|By Lori MacVittie||
|April 17, 2009 08:15 PM EDT||
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.
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.
Related blogs and articles:
- Application Acceleration: To compress or not compress
- Open Source SSL Accelerator
- IT @ AnandTech: Intel Woodcrest, AMD's Operatorn and
Sun's UltraSparc T1: Server CPU Shoot-out
Technorati Tags: MacVittie,F5,SSL,SSL acceleration,open source,
Categories: Development and General , Performance , Security
As businesses adopt functionalities in cloud computing, it’s imperative that IT operations consistently ensure cloud systems work correctly – all of the time, and to their best capabilities. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Bernd Harzog, CEO and founder of OpsDataStore, will present an industry answer to the common question, “Are you running IT operations as efficiently and as cost effectively as you need to?” He will expound on the industry issues he frequently came up against as an analyst, and...
Mar. 28, 2017 06:00 AM EDT Reads: 4,276
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem" ...
Mar. 28, 2017 06:00 AM EDT Reads: 8,880
Why do your mobile transformations need to happen today? Mobile is the strategy that enterprise transformation centers on to drive customer engagement. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Roger Woods, Director, Mobile Product & Strategy – Adobe Marketing Cloud, covered key IoT and mobile trends that are forcing mobile transformation, key components of a solid mobile strategy and explored how brands are effectively driving mobile change throughout the enterprise.
Mar. 28, 2017 06:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,942
Keeping pace with advancements in software delivery processes and tooling is taxing even for the most proficient organizations. Point tools, platforms, open source and the increasing adoption of private and public cloud services requires strong engineering rigor - all in the face of developer demands to use the tools of choice. As Agile has settled in as a mainstream practice, now DevOps has emerged as the next wave to improve software delivery speed and output. To make DevOps work, organization...
Mar. 28, 2017 02:30 AM EDT Reads: 2,020
My team embarked on building a data lake for our sales and marketing data to better understand customer journeys. This required building a hybrid data pipeline to connect our cloud CRM with the new Hadoop Data Lake. One challenge is that IT was not in a position to provide support until we proved value and marketing did not have the experience, so we embarked on the journey ourselves within the product marketing team for our line of business within Progress. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Sum...
Mar. 28, 2017 02:15 AM EDT Reads: 3,091
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev, a client-oriented software development company, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex softw...
Mar. 28, 2017 02:00 AM EDT Reads: 3,891
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm.
Mar. 28, 2017 01:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,343
What sort of WebRTC based applications can we expect to see over the next year and beyond? One way to predict development trends is to see what sorts of applications startups are building. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Arin Sime, founder of WebRTC.ventures, will discuss the current and likely future trends in WebRTC application development based on real requests for custom applications from real customers, as well as other public sources of information,
Mar. 28, 2017 12:45 AM EDT Reads: 982
"My role is working with customers, helping them go through this digital transformation. I spend a lot of time talking to banks, big industries, manufacturers working through how they are integrating and transforming their IT platforms and moving them forward," explained William Morrish, General Manager Product Sales at Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Mar. 27, 2017 09:45 PM EDT Reads: 3,664
Apache Hadoop is emerging as a distributed platform for handling large and fast incoming streams of data. Predictive maintenance, supply chain optimization, and Internet-of-Things analysis are examples where Hadoop provides the scalable storage, processing, and analytics platform to gain meaningful insights from granular data that is typically only valuable from a large-scale, aggregate view. One architecture useful for capturing and analyzing streaming data is the Lambda Architecture, represent...
Mar. 27, 2017 08:15 PM EDT Reads: 6,334
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ocean9will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Ocean9 provides cloud services for Backup, Disaster Recovery (DRaaS) and instant Innovation, and redefines enterprise infrastructure with its cloud native subscription offerings for mission critical SAP workloads.
Mar. 27, 2017 07:45 PM EDT Reads: 2,216
With billions of sensors deployed worldwide, the amount of machine-generated data will soon exceed what our networks can handle. But consumers and businesses will expect seamless experiences and real-time responsiveness. What does this mean for IoT devices and the infrastructure that supports them? More of the data will need to be handled at - or closer to - the devices themselves.
Mar. 27, 2017 07:30 PM EDT Reads: 4,614
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
Mar. 27, 2017 02:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,990
SYS-CON Events announced today that Linux Academy, the foremost online Linux and cloud training platform and community, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Linux Academy was founded on the belief that providing high-quality, in-depth training should be available at an affordable price. Industry leaders in quality training, provided services, and student certification passes, its goal is to c...
Mar. 27, 2017 02:30 PM EDT Reads: 4,040
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named “Platinum Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business – from apparel to energy – is being rewritten by software. From ...
Mar. 27, 2017 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,098
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Lachapelle, CEO of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), will provide an overview of various initiatives to certifiy the security of connected devices and future trends in ensuring public trust of IoT. Eric Lachapelle is the Chief Executive Officer of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), an international certification body. His role is to help companies and individuals to achieve professional, accredited and worldw...
Mar. 27, 2017 01:15 PM EDT Reads: 763
SYS-CON Events announced today that Loom Systems will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Founded in 2015, Loom Systems delivers an advanced AI solution to predict and prevent problems in the digital business. Loom stands alone in the industry as an AI analysis platform requiring no prior math knowledge from operators, leveraging the existing staff to succeed in the digital era. With offices in S...
Mar. 27, 2017 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,512
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 20th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017 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 add...
Mar. 27, 2017 12:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,432
SYS-CON Events announced today that T-Mobile will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. As America's Un-carrier, T-Mobile US, Inc., is redefining the way consumers and businesses buy wireless services through leading product and service innovation. The Company's advanced nationwide 4G LTE network delivers outstanding wireless experiences to 67.4 million customers who are unwilling to compromise on ...
Mar. 27, 2017 11:15 AM EDT Reads: 2,407
SYS-CON Events announced today that HTBase will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. HTBase (Gartner 2016 Cool Vendor) delivers a Composable IT infrastructure solution architected for agility and increased efficiency. It turns compute, storage, and fabric into fluid pools of resources that are easily composed and re-composed to meet each application’s needs. With HTBase, companies can quickly prov...
Mar. 27, 2017 10:30 AM EDT Reads: 3,036