Preventing a primary unit change after a failed link is restored

Preventing a primary unit change after a failed link is restored

Some organizations will not want the cluster to change primary units when the link is restored. Instead they would rather wait to restore the primary unit during a maintenance window. This functionality is not directly supported, but you can experiment with changing some primary unit selection settings. For example, in most cases it should work to enable override on all cluster units and make sure their priorities are the same. This should mean that the primary unit should not change after a failed link is restored.

Then, when you want to restore the original primary unit during a maintenance window you can just set its Device Priority higher. After it becomes the primary unit you can reset all device priorities to the same value. Alternatively during a maintenance window you could reboot the current primary unit and any subordinate units except the one that you want to become the primary unit.

If the override CLI keyword is enabled on one or more cluster units and the device priority of a cluster unit is set higher than the others, when the link failure is repaired and the cluster unit with the highest device priority will always become the primary unit.


Testing link failover

You can test link failure by disconnecting the network cable from a monitored interface of a cluster unit. If you disconnect a cable from a primary unit monitored interface the cluster should renegotiate and select one of the other cluster units as the primary unit. You can also verify that traffic received by the disconnected interface continues to be processed by the cluster after the failover.

If you disconnect a cable from a subordinate unit interface the cluster will not renegotiate.


Updating MAC forwarding tables when a link failover occurs

When a FortiGate HA cluster is operating and a monitored interface fails on the primary unit, the primary unit usually becomes a subordinate unit and another cluster unit becomes the primary unit. After a link failover, the new primary unit sends gratuitous ARP packets to refresh the MAC forwarding tables (also called arp tables) of the switches connected to the cluster. This is normal link failover operation.

Even when gratuitous ARP packets are sent, some switches may not be able to detect that the primary unit has become a subordinate unit and will keep sending packets to the former primary unit. This can occur if the switch does not detect the failure and does not clear its MAC forwarding table.

You have another option available to make sure the switch detects the failover and clears its MAC forwarding tables. You can use the following command to cause a cluster unit with a monitored interface link failure to briefly shut down all of its interfaces (except the heartbeat interfaces) after the failover occurs:

config system ha

set link-failed-signal enable end

Usually this means each interface of the former primary unit is shut down for about a second. When this happens the switch should be able to detect this failure and clear its MAC forwarding tables of the MAC addresses of the former primary unit and pickup the MAC addresses of the new primary unit. Each interface will shut down for a second but the entire process usually takes a few seconds. The more interfaces the FortiGate unit has, the longer it will take.

Normally, the new primary unit also sends gratuitous ARP packets that also help the switch update its MAC forwarding tables to connect to the new primary unit. If link-failed-signal is enabled, sending gratuitous ARP packets is optional and can be disabled if you don‘t need it or if its causing problems. See Disabling gratuitous ARP packets after a failover on page 1509.

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About Mike

Michael Pruett, CISSP has a wide range of cyber-security and network engineering expertise. The plethora of vendors that resell hardware but have zero engineering knowledge resulting in the wrong hardware or configuration being deployed is a major pet peeve of Michael's. This site was started in an effort to spread information while providing the option of quality consulting services at a much lower price than Fortinet Professional Services. Owns PacketLlama.Com (Fortinet Hardware Sales) and Office Of The CISO, LLC (Cybersecurity consulting firm).

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