Session failover (session pick-up)

Session failover (session pick-up)

Session failover means that a cluster maintains active network TCP and IPsec VPN sessions (including NAT sessions) after a device or link failover. You can also configure session failover to maintain UDP and ICMP sessions. Session failover does not failover multicast, or SSL VPN sessions.

FortiGate HA does not support session failover by default. To enable session failover go to System > HA and select Enable Session Pick-up.

From the CLI enter:

config system ha

set session-pickup enable end

To support session failover, when Enable Session Pick-up is selected, the FGCP maintains an HA session table for most TCP communication sessions being processed by the cluster and synchronizes this session table with all cluster units. If a cluster unit fails, the HA session table information is available to the remaining cluster units and these cluster units use this session table to resume most of the TCP sessions that were being processed by the failed cluster unit without interruption.

 

If session pickup is enabled, you can use the following command to also enable UDP and ICMP session failover:

config system ha

set session-pickup-connectionless enable end

You must enable session pickup for session failover protection. If you do not require session failover protection, leaving session pickup disabled may reduce CPU usage and reduce HA heartbeat network bandwidth usage.

 

If session pickup is not selected

If Enable Session Pick-up is not selected, the FGCP does not maintain an HA session table and most TCP sessions do not resume after a failover. After a device or link failover all sessions are briefly interrupted and must be re-established at the application level after the cluster renegotiates.

Many protocols can successfully restart sessions with little, if any, loss of data. For example, after a failover, users browsing the web can just refresh their browsers to resume browsing. Since most HTTP sessions are very short, in most cases they will not even notice an interruption unless they are downloading large files. Users downloading a large file may have to restart their download after a failover.

Other protocols may experience data loss and some protocols may require sessions to be manually restarted. For example, a user downloading files with FTP may have to either restart downloads or restart their FTP client.

Some sessions may resume after a failover whether or not enable session pick-up is selected:

  • UDP, ICMP, multicast and broadcast packet session failover on page 1543
  • FortiOS Carrier GTP session failover on page 1543
  • Active-active HA subordinate units sessions can resume after a failover on page 1544

 

Improving session synchronization performance

Two HA configuration options are available to reduce the performance impact of enabling session pickup. They include reducing the number of sessions that are synchronized by adding a session pickup delay and using more FortiGate interfaces for session synchronization.

 

Reducing the number of sessions that are synchronized

Enable the session-pickup-delay CLI option to reduce the number of sessions that are synchronized by synchronizing sessions only if they remain active for more than 30 seconds. Enabling this option could greatly reduce the number of sessions that are synchronized if a cluster typically processes very many short duration sessions, which is typical of most HTTP traffic for example.

Use the following command to enable a 30 second session pickup delay:

config system ha

set session-pickup-delay enable end

Enabling session pickup delay means that if a failover occurs more sessions may not be resumed after a failover. In most cases short duration sessions can be restarted with only a minor traffic interruption. However, if you notice too many sessions not resuming after a failover you might want to disable this setting.

 

Using multiple FortiGate interfaces for session synchronization

Using the session-sync-dev option you can select one or more FortiGate interfaces to use for synchronizing sessions as required for session pickup. Normally session synchronization occurs over the HA heartbeat link. Using this HA option means only the selected interfaces are used for session synchronization and not the HA heartbeat link. If you select more than one interface, session synchronization traffic is load balanced among the selected interfaces.

Moving session synchronization from the HA heartbeat interface reduces the bandwidth required for HA heartbeat traffic and may improve the efficiency and performance of the cluster, especially if the cluster is synchronizing a large number of sessions. Load balancing session synchronization among multiple interfaces can further improve performance and efficiency if the cluster is synchronizing a large number of sessions.

Use the following command to perform cluster session synchronization using the port10 and port12 interfaces.

config system ha

set session-sync-dev port10 port12 end

Session synchronization packets use Ethertype 0x8892. The interfaces to use for session synchronization must be connected together either directly using the appropriate cable (possible if there are only two units in the cluster) or using switches. If one of the interfaces becomes disconnected the cluster uses the remaining interfaces for session synchronization. If all of the session synchronization interfaces become disconnected, session synchronization reverts back to using the HA heartbeat link. All session synchronization traffic is between the primary unit and each subordinate unit.

Since large amounts of session synchronization traffic can increase network congestion, it is recommended that you keep this traffic off of your network by using dedicated connections for it.

 

Synchronizing GTP sessions to support GTP tunnel failover

FortiOS Carrier GPRS Tunneling Protocol (GTP) sessions are not normally synchronized by the FGCP, even if you enable session pickup. You can provide GTP session synchronization by using the session-sync-dev command to select one or two session sync interfaces. You must also connect these interfaces together either with direct connections or using switches.

You can also use the command, diagnose firewall gtp hash-stat to display GTP hash stat separately.

 

Session failover not supported for all sessions

Most of the features applied to sessions by FortiGate security profile functionality require the FortiGate unit to maintain very large amounts of internal state information for each session. The FGCP does not synchronize internal state information for the following security profile features, so the following types of sessions will not resume after a failover:

  • Virus scanning of HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, IMAP, IMAPS, POP3, POP3S, SMTP, SMTPS, IM, CIFS, and NNTP sessions,
  • Web filtering and FortiGuard Web Filtering of HTTP and HTTPS sessions,
  • Spam filtering of IMAP, IMAPS, POP3, POP3S, SMTP, and SMTPS sessions,
  • DLP scanning of IMAP, IMAPS, POP3, POP3S, SMTP, SMTPS, SIP, SIMPLE, and SCCP sessions,
  • DLP archiving of HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, IMAP, IMAPS, POP3, SMTP, SMTPS, IM, NNTP, AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo! IM, SIP, SIMPLE, and SCCP signal control sessions, Active-active clusters can resume some of these sessions after a failover. See Active-active HA subordinate units sessions can resume after a failover on page 1544 for details.

 

If you use these features to protect most of the sessions that your cluster processes, enabling session failover may not actually provide significant session failover protection.

TCP sessions that are not being processed by these security profile features resume after a failover even if these sessions are accepted by security policies with security profile options configured. Only TCP sessions that are actually being processed by these security profile features do not resume after a failover.

For example:

  • TCP sessions that are not virus scanned, web filtered, spam filtered, content archived, or are not SIP, SIMPLE, or SCCP signal traffic resume after a failover, even if they are accepted by a security policy with security profile options enabled. For example, SNMP TCP sessions resume after a failover because FortiOS does not apply any security profile options to SNMP sessions.
  • TCP sessions for a protocol for which security profile features have not been enabled resume after a failover even if they are accepted by a security policy with security profile features enabled. For example, if you have not enabled any antivirus or content archiving settings for FTP, FTP sessions resume after a failover.

The following security profile features do not affect TCP session failover:

  • IPS does not affect session failover. Sessions being scanned by IPS resume after a failover. After a failover; however, IPS can only perform packet-based inspection of resumed sessions; reducing the number of vulnerabilities that IPS can detect. This limitation only applies to in-progress resumed sessions.
  • Application control does not affect session failover. Sessions that are being monitored by application control resume after a failover.
  • Logging enabled form security profile features does not affect session failover. security profile logging writes log messages for security profile events; such as when a virus is found by antivirus scanning, when Web Filtering blocks a URL, and so on. Logging does not enable features that would prevent sessions from being failed over, logging just reports on the activities of enabled features.

If more than one security profile feature is applied to a TCP session, that session will not resume after a failover as long as one of the security profile features prevents session failover. For example:

  • Sessions being scanned by IPS and also being virus scanned do not resume after a failover.
  • Sessions that are being monitored by application control and that are being DLP archived or virus scanned will not resume after a failover.

 

IPv6, NAT64, and NAT66 session failover

The FGCP supports IPv6, NAT64, and NAT66 session failover, if session pickup is enabled, these sessions are synchronized between cluster members and after an HA failover the sessions will resume with only minimal interruption.

 

SIP session failover

The FGCP supports SIP session failover (also called stateful failover) for active-passive HA. To support SIP session failover, create a standard HA configuration and select Enable Session Pick-up option.

SIP session failover replicates SIP states to all cluster units. If an HA failover occurs, all in-progress SIP calls (setup complete) and their RTP flows are maintained and the calls will continue after the failover with minimal or no interruption.

SIP calls being set up at the time of a failover may lose signaling messages. In most cases the SIP clients and servers should use message retransmission to complete the call setup after the failover has completed. As a result, SIP users may experience a delay if their calls are being set up when an HA a failover occurs. But in most cases the call setup should be able to continue after the failover.

 

Explicit web proxy, WCCP, and WAN optimization session failover

Similar to security profile sessions, the explicit web proxy, WCCP and WAN optimization features all require the FortiGate unit to maintain very large amounts of internal state information for each session. This information is not maintained and these sessions do not resume after a failover.

 

SSL offloading and HTTP multiplexing session failover

SSL offloading and HTTP multiplexing are both enabled from firewall virtual IPs and firewall load balancing. Similar to the features applied by security profile, SSL offloading and HTTP multiplexing requires the FortiGate unit to maintain very large amounts of internal state information for each session. Sessions accepted by security policies containing virtual IPs or virtual servers with SSL offloading or HTTP multiplexing enabled do not resume after a failover.

 

IPsec VPN session failover

Session failover is supported for all IPsec VPN tunnels. To support IPsec VPN tunnel failover, when an IPsec VPN tunnel starts, the FGCP distributes the SA and related IPsec VPN tunnel data to all cluster units.

 

SSL VPN session failover and SSL VPN authentication failover

Session failover is not supported for SSL VPN tunnels. However, authentication failover is supported for the communication between the SSL VPN client and the FortiGate unit. This means that after a failover, SSL VPN clients can re-establish the SSL VPN session between the SSL VPN client and the FortiGate unit without having to authenticate again.

However, all sessions inside the SSL VPN tunnel that were running before the failover are stopped and have to be restarted. For example, file transfers that were in progress would have to be restarted. As well, any communication sessions with resources behind the FortiGate unit that are started by an SSL VPN session have to be restarted.

To support SSL VPN cookie failover, when an SSL VPN session starts, the FGCP distributes the cookie created to identify the SSL VPN session to all cluster units.

 

PPTP and L2TP VPN sessions

PPTP and L2TP VPNs are supported in HA mode. For a cluster you can configure PPTP and L2TP settings and you can also add security policies to allow PPTP and L2TP pass through. However, the FGCP does not provide session failover for PPTP or L2TP. After a failover, all active PPTP and L2TP sessions are lost and must be restarted.

 

UDP, ICMP, multicast and broadcast packet session failover

By default, even with session pickup enabled, the FGCP does not maintain a session table for UDP, ICMP, multicast, or broadcast packets. So the cluster does not specifically support failover of these packets.

Some UDP traffic can continue to flow through the cluster after a failover. This can happen if, after the failover, a UDP packet that is part of an already established communication stream matches a security policy. Then a new session will be created and traffic will flow. So after a short interruption, UDP sessions can appear to have failed over. However, this may not be reliable for the following reasons:

  • UDP packets in the direction of the security policy must be received before reply packets can be accepted. For example, if a port1 -> port2 policy accepts UDP packets, UDP packets received at port2 destined for the network connected to port1 will not be accepted until the policy accepts UDP packets at port1 that are destined for the network connected to port2. So, if a user connects from an internal network to the Internet and starts receiving UDP packets from the Internet (for example streaming media), after a failover the user will not receive any more UDP packets until the user re-connects to the Internet site.
  • UDP sessions accepted by NAT policies will not resume after a failover because NAT will usually give the new session a different source port. So only traffic for UDP protocols that can handle the source port changing during a session will continue to flow.

 

You can however, enable session pickup for UDP and ICMP packets by enabling session pickup for TCP sessions and then enabling session pickup for connectionless sessions:

config system ha

set session-pickup enable

set session-pickup-connectionless enable end

This configuration causes the cluster units to synchronize UDP and ICMP session tables and if a failover occurs

UDP and ICMP sessions are maintained.

 

FortiOS Carrier GTP session failover

FortiOS Carrier HA supports GTP session failover. The primary unit synchronizes the GTP tunnel state to all cluster units after the GTP tunnel setup is completed. After the tunnel setup is completed, GTP sessions use UDP and HA does not synchronize UDP sessions to all cluster units. However, similar to other UDP sessions, after a failover, since the new primary unit will have the GTP tunnel state information, GTP UDP sessions using the same tunnel can continue to flow with some limitations.

The limitation on packets continuing to flow is that there has to be a security policy to accept the packets. For example, if the FortiOS Carrier unit has an internal to external security policy, GTP UDP sessions using an established tunnel that are received by the internal interface are accepted by the security policy and can continue to flow. However, GTP UDP packets for an established tunnel that are received at the external interface cannot flow until packets from the same tunnel are received at the internal interface.

If you have bi-directional policies that accept GTP UDP sessions then traffic in either direction that uses an established tunnel can continue to flow after a failover without interruption.

 

Activeactive HA subordinate units sessions can resume after a failover

In an active-active cluster, subordinate units process sessions. After a failover, all cluster units that are still operating may be able to continue processing the sessions that they were processing before the failover. These sessions are maintained because after the failover the new primary unit uses the HA session table to continue to send session packets to the cluster units that were processing the sessions before the failover. Cluster units maintain their own information about the sessions that they are processing and this information is not affected by the failover. In this way, the cluster units that are still operating can continue processing their own sessions without loss of data.

 

The cluster keeps processing as many sessions as it can. But some sessions can be lost. Depending on what caused the failover, sessions can be lost in the following ways:

  • A cluster unit fails (the primary unit or a subordinate unit). All sessions that were being processed by that cluster unit are lost.
  • A link failure occurs. All sessions that were being processed through the network interface that failed are lost. This mechanism for continuing sessions is not the same as session failover because:
  • Only the sessions that can be maintained are maintained.
  • The sessions are maintained on the same cluster units and not re-distributed.
  • Sessions that cannot be maintained are lost.

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