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MPLS vs. SD-WAN vs. Internet vs. Cloud Network. Connectivity, Optimization and Security Options for the ‘Next Generation WAN’

Posted in SD-WAN

sdwan networksThe Wide Area Network (WAN) is the backbone of the business. It ties together the remote locations, headquarters and data centers into an integrated network. Yet, the role of the WAN has evolved in recent years. Beyond physical locations, we now need to provide optimized and secure access to Cloud-based resources for a global and mobile workforce. The existing WAN optimization and security solutions, designed for physical locations and point-to-point architectures, are stretched to support this transformation.

This article discusses the different connectivity, optimization and security options for the ‘Next Generation WAN’ (NG-WAN). The NG-WAN calls for a new architecture to extend the WAN to incorporate the dynamics of cloud and mobility, where the traditional network perimeter is all but gone.

The Wide Area Network (WAN) connects all business locations into a single operating network. Traditionally, WAN design had to consider the secure connectivity of remote offices to a headquarters or a data center which hosted the enterprise applications and databases.

Without further delay, let's take a look at the topics cover in this article:

Let’s look at evolution of the WAN.

First Generation: Legacy WAN Connectivity

Currently, there are 2 WAN connectivity options which offer a basic tradeoff between cost, availability and latency:

Option 1: MPLS - SLA-Backed Service at Premium Price

With MPLS, a telecommunication provider provisions two or more business locations with a managed connection and routes traffic between these locations over their private backbone. In theory, since the traffic does not traverse the internet, encryption is optional. Because the connection is managed by the telco, end to end, it can commit to availability and latency SLAs. This commitment is expensive and is priced by bandwidth. Enterprises choose MPLS if they need to support applications with stringent up-time requirements and minimal quality of service (such as Voice over IP (VOIP).

hq connection to remote office via mpls

Headquarters connecting to remote offices via MPLS Premium service

To maximize the usage of MPLS links, WAN optimization equipment is deployed at each end of the line, to prioritize and reduce different types of application traffic. The effectiveness of such optimizations is protocol and application specific (for example, compressed streams benefit less from WAN optimization).

Complete Guide to SD-WAN. Technology Benefits, SD-WAN Security, Management, Mobility, VPNs, Architecture & Comparison with Traditional WANs. SD-WAN Providers Feature Checklist.

Posted in SD-WAN

SDWAN Global Secure NetworkSD-WAN is the answer for enterprises and organizations seeking to consolidate network functions and services while at the same time simplify their WAN infrastructure and its management.

SD-WANs are suitable for any organization regardless of their size and location(s). Forget about managing routers, firewalls or proxies, upgrading internet lines, high-cost WAN links, leased lines (MPLS), filtering incoming traffic, public-facing infrastructure, VPNs and mobile clients. SD-WANs provide all the above and allow managers, administrators and IT staff to manage their WAN infrastructure via an intuitive, easy-to-use GUI interface, lowering equipment and service contract costs but also minimize the need for continuous upgrades and other expensive and time-consuming exercises.

The diagram below clearly shows a few of the network and security services leading global SD-WAN providers such as  CATO Networks provide to businesses no matter where they are geographically located around the world.

 sdwan network services

SD-WAN Networks offer zero-touch deployment with advanced network security services

Let’s kick-off this guide by taking a look at the SD-WAN topics covered:

What is SD-WAN?

Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) is a new architectural approach to building Wide Area Networks (WANs) whereby applications and the network configuration are isolated from the underlying networking services (various types of Internet access or private data services sold by network service providers). As a result, the networking services can be reconfigured, added, or removed without impacting the network. The benefits to such an approach address long-standing concerns with traditional WANs around the cost of bandwidth, time to deploy and reconfigure the WAN and more.

The Problem with Traditional WANs

For years, organizations connected their locations with private data services, namely MultiProtocol Label Switching (MPLS) services. Companies contract with their network service provider to place MPLS routers at each location. Those routers connect with one another or a designated site across the MPLS service. MPLS services are seen as being:

  • Private because all customer traffic is separated from one another.
  • Predictable as the MPLS network is engineered to have very low packet loss
  • Reliable as the carrier stands behind the MPLS with service and support, backing it up contractually with uptime (and reliability) guarantees.

 Traditional High-Cost MPLS VPN Networks

Traditional High-Cost MPLS VPN Networks

As such, MPLS services are expensive (relative to Internet connectivity), in some cases costing 90 percent more than Internet bandwidth. And with bandwidth being so expensive, companies have to be very judicious in their bandwidth usage. Sites are often connected by single MPLS line, creating a potential single point of failure. Delays from line upgrades are a problem, as lines often lack the necessary excess capacity to accommodate traffic changes or new applications. Finally, new deployments take significantly longer than Internet lines — weeks in some cases, months at the extreme — whereas Internet access can be deployed in days if not minutes (with 4G/LTE).

Organizations accepted MPLS limitations for years for numerous reasons. For too long, the Internet was far too erratic to provide the consistent performance needed by enterprise applications. That’s changed significantly within Internet regions over the past few years. A decade ago, most enterprise traffic stayed on the MPLS network, terminating at a headquarters or datacenter housing the company’s applications. Today, Internet and cloud traffic are the norm not the exception, often constituting half of the traffic on and MPLS backbone. The net result is that data transmission costs end up consuming a significant portion of an IT Department’s annual expenditure on its WAN with Internet- and cloud-traffic being a major cause.

How Does SD-WAN Work?

Network Management Systems Help Businesses Accurately Monitor Important Application Performance, Infrastructure Metrics, Bandwidth, SLA Breaches, Delay, Jitter and more

Posted in OpManager - Network Monitoring & Management

Accurately monitoring your organization’s business application performance, service provider SLA breaches, network infrastructure traffic, bandwidth availability, Wi-Fi capacity, packet loss, delay, jitter and other important metrics throughout the network is a big challenge for IT Departments and IT Managers. Generating meaningful reports for management with the ability to focus on specific metrics or details can make it an impossible task without the right Network Management System.

The continuous demand for businesses network infrastructure to support, uninterrupted, more applications, protocols and services has placed IT departments, IT Managers and, subsequently, the infrastructure they manage, under tremendous pressure. Knowing when the infrastructure is reaching its capacity and planning ahead for necessary upgrades is a safe strategy most IT Departments try to follow.

The statistics provided by the Cisco Visual Networking (CVN) Index Forecast predict an exponential growth in bandwidth requirements the coming 5 years:

cisco visual networking index forecast

These types of reports, along with the exponential growth of bandwidth & speed requirements for companies of all sizes, raises a few important questions for IT Managers, Network Administrators and Engineers:

  • Is your network ready to accommodate near-future demanding bandwidth requirements?
  • Is your current LAN infrastructure, WAN and Internet bandwidth sufficient to efficiently deliver business-critical applications, services and new technologies such as IoT, Wi-Fi - 802.11n and HD Video?
  • Do you really receive the bandwidth and SLA that you have signed for with your internet service provider or are the links underutilized and you are paying for expensive bandwidth that you don’t need?
  • Do you have the tools to monitor network conditions prior to potential issues becoming serious problems that impact your business?

All these questions and many more are discussed in this article aiming to help businesses and IT staff understand the requirements and impact of these technologies on the organization’s network and security infrastructure.

We show solutions that can be used to help obtain important metrics, monitor and uncover bottlenecks, SLA breaches, security events and other critical information.

Let’s take a quick look at the topics covered in our article:

Finally, we must point out that basic knowledge of the Networking and Design concepts is recommended for this article.

Click to Discover how a Network Management System can help Monitor your Network, SLAs, Delay Jitter and more.

Network Performance Metrics and their Bandwidth Impact

Network performance metrics vary from business to business and provide the mechanism by which an organization measures critical success factors.

The most important performance metrics for business networks are as follows:

  • Connectivity (one-way)
  • Delay (both round-trip and one-way)
  • Packet loss (one-way)
  • Jitter (one-way) or delay variation
  • Service response time
  • Measurable SLA metrics

Bandwidth is one of the most critical variables of an IT infrastructure that can have a major impact to all the aforementioned performance metrics. Bandwidth over saturated links can cause poor network performance with high packet loss, excessive delay, and jitter which can result in lost productivity and revenue, and increased operational costs.

New Applications and Bandwidth Requirements

This rapid growth for bandwidth affects the Enterprises and Service Providers which are continually challenged to efficiently deliver business-critical applications and services while running a network at optimum performance. The necessity for more expensive bandwidth solutions is one of the crucial factors that may have a major impact on a network and applications performance. Let’s have a quick look at the new technologies with high bandwidth needs which require careful bandwidth and infrastructure planning:

High Definition (HD) Video Bandwidth Requirements

This surpassed standard definition by the end of 2011. User demand for HD video has a major impact on a network due to the demanding bandwidth requirements as clearly displayed below:

dvd 720 1080p bandwidth requirements

DVD, 720p HD and 1080p HD bandwidth requirements:

  • (H.264) 720p HD video requires around 2,5 Mbps or twice as much bandwidth as (H.263) DVD
  • (H.264) 1080p HD video requires around 5Mbps or twice as much bandwidth as (H.264) 720p
  • Ultra HD 4320p video requires around 20Mbps or four times as much bandwidth as (H.264) 1080p

BYOD and 802.11ac Bandwidth Requirements

802.11ac is the next generation of Wi-Fi. It is designed to give enterprises the tools to meet the demands of BYOD access, high bandwidth applications, and the always-on connected user. The 802.11ac IEEE standard allows for theoretical speeds up to 6.9 Gbps in the 5-GHz band, or 11.5 times those of 802.11n!

Taking into consideration the growing trend and adoption of Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) access, it won’t be long until multi-gigabit Wi-Fi speeds will become necessary.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) Bandwidth Requirements

Each desktop delivered over WAN can consume up to 1 Mbps bandwidth and considerably more when employees access streaming video. In companies with many virtual desktops, traffic can quickly exceed existing WAN capacity, noticeably degrading the user experience.

Cloud IP Traffic Statistics

The Annual global cloud IP traffic will reach 14.1 ZB (1.2 ZettaBytes per month) by the end of 2020, up from 3.9 ZB per year (321 ExaBytes per month) in 2015.
Annual global data center IP traffic will reach 15.3 ZB (1.3 ZB per month) by the end of 2020, up from 4.7 ZB per year (390 EB per month) in 2015. These forecasts are provided by the Cisco Global Cloud Index (GCI) which is an ongoing effort to forecast the growth of global data center and cloud-based IP traffic.

Application Bandwidth Requirements and Traffic Patterns

Bandwidth requirements and traffic pattern are not common among various applications and need careful planning as displayed below:

 Data, Video, Voice and VDI bandwidth requirements & traffic patterns

Data, Video, Voice and VDI bandwidth requirements & traffic patterns

An effective strategy is essential in order to monitor network conditions prior to potential issues becoming serious problems. Poor network performance can result in lost productivity, revenue, and increased operational costs. Hence, detailed monitoring and tracking of a network, applications, and users are essential in optimizing network performance.

Network Monitoring Systems (NMS) for Bandwidth Monitoring

The Complete Cisco Nexus vPC Guide. Features & Advantages, Design Guidelines, Configuration, Failure Scenarios, Troubleshooting, VSS vs vPC

Posted in Cisco Data Center

Cisco virtual Port Channel (vPC) is a virtualization technology, launched in 2009, which allows links that are physically connected to two different Cisco Nexus Series devices to appear as a single port channel to a third endpoint. The endpoint can be a switch, server, router or any other device such as Firewall or Load Balancers that support the link aggregation technology (EtherChannel). 

To correctly design and configure vPC one must have sound knowledge of the vPC architecture components (vPC Domain, vPC Peer, vPC Peer-Link, vPC Peer Keepalive Link, vPC Member Port, vPC Orphan Port etc) but also follow the recommended design guidelines for the vPC Peer Keepalive Link and vPC Peer-Link. Furthermore, understanding vPC failure scenarios such as vPC Peer-Link failure, vPC Peer Keepalive Link failure, vPC Peer Switch failure, vPC Dual Active or Split Brain failure will help plan ahead to minimise network service disruption in the event of a link or device failure.

All the above including verifying & troubleshooting vPC operation are covered extensively in this article making it the most comprehensive and complete Cisco Nexus vPC guide.

The diagram below clearly illustrates the differences in both logical and physical topology between a non-vPC deployment and a vPC deployment:

vPC Deployment Concept

vPC Deployment Concept

The Cisco Nexus vPC technology has been widely deployed and in particular by almost 95% of Cisco Data Centers based on information provided by the Cisco Live Berlin 2016. In addition, virtual Port Channel was introduced in NX-OS version 4.1(4) and is included in the base NX-OS software license. This technology is supported on the Nexus 900070005000 and 3000 Series.

Let's take a look at the vPC topics covered:

We must point out that basic knowledge of the Cisco NX-OS is recommended for this article. You can also refer to our Introduction to Nexus Family – Nexus OS vs Catalyst IOS for an introduction study on the Nexus Series switches family. Finally, a Quiz is included at the last section and we are waiting for your comments and answers!

Additional related articles:

vPC Feature Overview & Guidelines

The Nexus 9000, 7000, 5000 and 3000 series switches take port-channel functionality to the next level by enabling links connected to different devices to aggregate into a single, logical link. The peer switches run a control protocol that synchronizes the state of the port channel and maintains it. In particular, the vPC belongs to the Multichassis EtherChannel (MEC) family of technology and provides the following main technical benefits:

  • Eliminates Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) blocked ports
  • Uses all available uplink bandwidth
  • Allows dual-homed servers (dual uplinks) to operate in active-active mode
  • Provides fast convergence upon link or device failure
  • Offers dual active/active default gateways for servers
  • Maintains independent control planes
  • Simplifies Network Design

The following general guidelines and recommendations should be taken into account when deploying vPC technology at a Cisco Nexus Data Center:

  • The same type of Cisco Nexus switches must be used for vPC pairing. It is not possible to configure vPC on a pair of switches consisting of a Nexus 7000 series and a Nexus 5000 series switch. vPC is not possible between a Nexus 5000 and Nexus 5500 switches. 
  • The vPC peers must run the same NX-OS version except during the non-disruptive upgrade, that is, In-Service Software Upgrade (ISSU).
  • The vPC Peer-Link must consist of at least two 10G Ethernet ports in dedicated mode. Utilizing Ethernet ports from two different modules will improve the availability and redundancy should a module fail. Finally the use of 40G or 100G interfaces for vPC links will increase the bandwidth of the vPC Peer-Link.
  • vPC keepalive link must be separate from the vPC Peer-Link.
  • vPC can be configured in multiple VDCs, but the configuration is entirely independent. In particular, each VDC for the Nexus 7000 Series switches requires its own vPC peer and keepalive links and cannot be shared among the VDCs.
  • The maximum number of switches in a vPC domain is two.
  • The maximum number of vPC peers per switch or VDC is one.
  • When Static routing from a device to vPC peer switches with next hop, FHRP virtual IP is supported.
  • Dynamic routing adjacency from vPC peer switches to any Layer3 device connected on a vPC is not supported. It is recommended that routing adjacencies are established on separate routed links.
  • vPC member ports must be on the same line card type e.g. M2 type cards at each end.

vPC Architecture Components – vPC Peer, Peer-Link, Keepalive Link, Domain, Member Port, Orphan Port & Member

vPC architecture consists of the following components:

vPC Peer

This is the adjacent device, which is connected via the vPC Peer-link. A vPC setup consists of two Nexus devices in a pair. One acts as the Primary and the other as a Secondary, which allows other devices to connect to the two chassis using Multi-Channel Ethernet (MEC).

 cisco nexus vpc architecture components

vPC Architecture Components

Everything You Need to Know About SQL Injection Attacks & Types, SQLi Code Example, Variations, Vulnerabilities & More

Posted in Web Application Vulnerability Scanners

sql injection introSQL Injection Attacks are one of the most popular attacks against web servers, websites and web applications. A fairly popular website can expect to receive anywhere between 80 and 250 SQL injection attacks on a daily basis and these figures can easily reach thousands when an SQL vulnerability is disclosed to the public.

This article aims to help network engineers, administrators, security experts and IT professionals understand what an SQL injection is by taking you step-by-step on how an HTTP SQL injection attack is executed using real code. 

Here is a list of topics we’ll cover:

Additional related articles:

SQL Injection Attacks - Basics

SQL Injection, or SQLi for short, refers to an attack vector that exploits a web application by abusing the inherent trust between the web application and the database. An SQL injection attack would allow an attacker to perform malicious actions on the database through the use of specially crafted SQL commands. SQL is the most commonly used database query language, making it ideal for an attacker to target.

Since SQL Injection attacks can be performed against a wide array of applications, this attack is one of the most widely common and most critical of web vulnerabilities. So much so that injection attacks, such as SQL Injection, have placed first in OWASP’s Top 10 list,  several times in a row.

SQL Injection attacks can allow an attacker to extract, modify, add and delete data from a database, in turn affecting data confidentiality, integrity and availability (since an attacker could potentially delete data and disrupt operations). In addition, an SQL Injection attack can be used as a springboard to escalate the attack.

Example of an SQL Injection Vulnerability

example of sql injectionA web application would typically communicate with a variety of back-end systems, including a database. Let’s take an HTML form, which inserts values into a database, as an example. 

Once the form is filled out and submitted, an HTTP request (usually a POST request) is sent to the web application, where the input values are directly included into the SQL statement that will insert these values into the database

The only way an SQL Injection vulnerability could occur is if the web application trusts the user’s input without parameterizing it and using prepared statements. This is done by instructing the database that a certain part of the query should be executed while the rest is to be treated as the user’s input. 

Prepared statements ensure that the database does not interpret certain characters in the user’s input as part of the SQL statement, therefore allowing the attacker to submit their own SQL statements

Register to download Acunetix and perform free network & web server vulnerability scans: https://www.acunetix.com/vulnerability-scanner/online-scanner/

SQL Injection example: The following pseudo code is a simple example showing how a user can be authenticated:


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