F5 Essential App Protect and AWS CloudFront - Better Together.
What is the function of any application? In the simplest of terms an application must provide a value to the user. While the definition of "value" may differ, it is universally true that the user experience is critical to the perception of value. The user experience, loyalty, and your brand are predicated on the fact that the application be useable. So, what does it mean to be useable? It means that the application must be available, it must be secure, and it must be fast.
Recently we announced that F5 Essential App Protect (EAP) would be integrating with AWS CloudFront to provide both security and Content Delivery Network (CDN) services for customers. This is an evolutionary step for F5 in our transition to a software and services company. Now, from the same portal where customers deploy applications and employ F5 Essential App Protect for security, in just a couple of clicks or a single API call, they can also access a global CDN leveraging AWS CloudFront.
Let's review why EAP is cool, why AWS CloudFront is interesting, and take a look at the steps to enable the feature.
F5 EAP is a high value, low time investment, WAF solution allowing customers to leverage F5's leading WAF Engine as a service using an intuitive interface. Customers can leverage EAP to meet security needs while incurring minimal operational overhead and pay based on traffic patterns. F5 EAP offers customers access to the sensitive data masking, security signatures, new threat campaigns, and IP reputation services that we have developed over nearly 20 years and continue to evolve. By subscribing to EAP customers can increase the efficacy of their SOC without increasing headcount or adding to operational burdens while gaining access to security protections that go far beyond what other services can provide.
Below, the overview dashboard of an application protected by F5 Essential App Protect
AWS CloudFront is a global CDN that allows users to deploy cacheable content across the globe in over 200 edge points of presence (PoP). AWS CloudFront is based on AWS best in class technology, expansive know how on building cloud services and leverages the AWS global network between the PoP closest to your customers and your Essential App Protect deployment (built on AWS). AWS CloudFront becomes the entry point for all traffic into the application, caching the content that is cacheable and passing the dynamic or non-cacheable portions to the origin.
So why would you want to enable a CDN for your application? The simple answer is user experience. The better performing an application is the more likely it is that it will be used. By leveraging a CDN your content can be placed closer to your users and cached. This decreases page load time, something that always makes users happy. A more complete answer includes attributes such as reducing your WAF costs by not having to process cacheable content for each request and removing that traffic load from your origin application systems. The use of a CDN provides benefits for both the content provider and the content consumer. In the graph below you can clearly see the impact of enabling caching had on the origin servers in one of our test applications.
So what does the high level architecture look like? Below you can see that DNS traffic is processed by AWS Route 53, directing the traffic to one of the AWS CloudFront edge locations. Traffic that has passed basic validations such as the host header matches the certificate name is either served from the edge cache or directed to F5 EAP for further processing. Traffic that passes WAF validation by F5 EAP is then passed to your origin application no matter if it is in AWS or located in your data center. For applications that reside in AWS all of this network traffic uses the AWS global network between the AWS CloudFront edge, F5 EAP and your app. For applications that reside in a non-AWS based location you can still use F5 EAP with the AWS CloudFront Integration (no AWS account required on your part) noting the slight difference in the data path as shown in the architecture below.
Enabling your CDN
Assuming that you already have an application deployed and protected by F5 EAP let's take a look at updating and adding AWS CloudFront functionality. From our F5 EAP portal we can see that our application has an FQDN of na2-auction.cloudservicesdemo.net. This application is already deployed and the DNS flow is as follows, a user's computer performs a DNS look up for na2-auction.cloudservicesdemo.net and it is a CNAME for your enabled F5 EAP dataplane locations.
First let's enable caching on our Application which will enable AWS CloudFront.
Next we need to configure the EdgeTiers (which geographies) that we would like to leverage to place the content closer to the users.
Now we should filter any cookies or headers that we would like forwarded and enable compression.
Since our application was already deployed on F5 EAP we will use the same CNAME and direct our traffic into AWS CloudFront.
After a brief period our F5 Essential App Protect deployment will now have an integrated AWS CloudFront distribution and you will start to see caching metrics as traffic traverses the data path as described in the architecture.
What if you need to invalidate some content? Well that is just as easy as enabling the feature!
First you need to create the invalidation (purge), and when you click save the process will run deleting the items that match from the cache based on your EdgeTier selections.
What about support for AWS CloudFront? That is on F5. We will deploy the AWS CloudFront distribution for you and it is part of our service that you subscribed to. If you experience issues you contact us at F5. We will diagnose and, if necessary, work with AWS to resolve the issue. No more having to coordinate multiple vendors for your application and no more getting stuck in the middle of two vendors not agreeing to a resolution.
That's it! You have enabled an integrated security and CDN based on F5 EAP and AWS CloudFront in a few clicks from a single user interface!
F5 Essential App Protect with our integrated AWS CloudFront offering can handle the the full lifecycle of your application security and edge performance optimization needs. Take it for a test drive from the F5 CloudServices portal.