High Availability ensures that the services running on the Barracuda NextGen Firewall F-Series are always available even if one unit is unavailable due to maintenance or an hardware fault. Reliable HA depends on the correct configuration of the surrounding switches and routers. Especially important is the ARP cache time or ARP timeout which must be set to a value between 30 and 60 seconds. When the virtual server fails over to the secondary F-Series Firewall, the MAC addresses associated with the Virtual Server IPs also change. The MAC address is immediately sent out via gratuitous or unsolicited ARP requests, updating the MAC address table or ARP cache of the connected switches and routers. If the lifetime of the ARP timeout of the switch is set to be longer, for example 300 seconds, the secondary unit would not be reachable for up to 5 minutes, because the ARP cache would not be updated for that time. Longer timeouts also increase the number of ARP requests sent out by the firewall, increasing the load on the switch.
Requirements and limitations for high availability
- Both units must use the same platform: You cannot mix virtual and physical appliances.
- Both units must be the same model. Using different revisions of the same hardware appliance is possible.
- If you are running an HA setup with different appliance revisions, ensure that both physical ports of the private uplink are using identical port labels. Otherwise, HA synchronization may fail.
- Latency on the HA sync connection may not exceed 80 ms.
Standalone high availabilityFor a standalone HA cluster, the primary unit downloads the licenses for both units, and when the secondary unit is joined to the HA cluster, the license for the secondary unit is transferred over. The licenses are bound to the MAC addresses of the primary and secondary unit.
For more information, see How to Set Up a High Availability Cluster.
High availability for managed firewalls
You can also configure a HA cluster with two managed firewalls by assigning two firewalls to the Virtual Server as primary and secondary box in the cluster on the NextGen Control Center. The box level configuration and licensing of the firewall is completely separate. You can configure the HA cluster in active-passive and active-active mode with no limit on the number of virtual servers on the firewall.
For more information, see How to Configure a High Availability Cluster for Managed F-Series Firewalls.
High availability in Azure
To be able to run a high availability cluster for firewalls running in Microsoft Azure, a special setup is required to integrate in to the Azure networking environment.
For more information, see High Availability in Azure.
High availability with a private uplink
When configuring HA without a private uplink, the switch both firewalls are connected to represents a single point of failure. If traffic is not forwarded by the switch, the HA sync breaks because the primary and secondary unit cannot establish a connection. To always have a reliable connection, you can configure a private uplink.
For this, one network interface must be dedicated for HA purposes. It is recommended to directly connect the two firewalls and use a /30 subnet for the uplink. You can configure the control daemon to use just one or both connections for the HA sync by defining translated HA IP that establish the relationship between existing MIP and the private uplink IP. Only one additional HA sync link can be used in addition to the sync link using the default management IP.
For more information, see How to Configure a Private Uplink for a HA Cluster.
In depth: transparent failover procedure and limitations
An HA system can be used for load balancing to exploit all features that are available through the NextGen Firewall F-Series architecture. Use transparent failover to synchronize the forward packet sessions (inbound and outbound TCP, UDP, ICMP-Echo, and OTHER-IP-Protocols) of the Firewall server between the two HA partners. Transparent failover is enabled by default and is set per access rule.
The following information is not HA-synced:
|Module or component||Unsynchronized sub components|
|Access Control Service||All|
|Home Directories |
Synchronization can be carried out via dedicated HA uplink and/or the LAN connection. Synchronization traffic is transmitted by AES-encrypted UDP packets, so-called sync packets, on port 689. The AES keys are created by using the BOX RSA Keys and renewed every 60 seconds.
Only a small amount of synchronization traffic is necessary for synchronizing via LAN connection. Sync traffic is kept at a minimum by synchronizing only sessions and not each packet. Due to the characteristics of the TCP protocol (SYN, SYN-ACK, …), only existing established TCP connections are synchronized. When the synchronization takes place during the TCP handshake, the handshake must be repeated.
The synchronizing procedure takes place immediately (if possible). If synchronization packets are lost, up to 70 sessions per second are synchronized.
Depending on the system availability, the behavior differs:
- If the partner unit is inactive/rebooted - Sometimes it may happen that the backup unit is not available and, therefore, does not respond to the sync packets (for example, for maintenance reasons). In this case, the active unit stops synchronizing. As soon as the partner unit reappears, the active unit checks whether the other one was rebooted or has an obsolete session state and re-synchronizes all necessary sessions.
- If the active unit reboots without a takeover - The Firmware Restart button was clicked. The ACPF sessions and sockets are gone, but the unit is not rebooted physically. In this case, the partner unit recognizes that its session state is obsolete and removes all synchronized sessions.
When the primary, active HA unit does not respond to the heartbeat (Control UDP 801), a takeover is initiated after a 10-15 second delay. This delay is necessary to account for potentially low network performance.
When the primary unit stays inactive, the synchronized sessions on the second unit are activated and all connections are available again. The backup unit does not have the current TCP sequence numbers. In case of a takeover, the sequence number is not checked for correctness. As soon as the connection has traffic, the sequence number is known to the former backup unit, and the sequence number check can be performed again. The missing sequence number on the backup unit also results from the fact that TCP connections that were taken over but have since had no traffic cannot be reset in a clean way. Terminating the session via the Terminate Session button removes the connection but does not send a TCP Reset (TCP-RST) signal.
If the connection between the HA partners gets interrupted, the primary and secondary systems activate their servers at the same time. When the connection becomes active again the primary system immediately shuts down its server. This procedure ensures that only one HA partner is in operational mode while the other one is in standby mode.
In each access rule, you can set the Transparent Failover active/inactive setting to define whether sessions matching this rule are synchronized. For more information, see Advanced Access Rule Settings.