Welcome!

@CloudExpo Authors: Elizabeth White, Sanjay Uppal, Pat Romanski, Anders Wallgren, 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
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...
SYS-CON Events announced today that AppNeta, the leader in performance insight for business-critical web applications, will exhibit and present at SYS-CON's @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo New York, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. AppNeta is the only application performance monitoring (APM) company to provide solutions for all applications – applications you develop internally, business-critical SaaS applications you use and the networks that deli...
It's easy to assume that your app will run on a fast and reliable network. The reality for your app's users, though, is often a slow, unreliable network with spotty coverage. What happens when the network doesn't work, or when the device is in airplane mode? You get unhappy, frustrated users. An offline-first app is an app that works, without error, when there is no network connection.
Father business cycles and digital consumers are forcing enterprises to respond faster to customer needs and competitive demands. Successful integration of DevOps and Agile development will be key for business success in today’s digital economy. In his session at DevOps Summit, Pradeep Prabhu, Co-Founder & CEO of Cloudmunch, covered the critical practices that enterprises should consider to seamlessly integrate Agile and DevOps processes, barriers to implementing this in the enterprise, and pr...
The cloud promises new levels of agility and cost-savings for Big Data, data warehousing and analytics. But it’s challenging to understand all the options – from IaaS and PaaS to newer services like HaaS (Hadoop as a Service) and BDaaS (Big Data as a Service). In her session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Hannah Smalltree, a director at Cazena, will provide an educational overview of emerging “as-a-service” options for Big Data in the cloud. This is critical background for IT and data profes...
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
As someone who has been dedicated to automation and Application Release Automation (ARA) technology for almost six years now, one of the most common questions I get asked regards Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). Specifically, people want to know whether release automation is still needed when a PaaS is in place, and why. Isn't that what a PaaS provides? A solution to the deployment and runtime challenges of an application? Why would anyone using a PaaS then need an automation engine with workflow ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
SYS-CON Events announced today that VAI, a leading ERP software provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. VAI (Vormittag Associates, Inc.) is a leading independent mid-market ERP software developer renowned for its flexible solutions and ability to automate critical business functions for the distribution, manufacturing, specialty retail and service sectors. An IBM Premier Business Part...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
In most cases, it is convenient to have some human interaction with a web (micro-)service, no matter how small it is. A traditional approach would be to create an HTTP interface, where user requests will be dispatched and HTML/CSS pages must be served. This approach is indeed very traditional for a web site, but not really convenient for a web service, which is not intended to be good looking, 24x7 up and running and UX-optimized. Instead, talking to a web service in a chat-bot mode would be muc...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Catchpoint Systems, Inc., a provider of innovative web and infrastructure monitoring solutions, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's DevOps Summit at 18th Cloud Expo New York, which will take place June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Catchpoint is a leading Digital Performance Analytics company that provides unparalleled insight into customer-critical services to help consistently deliver an amazing customer experience. Designed...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 ad...
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 ho...
With an estimated 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, several industries will begin to expand their capabilities for retaining end point data at the edge to better utilize the range of data types and sheer volume of M2M data generated by the Internet of Things. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and President of Infobright, will discuss the infrastructures businesses will need to implement to handle this explosion of data by providing specific use cases for filte...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies adopt disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advanced analytics, and DevO...
Advances in technology and ubiquitous connectivity have made the utilization of a dispersed workforce more common. Whether that remote team is located across the street or country, management styles/ approaches will have to be adjusted to accommodate this new dynamic. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Sagi Brody, Chief Technology Officer at Webair Internet Development Inc., focused on the challenges of managing remote teams, providing real-world examples that demonstrate what works and what do...
As enterprises work to take advantage of Big Data technologies, they frequently become distracted by product-level decisions. In most new Big Data builds this approach is completely counter-productive: it presupposes tools that may not be a fit for development teams, forces IT to take on the burden of evaluating and maintaining unfamiliar technology, and represents a major up-front expense. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Warfield, CTO and Co-Founder of Coho Data, will dis...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Fusion, a leading provider of cloud services, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Fusion, a leading provider of integrated cloud solutions to small, medium and large businesses, is the industry's single source for the cloud. Fusion's advanced, proprietary cloud service platform enables the integration of leading edge solutions in the cloud, including clou...
Your business relies on your applications and your employees to stay in business. Whether you develop apps or manage business critical apps that help fuel your business, what happens when users experience sluggish performance? You and all technical teams across the organization – application, network, operations, among others, as well as, those outside the organization, like ISPs and third-party providers – are called in to solve the problem.