue expert, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Aria Systems helps leading businesses connect their customers with the products and services they love. Industry leaders like Pitney Bowes, Experian, AAA NCNU, VMware, HootSuite and many others choose Aria to power their recurring revenue bu...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to require a new way of thinking and of developing software for speed, security and innovation. This requires IT leaders to balance business as usual while anticipating for the next market and technology trends. Cloud provides the right IT asset portfolio to help today’s IT leaders manage the old and prepare for the new. Today the cloud conversation is evolving from private and public to hybrid. This session will provide use cases and insights to reinforce t...
Blue Box has closed a $10 million Series B financing. The round was led by a strategic investor and included participation from prior investors including Voyager Capital and Founders Collective, as well as the Blue Box executive team. This round follows a $4.3 million Series A closed in December of 2012 and led by Voyager Capital. In May of this year, the company announced general availability of its private cloud as a service offering, Blue Box Cloud. Since that release, the company has dem...