Welcome!

@CloudExpo Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Roger Strukhoff, JP Morgenthal, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Linux Containers, Agile Computing

Linux Containers: 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
Internet of @ThingsExpo has announced today that Chris Matthieu has been named tech chair of Internet of @ThingsExpo 2017 New York The 7th Internet of @ThingsExpo will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. Chris Matthieu is the co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, a revolutionary real-time IoT platform recently acquired by Citrix. Octoblu connects things, systems, people and clouds to a global mesh network allowing users to automate and control design flo...
You are moving to the Cloud. The question is not if, it’s when. Now that your competitors are in the cloud and lapping you, your “when” better hurry up and get here. But saying and doing are two different things. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 18th Cloud Expo, Robert Reeves, CTO of Datical, explained how DevOps can be your onramp to the cloud. By adopting simple, platform independent DevOps strategies, you can accelerate your move to the cloud. Spoiler Alert: He also makes sure you don’t...
President Obama recently announced the launch of a new national awareness campaign to "encourage more Americans to move beyond passwords – adding an extra layer of security like a fingerprint or codes sent to your cellphone." The shift from single passwords to multi-factor authentication couldn’t be timelier or more strategic. This session will focus on why passwords alone are no longer effective, and why the time to act is now. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Chris Webber, security strateg...
"We are an all-flash array storage provider but our focus has been on VM-aware storage specifically for virtualized applications," stated Dhiraj Sehgal of Tintri in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The WebRTC Summit New York, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Topics include all aspects of improving IT delivery by eliminating waste through automated business models leveraging cloud technologies. WebRTC Summit is co-located with 20th International Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo. WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web co...
Redis is not only the fastest database, but it has become the most popular among the new wave of applications running in containers. Redis speeds up just about every data interaction between your users or operational systems. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Dave Nielsen, Developer Relations at Redis Labs, shared the functions and data structures used to solve everyday use cases that are driving Redis' popularity.
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their backend AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT - especially in the connected home and office. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Kocher, founder and managing director of Grey Heron, explained how Amazon is extending its reach to become a major force in IoT by building on its dominant cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strat...
Enterprise IT has been in the era of Hybrid Cloud for some time now. But it seems most conversations about Hybrid are focused on integrating AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google ECM into existing on-premises systems. Where is all the Private Cloud? What do technology providers need to do to make their offerings more compelling? How should enterprise IT executives and buyers define their focus, needs, and roadmap, and communicate that clearly to the providers?
"We are a custom software development, engineering firm. We specialize in cloud applications from helping customers that have on-premise applications migrating to the cloud, to helping customers design brand new apps in the cloud. And we specialize in mobile apps," explained Peter Di Stefano, Vice President of Marketing at Impiger Technologies, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Complete Internet of Things (IoT) embedded device security is not just about the device but involves the entire product’s identity, data and control integrity, and services traversing the cloud. A device can no longer be looked at as an island; it is a part of a system. In fact, given the cross-domain interactions enabled by IoT it could be a part of many systems. Also, depending on where the device is deployed, for example, in the office building versus a factory floor or oil field, security ha...
In addition to all the benefits, IoT is also bringing new kind of customer experience challenges - cars that unlock themselves, thermostats turning houses into saunas and baby video monitors broadcasting over the internet. This list can only increase because while IoT services should be intuitive and simple to use, the delivery ecosystem is a myriad of potential problems as IoT explodes complexity. So finding a performance issue is like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.
The idea of comparing data in motion (at the sensor level) to data at rest (in a Big Data server warehouse) with predictive analytics in the cloud is very appealing to the industrial IoT sector. The problem Big Data vendors have, however, is access to that data in motion at the sensor location. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Scott Allen, CMO of FreeWave, discussed how as IoT is increasingly adopted by industrial markets, there is going to be an increased demand for sensor data from the outermos...
"Qosmos has launched L7Viewer, a network traffic analysis tool, so it analyzes all the traffic between the virtual machine and the data center and the virtual machine and the external world," stated Sebastien Synold, Product Line Manager at Qosmos, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Between 2005 and 2020, data volumes will grow by a factor of 300 – enough data to stack CDs from the earth to the moon 162 times. This has come to be known as the ‘big data’ phenomenon. Unfortunately, traditional approaches to handling, storing and analyzing data aren’t adequate at this scale: they’re too costly, slow and physically cumbersome to keep up. Fortunately, in response a new breed of technology has emerged that is cheaper, faster and more scalable. Yet, in meeting these new needs they...
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, director/senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, will discuss the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
When it comes to cloud computing, the ability to turn massive amounts of compute cores on and off on demand sounds attractive to IT staff, who need to manage peaks and valleys in user activity. With cloud bursting, the majority of the data can stay on premises while tapping into compute from public cloud providers, reducing risk and minimizing need to move large files. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Scott Jeschonek, Director of Product Management at Avere Systems, discussed the IT and busin...
More and more companies are looking to microservices as an architectural pattern for breaking apart applications into more manageable pieces so that agile teams can deliver new features quicker and more effectively. What this pattern has done more than anything to date is spark organizational transformations, setting the foundation for future application development. In practice, however, there are a number of considerations to make that go beyond simply “build, ship, and run,” which changes how...
SYS-CON Events has announced today that Roger Strukhoff has been named conference chair of Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo 2017 New York. The 20th Cloud Expo and 7th @ThingsExpo will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. "The Internet of Things brings trillions of dollars of opportunity to developers and enterprise IT, no matter how you measure it," stated Roger Strukhoff. "More importantly, it leverages the power of devices and the Internet to enable us all to im...
"We are the public cloud providers. We are currently providing 50% of the resources they need for doing e-commerce business in China and we are hosting about 60% of mobile gaming in China," explained Yi Zheng, CPO and VP of Engineering at CDS Global Cloud, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...