Manual Chapter : Configuring nPath Routing

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Manual Chapter

Configuring nPath Routing

Overview: Layer 2 nPath routing

With the Layer 2 nPath routing configuration, you can route outgoing server traffic around the BIG-IP system directly to an outbound router. This method of traffic management increases outbound throughput because packets do not need to be transmitted to the BIG-IP system for translation and then forwarded to the next hop.
Layer 2 nPath routing
Layer 2 nPath routing
The type of virtual server that processes the incoming traffic must be a transparent, non-translating type of virtual server.
In bypassing the BIG-IP system on the return path, Layer 2 nPath routing departs significantly from a typical load-balancing configuration. In a typical load-balancing configuration, the destination address of the incoming packet is translated from that of the virtual server to that of the server being load balanced to, which then becomes the source address of the returning packet. A default route set to the BIG-IP system then sees to it that packets returning to the originating client return through the BIG-IP system, which translates the source address back to that of the virtual server.
Do not attempt to use nPath routing for Layer 7 traffic. Certain traffic features do not work properly if Layer 7 traffic bypasses the BIG-IP system on the return path.

About Layer 2 nPath routing configuration

The Layer 2 nPath routing configuration differs from the typical BIG-IP load balancing configuration in the following ways:
  • The default route on the content servers must be set to the router's internal address (
    10.1.1.1
    in the illustration) rather than to the BIG-IP system's floating self IP address (
    10.1.1.10
    ). This causes the return packet to bypass the BIG-IP system.
  • If you plan to use an nPath configuration for TCP traffic, you must create a Fast L4 profile with the following custom settings:
    • Enable the
      Loose Close
      setting. When you enable this setting, the TCP protocol flow expires more quickly, after a TCP FIN packet is seen. (A FIN packet indicates the tearing down of a previous connection.)
    • Set the
      TCP Close Timeout
      setting to the same value as the profile idle timeout if you expect half closes. If not, you can set this value to 5 seconds.
  • Because address translation and port translation have been disabled, when the incoming packet arrives at the pool member it is load balanced to the virtual server address (
    176.16.1.1
    in the illustration), not to the address of the server. For the server to respond to that address, that address must be configured on the loopback interface of the server and configured for use with the server software.

Guidelines for UDP timeouts

When you configure nPath for UDP traffic, the BIG-IP system tracks packets sent between the same source and destination address to the same destination port as a connection. This is necessary to ensure the client requests that are part of a session always go to the same server. Therefore, a UDP connection is really a form of persistence, because UDP is a connectionless protocol.
To calculate the timeout for UDP, estimate the maximum amount of time that a server transmits UDP packets before a packet is sent by the client. In some cases, the server might transmit hundreds of packets over several minutes before ending the session or waiting for a client response.

Guidelines for TCP timeouts

When you configure nPath for TCP traffic, the BIG-IP system recognizes only the client side of the connection. For example, in the TCP three-way handshake, the BIG-IP system sees the SYN from the client to the server, and does not see the SYN acknowledgment from the server to the client, but does see the acknowledgment of the acknowledgment from the client to the server. The timeout for the connection should match the combined TCP retransmission timeout (RTO) of the client and the node as closely as possible to ensure that all connections are successful.
The maximum initial RTO observed on most UNIX and Windows systems is approximately 25 seconds. Therefore, a timeout of 51 seconds should adequately cover the worst case. When a TCP session is established, an adaptive timeout is used. In most cases, this results in a faster timeout on the client and node. Only in the event that your clients are on slow, lossy networks would you ever require a higher TCP timeout for established connections.

Creating a Fast L4 profile

You can create a custom Fast L4 profile to manage Layer 4 traffic more efficiently.
  1. On the Main tab, click
    Local Traffic
    Profiles
    Protocol
    Fast L4
    .
    The Fast L4 screen opens.
  2. Click
    Create
    .
    The New Fast L4 profile screen opens.
  3. In the
    Name
    field, type a unique name for the profile.
  4. Select the
    Custom
    check box.
  5. Select the
    Loose Close
    check box only for a one-arm virtual server configuration.
  6. Set the
    TCP Close Timeout
    setting, according to the type of traffic that the virtual server will process.
  7. Click
    Finished
    .
The custom Fast L4 profile appears in the list of Fast L4 profiles.

Creating a server pool for nPath routing

After you create a custom Fast L4 profile, you need to create a server pool.
  1. On the Main tab, click
    Local Traffic
    Pools
    .
    The Pool List screen opens.
  2. Click
    Create
    .
    The New Pool screen opens.
  3. In the
    Name
    field, type a unique name for the pool.
  4. For the
    Health Monitors
    setting, in the
    Available
    list, select a monitor type, and click
    <<
    to move the monitor to the
    Active
    list.
    Hold the Shift or Ctrl key to select more than one monitor at a time.
  5. Using the
    New Members
    setting, add each resource that you want to include in the pool:
    1. (Optional) In the
      Node Name
      field, type a name for the node portion of the pool member.
    2. In the
      Address
      field, type an IP address.
    3. In the
      Service Port
      field, type a port number, or select a service name from the list.
    4. (Optional) In the
      Priority
      field, type a priority number.
    5. Click
      Add
      .
  6. Click
    Finished
    .

Creating a virtual server for Layer 2 nPath routing

After you create a server pool, you need to create a virtual server that references the profile and pool you created.
  1. On the Main tab, click
    Local Traffic
    Virtual Servers
    .
    The Virtual Server List screen opens.
  2. Click
    Create
    .
    The New Virtual Server screen opens.
  3. In the
    Name
    field, type a unique name for the virtual server.
  4. For the
    Destination Address/Mask
    setting, confirm that the
    Host
    button is selected, and type the IP address in CIDR format.
    The supported format is address/prefix, where the prefix length is in bits. For example, an IPv4 address/prefix is
    10.0.0.1
    or
    10.0.0.0/24
    , and an IPv6 address/prefix is
    ffe1::0020/64
    or
    2001:ed8:77b5:2:10:10:100:42/64
    . When you use an IPv4 address without specifying a prefix, the BIG-IP system automatically uses a
    /32
    prefix.
    The IP address you type must be available and not in the loopback network.
  5. From the
    Configuration
    list, select
    Advanced
    .
  6. From the
    Type
    list, select
    Performance (Layer 4)
    .
  7. From the
    Protocol
    list, select one of the following:
    • UDP
    • TCP
    • *All Protocols
  8. From the
    Protocol Profile (Client)
    list, select a predefined or user-defined Fast L4 profile.
  9. For the
    Address Translation
    setting, clear the
    Enabled
    check box.
  10. For the
    Port Translation
    setting, clear the
    Enabled
    check box.
  11. In the Resources area of the screen, from the
    Default Pool
    list, select the relevant pool name.
  12. Click
    Finished
    .

Configuring the virtual address on the server loopback interface

You must place the IP address of the virtual server (
176.16.1.1
in the illustration) on the loopback interface of each server. Most UNIX variants have a loopback interface named
lo0
. Consult your server operating system documentation for information about configuring an IP address on the loopback interface. The loopback interface is ideal for the nPath configuration because it does not participate in the ARP protocol.

Setting the route for inbound traffic

For inbound traffic, you must define a route through the BIG-IP system self IP address to the virtual server. In the example, this route is
176.16.1.1
, with the external self IP address
10.1.1.10
as the gateway.
You need to set this route only if the virtual server is on a different subnet than the router.
For information about how to define this route, please refer to the documentation provided with your router.