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ITD: Intelligent Traffic Director

Data traffic has grown dramatically in the recent years, leading to increased deployment of network service appliances and servers in enterprise, data center, and cloud environments. To address the corresponding business needs, network switch and router architecture has evolved to support multi-terabit capacity. However, service appliance and server capacity remained limited to a few gigabits, far below switch capacity.

ITD (Intelligent Traffic Director) is a hardware based multi-Tbps Layer 4 load-balancing, traffic steering and clustering solution on Nexus 7xxx series of switches. It supports IP-stickiness, resiliency, NAT (EFT), VIP, health monitoring, sophisticated failure handling policies, N+M redundancy, IPv4, IPv6, VRF, weighted load-balancing, bi-directional flow-coherency, and IPSLA probes including DNS. There is no service module or external appliance needed. ITD provides order of magnitude CAPEX and OPEX savings for the customers. ITD is available on Nexus 7000/7700 series in NX-OS 6.2(8) or later. It is available for demo on Nexus 5k/6k. ITD is much superior than legacy solutions like PBR, WCCP, ECMP, port-channel, layer-4 load-balancer appliances.

Example use-cases: Read More »

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Scaling Application Security with ITD

Ready to scale your enterprise beyond limits?  How about slashing a whole layer of datacenter infrastructure, saving piles of cash in the process?  Or perhaps you’re interested in simplifying your enterprise while adding features, or trying to speed things up without spending money.  Sound too good to be true?  Well, thanks to a new technology from Cisco, you can have your cake and eat it, too.

Cisco Intelligent Traffic Director (ITD) is poised to disrupt data center load balancing. Combined with best-in-class products, such as Imperva SecureSphere, organizations can deploy and manage massively scalable applications securely with unprecedented ease and cost effectiveness.

What is ITD?

Cisco recently released a new feature, Intelligent Traffic Director (ITD) for the Nexus 7k switches that promises to be a disrupting force in the world of load balancing.  There has been an exponential growth in data traffic in the recent years leading to a growth in the deployment of network service appliances in enterprise, datacenter and cloud environments. To address the corresponding business needs, network switch and router architecture has evolved to support multi-terabit capacity. However, service appliance capacity remained limited to few gigabits, an order of magnitude far below switch capacity.

Cisco Intelligent Traffic Director (ITD) is an innovative solution that tries to bridge performance gap between the switch and service appliance(s). It allows customers to deploy service appliance(s) from any vendor with no network or topology changes. With a few simple configuration steps on a Cisco Nexus 7000 / 7700 series switch, customers can create a service appliance cluster and deploy multiple appliance(s) to scale service capacity with ease. The servers or appliance(s) do not have to be directly connected to the Nexus switch.

Application Security
Gartner published a paper called Web Application Firewalls are Worth the Investment for Enterprises in Feb, 2014 that makes the case that “Firewalls and intrusion prevention systems don’t provide sufficient protections for most public-facing websites or internal business-critical and custom Web applications.” Gartner advises enterprises to use a Web Application Firewall (WAF) to protect critical external and internal applications from attacks and threats.

Like other service appliances, a WAF appliance benefits from ITD’s ability to manage large scale traffic loads. Imperva SecureSphere WAF works with ITD, and the combination provides highly scalable application security.

I mention SecureSphere because Imperva was positioned as the only Leader in the Gartner 2014 Magic Quadrant for Web Application Firewalls. Some key capabilities of the SecureSphere WAF are:

  • Block attacks with laser precision
    Accuracy is critical with application security. If you have false positives, you block customers; if you have false negatives, you let the bad guys in.
  • World-renowned application security research
    Security is constantly evolving. To get ahead and stay ahead in the continuous fight against threats, Imperva has a dedicated security research team, the Application Defense Center (ADC), which provides regular signature and policy updates, and up-to-date threat intelligence for Imperva SecureSphere.
  • Shut down malicious sources and bots
    Imperva’s ThreatRadar Reputation Services help detect bad actors using IP reputation feeds of known malicious sources, anonymizing services, phishing URLs, TOR (“The Onion Router”), as well as IP geolocation data.
  • Stop application DDOS and business logic attacks
    Business logic attacks include things like posting comment spam in forums and message boards, scraping web content, and disabling access to your website. All of this can reduce competitive edge, frustrate customers, and damage reputation.
  • Instantly patch website vulnerabilities
    It takes organizations an average of 6 months to patch an application vulnerability once it’s discovered. SecureSphere integrates with vulnerability scanners to virtually patch applications. This allows businesses to stay protected, and fix the vulnerability on their own timeline, thus reducing the window of exposure and the associated costs.
  • Gain forensics insights with customizable reports
    Graphical reports enable organizations to quickly analyze security threats and meet compliance requirements.
  • Speed up deployment without risk
    SecureSphere protects applications without impacting performance and without requiring extensive network changes. It offers flexible inline, non-inline, and proxy deployment options that meet organizations’ diverse requirements. SecureSphere’s Fail-Open capabilities combined with unique, transparent bridge mode saves time and labor with drop-in deployment that requires no changes to existing applications or network devices, and delivers multi-Gigabit throughput while maintaining sub-millisecond latency.

Scaling Application Security

Using ITD in VIP Mode to load balance provides a fast and economical way for organizations to provide highly scalable and available infrastructure.  By leveraging ITD, an enterprise can deploy a single IP address (the VIP), which is then load balanced across many SecureSphere WAFs, with each one protecting the back-end webservers. This is done right from the 7K – There’s no need for an external load balancer in the middle.

Why is this better than other Load Balancers?

By combining Cisco ITD and SecureSphere’s advanced capabilities to monitor and secure HTTP traffic, several key advantages are apparent:

  • Eliminates the need for external load balancers, freeing up large amounts of budget and resources
  • You get the advantages of a proxy-type load balancer (1 single VIP represents many webservers), but still get ‘fail-open’ bridges on WAFs
  • ITD proxies traffic without interfering with the TCP Source IP Address , allowing SecureSphere to leverage the source IP, User and Session details for blocking and alerting.
  • To work with SecureSphere, ITD requires no modification to HTTP Headers (e.g., X-Forwarded-For), which can break applications and slow down traffic

What does this mean for the future of high performance WAF deployments?

By teaming up the Cisco Nexus 7K with SecureSphere WAFs, organizations can cost effectively deploy scalable, high-availability  WAF farms to handle large amounts of traffic to webservers.  As the web traffic increases, WAFs can be seamlessly added to the pool to scale up with the enterprise. Since every port on the 7K can be used as a load balancer this provides the potential to scale up to multi-terabits of throughput to a SecureSphere WAF cluster.

In conclusion, ITD and SecureSphere provides simple, cheap, fast, scalable, and reliable security infrastructure. Sort of like having your cake, with icing, and cherries on top – and eating it, too.

Feedback or Query: For feedback, query or EFT/PoC/demo please email: ask-itd@external.cisco.com

ITD White paper:  At a glance

Configuration Guide: Config guide

 

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Citrix NetScaler Device Package for Cisco ACI goes FCS

The Cisco-Citrix partnership has expanded significantly in recent years from UCS-XenDesktop based Desktop virtualization solutions to span Mobility, Desktop as A Service (DaaS) and most recently ACI-NetScaler joint solutions. I have been fortunate enough to be part of this momentum. And it’s been fun. In this blog, I want to announce another significant milestone on the Cisco ACI-Citrix eco-system front. The Citrix NetScaler Device Package for Cisco ACI is now FCS. You may recall earlier in August, we started shipping Cisco APIC worldwide. Read Blog

Citrix NetScaler needs no introduction and powers some of the world’s largest clouds providing capabilities that smartly and affordably scale application and service delivery infrastructures without additional complexity. Cisco ACI delivers a centralized fabric control and automation framework capable of managing application policies. This framework allows resources to be dynamically provisioned and configured based on application requirements. Citrix NetScaler provides core network services such as load balancing, SSL, SSL-VPN, and firewalls that can be used by applications in an automated, programmatic and simple fashion.

Now let us segue to the Citrix NetScaler Device package integration with Cisco APIC. Citrix NetScaler integrates with Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) through open APIs and provides per-app, per-tenant L4-L7 policy configuration and dynamic service chaining and insertion. In addition, the integrated solution also allows exchange of intelligent telemetry information between NetScaler and APIC for application and tenant visibility.

The diagram below illustrates the integration architecture.

onslideforblog-1

The Citrix NetScaler Device Package for Cisco ACI comprises a device Model and a device Script. The device Model defines the functions provided by NetScaler SDX/VPX/MPX such as load-balancing, content switching etc., The device Script provides the adapter functions required for NetScaler to communicate with APIC.

The Citrix NetScaler device package is now available for download

The advantages of deploying Cisco ACI + Citrix NetScaler solution is multi-fold. First and foremost it accelerates application deployment with reliability, security and multi-tenancy on existing NetScaler physical and virtual appliances. All of this without disrupting services operational best practices. Second, NetScaler’s built-in Autoscale feature proactively signals Cisco APIC when to add or drop application capacity. This capability allows customers to efficiently and seamlessly utilize their resources without any added downtime.

The delivery of NetScaler device package  is just the beginning of the Cisco ACI and Citrix NetScaler journey. Together, Cisco and Citrix are also focusing on driving  standard protocols and open initiatives. Our engineering teams are in the process of defining within IETF standards body, the Network Service Header protocol (NSH)  which defines service insertion specifications for application- and service-aware infrastructures.  We are also co-authoring the OpFlex, an extensible policy protocol that abstracts service policies independently from device-specific configurations and contribute to Open Daylight.

Related Links:

https://www.citrix.com/downloads/netscaler-adc.html

http://blogs.cisco.com/datacenter/f5-device-package-for-cisco-apic-goes-fcs/

www.cisco.com/go/aci

www.cisco.com/go/ns1000v

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Interview with Citrix on the Benefits of NetScaler Integration with Nexus 7000 and RISE

April 3, 2014 at 5:00 am PST

It’s been a busy week at Interop in Las Vegas so far, and we’re getting a lot of interest in our new Remote Integrated Services Engine (RISE) technology for the Nexus 7000 Series switches, which Cisco unveiled earlier this week. RISE integrates service appliances attached to Nexus 7000 Series switches as if the appliance was directly connected to the switch backplane, as if it were a dedicated service module. Cisco RISE establishes a communication path between the network data plane and the service appliance, simplifying deployments and optimizing data paths with better traffic visibility within the data center.

Recently, I had a chance to sit down with Steve Shah, Citrix Senior Director of Product Management to talk about why they were the first to integrate with RISE technology, and what benefits it has for their NetScaler customers.

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New Remote Integrated Services Engine (RISE) Enhances L4-7 Appliance Integration with Nexus 7000 Series

March 31, 2014 at 4:00 am PST

Remote Integrated Service Engine (RISE) is a new protocol being added to the Nexus 7000 and 7700 platforms through NX-OS (software upgradeable to existing devices), that integrates service appliances to be attached to Nexus 7000 Series switches with the same benefits as if the appliance was directly connected to the switch backplane, as if it were a dedicated service module. Cisco RISE establishes a communication path between the network data plane and the service appliance, simplifying deployments and optimizing data paths with better traffic visibility within the data center.

RISE Logical View

RISE allows a physical services appliance to be connected to the Nexus 7000 switch as if it was directly connected to the chassis backplane, providing greater traffic visibility and optimization, with simplified connectivity

Initially, Citrix NetScaler Application Delivery Controllers (ADC) and the Cisco Prime Network Analysis Module (NAM) are the first services appliances that have integrated with RISE, and have been tested and Certified as “RISE-enabled”. With the announcement of RISE, we expect to develop an ecosystem of partners that will work with Cisco to take advantage of this technology, including other application services vendors and firewalls.

The service appliances (e.g., Citrix NetScaler and Cisco Prime NAM) are directly attached by standard network cable to RISE-configured ports on the Nexus 7000 Series switches in a typical virtual Port Channel (VPC) deployment. Appliances can also be attached in indirect mode through any switched (Layer 2) network. Either scenario (direct or indirect connection) allows for device and data path redundancy for fault tolerance.

There are several management advantages to connecting service nodes through RISE. First, RISE can be configured through the Nexus management console or management platform. However, the specific service appliance features are still configured using the existing device management tools.  This ensures separation of duties between the networking and security or application teams, as well as eliminating any additional management complexity from the RISE connection.

Joe Weber“RISE offers a unique ability to tightly couple Nexus 7000 Series switches and Service Appliances within the Data Center.  We believe that this integration will provide the business agility from an operational and deployment perspective that Data Center engineers have been looking for to reduce the time it takes to instantiate new or modify existing services.  Data-path optimization through the use of Auto-PBR (Policy Based Routes) will relieve the need for manual modifications during add/moves/changes and improve network traffic visibility for the Security/Server administrator.”  — Joe Weber, Technical Solutions Architect, World Wide Technology

Read More »

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