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JRahm
Community Manager
Community Manager

Last month, community member Racquel Mays asked for some assistance with creating a local traffic policy to apply to a virtual server to listen only on specific ports. I knew of only two obvious ways to solve that problem until fellow F5er Simon Blakely dumped a whole bowl of awesome sauce on us. In this article, I’ll cover not one way, not two ways, but also a completely new to me third way: traffic matching criteria.

Before jumping into the specifics, I want to clarify something in Racquel’s question. If a virtual server is listening on port 0, then it is listening on all ports, even if you then, after the fact, filter them down to a select interesting list. For details on packets/flows in the BIG-IP system, check out my Lightboard Lesson on that.

Option 1 - Use an iRule

This is almost always my first thought. Mostly because I love iRules and I’m comfortable with them. But iRules aren’t always the best option, so it’s a good idea to evaluate from an operational perspective as well as performance. If both are negligible, this solution is very simple to implement, easily understood, and because of the simplicity, fairly performant when compared with the next option.

ltm rule allports_irule {
when CLIENT_ACCEPTED {
  switch [TCP::local_port] {
    80 -
    8080 { pool nerdlife_pool }
    default { reject }
  }
}
}

In this iRule, when the TCP connection is established, the local port (BIG-IP side of the client connection) is evaluated and if it handled by a switch case, the pool is selected. The same pool is not required for each service but is used in this example. Any port that is not specified in the switch statement will result in a rejected TCP connection to the client.

Option 2 - Use a Local Traffic Policy

For a growing set of services, iRules can be retired and polices can be used in their place. They are built-in to TMOS and (unless you call Tcl from them) do not require the Tcl interpreter and thus will likely be more performant. However, if you have to split functionality between iRules and policies on a single application service, my preference is to keep the logic in one place so operational complexity is reduced.

ltm policy allports_policy {
    controls { forwarding }
    requires { tcp }
    rules {
        tcp-80 {
            actions {
                0 {
                    forward
                    client-accepted
                    select
                    pool nerdlife_pool
                }
            }
            conditions {
                0 {
                    tcp
                    client-accepted
                    port
                    local
                    values { 80 }
                }
            }
        }
        tcp-8080 {
            actions {
                0 {
                    forward
                    client-accepted
                    select
                    pool nerdlife_pool
                }
            }
            conditions {
                0 {
                    tcp
                    client-accepted
                    port
                    local
                    values { 8080 }
                }
            }
            ordinal 1
        }
        tcp-all-else {
            actions {
                0 {
                    shutdown
                    client-accepted
                    connection
                }
            }
            conditions {
                0 {
                    tcp
                    client-accepted
                    port
                    local
                    not
                    values { 80 8080 }
                }
            }
            ordinal 2
        }
    }
    status published
    strategy first-match
}

The policy is a tad verbose, no? This is due to the hierarchical nature of policies, having the policy root details like publications status and matching strategy, and then the rules for conditions and actions. Here in the text it’s easy to spot the condition of the local TCP port, but in the GUI, you have to select that in a hidden options menu.

0EM1T000002biOI.jpg

That got me for a hot minute while trying to make the policy work. In any event, options one and two are functionally equivalent when applied to a virtual server listening on port 0 with a TCP profile applied, so either approach is a good option depending on your business and technical standards for how BIG-IP objects are used.

Option 3 - Traffic Matching Criteria

I wanted to write the article when Simon shared this solution so I could be cool by saying “I was today years old when I learned you could do this” but alas, priorities! In this solution, there are two differences in this approach from the other two:

  1. multiple addresses as well as multiple ports are supported, so you can scale without requiring configuring additional virtuals
  2. there is no way in the criteria to map service port -> pool, so if you need that beyond a default pool in the virtual config, you're going to need an iRule or policy anyway

You can find and create address and port lists in the GUI under Main->Shared Objects. I started my work in tmsh for this article and the lists are in the tmsh /net namespace, so I had to hunt for these as I was looking for them in the GUI’s Network section.

0EM1T000002biOS.jpg

You’ll need those to create your own traffic-matching-criteria object, but you can’t do that directly in the GUI. It is done on your behalf when you specify the lists in the creation of a virtual server.

0EM1T000002biOX.jpg

This will create this traffic-matching-criteria object in tmsh:

ltm traffic-matching-criteria vip3_tmc_VS_TMC_OBJ {
    destination-address-inline 0.0.0.0
    destination-address-list dal1
    destination-port-list dpl1
    protocol tcp
    source-address-inline 0.0.0.0
}

It appends _VS_TMC_OBJ to the virtual server name as the object name it creates. The GUI also specifies the destination-address-inline and source-address-inline arguments, but I didn't need those in my object for it to work. That said, if the GUI selects them, there's probably a good reason so maybe default there as well and adjust as necessary in testing.

Do It Yourself

You already have the iRule and policy you need to test in your own lab above, now all you need are the other the virtual servers for options one and two and then the lists, traffic-matching-criteria, and virtual for option three. You can create all those with the tmsh commands below. My client-side lab network is 192.168.102.0/24 and I have a working pool (nerdlife_pool) on the server-side. You’ll need to swap those values out for your environment.

# With iRule - Address 192.168.102.61 #
tmsh create ltm virtual vip1_irule destination 192.168.102.61:0 ip-protocol tcp profiles add { http { } tcp { } } rules { allports_irule } source-address-translation { type automap }

# With Policy - Address 192.168.102.62 #
tmsh create ltm virtual vip2_policy destination 192.168.102.62:0 ip-protocol tcp profiles add { http { } tcp { } } policies add { allports_policy { } } source-address-translation { type automap }

# With Matching Criteria - Address 192.168.102.63 #
# If you do this in the GUI, it creates the traffic-matching-criteria for you, but no control of naming or modification that way
tmsh create /net address-list dal1 addresses add { 192.168.102.63 }
tmsh create /net port-list dpl1 ports add { 80 8080 }
tmsh create /ltm traffic-matching-criteria tmc1 protocol tcp destination-address-list dal1 destination-port-list dpl1
tmsh create /ltm virtual vip3_tmc ip-protocol tcp traffic-matching-criteria tmc1 source-address-translation { type automap } pool nerdlife_pool profiles add { tcp http }

You should now have three virtual servers with like functionality.

Test Results

Now that everything is configured, let’s test it out! We’ll test the two ports we want to answer, 80 and 8080, and then a third port we don’t, 8081. We should get an “achievement: unlocked” on the first two and a connection reset on the third.

# Test results - iRule
rahm@FLD-ML-00029232 ~ % curl http://192.168.102.61/a
achievement: unlocked
rahm@FLD-ML-00029232 ~ % curl http://192.168.102.61:8080/a
achievement: unlocked
rahm@FLD-ML-00029232 ~ % curl http://192.168.102.61:8081/a
curl: (56) Recv failure: Connection reset by peer

# Test results - Policy
rahm@FLD-ML-00029232 ~ % curl http://192.168.102.62/a
achievement: unlocked
rahm@FLD-ML-00029232 ~ % curl http://192.168.102.62:8080/a
achievement: unlocked
rahm@FLD-ML-00029232 ~ % curl http://192.168.102.62:8081/a
curl: (56) Recv failure: Connection reset by peer

Test results - TMC
rahm@FLD-ML-00029232 ~ % curl http://192.168.102.63/a
achievement: unlocked
rahm@FLD-ML-00029232 ~ % curl http://192.168.102.63:8080/a
achievement: unlocked
rahm@FLD-ML-00029232 ~ % curl http://192.168.102.63:8081/a
curl: (7) Failed to connect to 192.168.102.63 port 8081: Connection refused 

The traffic-matching-criteria virtual didn't reset like the other two explicitly configured to do so, but it did refuse the connection all the same. I couldn't walk away from that without understanding why so I fired up Wireshark and took a tcpdump capture to investigate.

0EM1T000002biOc.jpg

What’s happening here is that with the iRule and policy solutions, we are acting at the CLIENT_ACCEPTED event, which means the TCP session has already been established and the HTTP request is in flight. So you see two TCP resets for each of the curl requests to 192.168.102.61:8081 and 192.168.102.62:8081, the first to the rejected TCP port, and the second to the HTTP request, which because it was already in flight, arrived even before the first TCP reset was sent. With the traffic-matching-criteria solution, it’s all wrapped up before a connection is even established so only the one reset message. That results in greater efficiency with local resources.

Conclusion

I say this a lot but I’m always excited to learn new things, particularly new ways of doing something I’ve done differently for years. If you’ve ever watched a master craftsman work, they have their favorite tools, but they have specialty tools as well for situations that call for it. I liken discoveries like this to that scenario. I’m not sure how many use cases I’d find for the traffic-matching-criteria that wouldn’t also rely on a policy and/or iRule, but I’m happy to now know that it exists just in case. How many of you knew about this and didn’t tell me? Drop me a comment below!

Comments
LiefZimmerman
Community Manager
Community Manager

Thanks to  for the good question and  for the awesome-sauce.

Simon_Blakely
F5 Employee
F5 Employee

  - The one thing I hadn't figured out was how to configure a TMC from the GUI - I looked all over, and figured it would eventually turn up. But it was already there ...

Racquel_Mays
F5 Employee
F5 Employee

Not a problem  happy to provide cases for awesome article content. Since f5'ers love a challenge I'm working on an irule, like you posted above, to see if it will work on the "FLOW_INIT" event? Will post that question 'formally' very soon.

jjm1971
Altocumulus
Altocumulus

Regarding Address-Lists and the virtual-addresses which are created. I've recently used address-lists as destination addresses for several virtual servers. I have assigned the virtual-addresses to multiple traffic groups, however I have found that whenever I edit the address-list or when the configuration is loaded, any virtual addresses that are not in traffic-group-1 are moved from their traffic group to tg-1. I don't know why this happens and don't have a fix as yet, so something to be aware of.

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Last update:
‎30-Mar-2021 10:15
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