cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Ryan_Howard
F5 Employee
F5 Employee

Introduction

First off, if this is the first you’ve heard of this new solution please do go and either check out this Lightboard Lesson or review this Newsroom Article for more context and to bring yourself up-to-speed with what it is and how it works. In a nutshell though, the BIG-IP VE for SmartNICs solution is comprised of a high performance BIG-IP AFM VE integrated with an Intel FPGA PAC N3000 SmartNIC. By programming an FPGA embedded within the SmartNIC to assume responsibility for detecting and mitigating DDoS attacks, we can offload this function from BIG-IP VE. Processing and blocking all malicious DDoS packets within the FPGA before they reach the network infrastructure alleviates much of the strain such attacks usually place on VE CPU resources while significantly bolstering DDoS performance.

 

 

If all that sounds too much like marketing fluff for your liking, the purpose of this article is to show just how significant those performance improvements are and how this solution really can protect cloud environments against a range of voluminous, complex attacks. To do so, we are going to compare the performance of the BIG-IP AFM VE for SmartNICs solution against a High Performance BIG-IP AFM VE (software-only) when handling the four different DDoS attack scenarios below:

 

1.     TCP SYN-ACK Flood Attack

2.    UDP Flood Attack

3.    ICMPv4 Flood Attack

4.    Combination of UDP Flood, ICMPv4 Flood and TCP SYN-ACK Flood Attacks

 

Diagram A shows our basic setup, we have an Ixia acting as client and server generating both Malicious and Normal Traffic through the N3000 SmartNIC and BIG-IP VE.

 

Diagram B shows 3.5Gbps of baseline Normal Traffic to show the effect of the malicious traffic on both software-only and then with hardware mitigation ON (SmartNIC FPGA enabled).

Note: We are generating Malicious and Normal Traffic off separate ports of the Ixia to max out the malicious traffic port.    

0151T000002doKNQAY.jpg

Diagram A - Simplified layout of the Test Harness                                                     

 

 

0151T000002doKSQAY.jpg

Diagram B - Baseline 3.5Gbps of Normal Traffic (Goodput) 

          

Test 1 – TCP SYN-ACK Flood Attack

Below in Figure 1 you will see a TCP SYN-ACK Flood Attack performed first with software-only (SmartNIC FPGA disabled); this shows an initial drop of our Goodput at 1.6Gbps of malicious traffic and approaching zero at only 2.4Gbps with 100% CPU usage.

 

0151T000002doKhQAI.jpg

Figure 1 – SYN-ACK Flood Mitigation with High Performance AFM VE (Software-only)

 

Next in Figure 2 you will see the same attack performed with the SmartNIC FPGA enabled; we pass the software-only limit of 2.4Gbps and increase the malicious traffic to 36Gbps with no effect on the Goodput with only 31.3% CPU usage.

 

0151T000002doKiQAI.jpg

Figure 2 – SYN-ACK Flood Mitigation with BIG-IP AFM VE for SmartNICs

 

Test 2 – UDP Flood Attack

Below in Figure 3 you will see a UDP Flood Attack performed first with software-only (SmartNIC FPGA disabled); this shows an initial drop of our Goodput at 1.2Gbps of malicious traffic and approaching zero at only 2.4Gbps with 100% CPU usage.

 

0151T000002doKmQAI.jpg

Figure 3 – UDP Flood Mitigation with High Performance BIG-IP VE AFM (Software-only)

 

Next in Figure 4 you will see the same attack performed with the SmartNIC FPGA enabled; we pass the software-only limit of 2.4Gbps and increase the malicious traffic to 36Gbps with no effect on the Goodput with only 31.3% CPU usage. 

 

0151T000002doL1QAI.jpg

Figure 4 – UDP Flood Mitigation with BIG-IP AFM VE for SmartNICs

 

Test 3 – ICMPv4 Flood Attack

Below in Figure 5 you will see an ICMPv4 Flood Attack performed first with software-only (SmartNIC FPGA disabled); this shows an initial drop of our Goodput at 1.2Gbps of malicious traffic and approaching zero at only 2.4Gbps with 100% CPU usage.

 

0151T000002doKrQAI.jpg

Figure 5 – ICMPv4 Flood Mitigation with High Performance BIG-IP AFM VE (Software-only)

 

Next in Figure 6 you will see the same attack performed with the SmartNIC FPGA enabled; we pass the software-only limit of 2.4Gbps and increase the malicious traffic to 36Gbps with no effect on the Goodput with only 29.8% CPU usage.

 

0151T000002doKnQAI.jpg

Figure 6 – ICMPv4 Flood Mitigation with BIG-IP AFM VE for SmartNICs

 

Test 4 – Combined SYN ACK Flood, UDP Flood Attack and ICMPv4 Flood Attack

Last, we are going to send a combined attack to show a complex mitigation scenario. We will be using the full 40G capability of the Ixia port to generate malicious traffic while still maintaining 3.5Gbps of Goodput from a second stream off another Ixia port.

Below in Figure 7 you will see a complex multi-vector attack performed first with software-only (SmartNIC FPGA disabled); this shows an initial drop of our Goodput at 0.8 Gbps of malicious traffic and approaching zero at only 2.4Gbps with 100% CPU usage.

 

0151T000002doKoQAI.jpg

Figure 7 – Combined attack mitigation with High Performance BIG-IP AFM VE (Software-only)

 

In figure 8 you will see the same attack performed with the SmartNIC FPGA enabled; we pass the software-only limit of 2.4Gbps and increase the malicious traffic to 40Gbps with no effect on the 3.5Gbps of Goodput with only 27.4% CPU usage. 

 

0151T000002doKwQAI.jpg

Figure 8 – Combined attack mitigation with BIG-IP AFM VE for SmartNICs

 

Wrap up

From the results it is very clear that with the FPGA enabled on the Intel PAC N3000 SmartNIC, BIG-IP AFM VE can handle single or complex multi-vector attacks without affecting the CPU or normal traffic flowing through the system.

With software-only mitigation the CPU must deal with every packet entering the system which quickly exhausts resources. With the assistance of the FPGA on the SmartNIC the malicious traffic is blocked before it ever reaches the CPU, preventing saturation.

 

Our normal traffic or Goodput is allowed through without interruption; this is important because it reflects a customer application, web page, VOIP or other traffic which should not be affected during an attack otherwise the attacker has met their objective.

In summary we have shown you that using a Common Off The Shelf (COTS) server in conjunction with a SmartNIC and BIG-IP VE delivers protection similar to our BIG-IP iSeries appliances in an augmented software VE (VNF) solution.

0151T000002doImQAI.png

Figure 9 – Magnitude of different DDoS attacks both solutions were capable of mitigating 

 

Additional Resources

·      F5 Cloud Docs – BIG-IP VE for SmartNICs

·      F5 & Intel Solution Brief - BIG-IP VE for SmartNICs

 

Version history
Last update:
‎24-Jun-2020 07:49
Updated by:
Contributors