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> Chapter 15 - High Availability > HA and failover protection > HA heartbeat and communication between cluster units

HA heartbeat and communication between cluster units

The HA heartbeat keeps cluster units communicating with each other. The heartbeat consists of hello packets that are sent at regular intervals by the heartbeat interface of all cluster units. These hello packets describe the state of the cluster unit and are used by other cluster units to keep all cluster units synchronized.

HA heartbeat packets are non-TCP packets that use Ethertype values 0x8890, 0x8891, and 0x8893. The default time interval between HA heartbeats is 200 ms. The FGCP uses link-local IPv4 addresses in the 169.254.0.x range for HA heartbeat interface IP addresses.

For best results, isolate the heartbeat devices from your user networks by connecting the heartbeat devices to a separate switch that is not connected to any network. If the cluster consists of two FortiGates you can connect the heartbeat device interfaces directly using a crossover cable. Heartbeat packets contain sensitive information about the cluster configuration. Heartbeat packets may also use a considerable amount of network bandwidth. For these reasons, it is preferable to isolate heartbeat packets from your user networks.

On startup, a FortiGate configured for HA operation broadcasts HA heartbeat hello packets from its HA heartbeat interface to find other FortiGates configured to operate in HA mode. If two or more FortiGates operating in HA mode connect with each other, they compare HA configurations (HA mode, HA password, and HA group ID). If the HA configurations match, the units negotiate to form a cluster.

While the cluster is operating, the HA heartbeat confirms that all cluster units are functioning normally. The heartbeat also reports the state of all cluster units, including the communication sessions that they are processing.

Heartbeat interfaces

A heartbeat interface is an Ethernet network interface in a cluster that is used by the FGCP for HA heartbeat communications between cluster units.

To change the HA heartbeat configuration go to System > HA and select the FortiGate interfaces to use as HA heartbeat interfaces.

caution icon Do not use a switch port for the HA heartbeat traffic. This configuration is not supported.

From the CLI enter the following command to make port4 and port5 HA heartbeat interfaces and give both interfaces a heartbeat priority of 150:

config system ha

set hbdev port4 150 port5 150

end

The following example shows how to change the default heartbeat interface configuration so that the port4 and port1 interfaces can be used for HA heartbeat communication and to give the port4 interface the highest heartbeat priority so that port4 is the preferred HA heartbeat interface.

config system ha

set hbdev port4 100 port1 50

end

By default, for most FortiGate models two interfaces are configured to be heartbeat interfaces. You can change the heartbeat interface configuration as required. For example you can select additional or different heartbeat interfaces. You can also select only one heartbeat interface.

In addition to selecting the heartbeat interfaces, you also set the Priority for each heartbeat interface. In all cases, the heartbeat interface with the highest priority is used for all HA heartbeat communication. If the interface fails or becomes disconnected, the selected heartbeat interface that has the next highest priority handles all heartbeat communication.

If more than one heartbeat interface has the same priority, the heartbeat interface with the highest priority that is also highest in the heartbeat interface list is used for all HA heartbeat communication. If this interface fails or becomes disconnected, the selected heartbeat interface with the highest priority that is next highest in the list handles all heartbeat communication.

The default heartbeat interface configuration sets the priority of two heartbeat interfaces to 50. You can accept the default heartbeat interface configuration if one or both of the default heartbeat interfaces are connected. You can select different heartbeat interfaces, select more heartbeat interfaces and change heartbeat priorities according to your requirements.

For the HA cluster to function correctly, you must select at least one heartbeat interface and this interface of all of the cluster units must be connected together. If heartbeat communication is interrupted and cannot failover to a second heartbeat interface, the cluster units will not be able to communicate with each other and more than one cluster unit may become a primary unit. As a result the cluster stops functioning normally because multiple devices on the network may be operating as primary units with the same IP and MAC addresses creating a kind if split brain scenario.

The heartbeat interface priority range is 0 to 512. The default priority when you select a new heartbeat interface is 0. The higher the number the higher the priority.

In most cases you can maintain the default heartbeat interface configuration as long as you can connect the heartbeat interfaces together. Configuring HA heartbeat interfaces is the same for virtual clustering and for standard HA clustering.

You can enable heartbeat communications for physical interfaces, but not for VLAN subinterfaces, IPsec VPN interfaces, redundant interfaces, or for 802.3ad aggregate interfaces. You cannot select these types of interfaces in the heartbeat interface list.

Selecting more heartbeat interfaces increases reliability. If a heartbeat interface fails or is disconnected, the HA heartbeat fails over to the next heartbeat interface.

You can select up to 8 heartbeat interfaces. This limit only applies to FortiGates with more than 8 physical interfaces.

HA heartbeat traffic can use a considerable amount of network bandwidth. If possible, enable HA heartbeat traffic on interfaces used only for HA heartbeat traffic or on interfaces connected to less busy networks.

Connecting HA heartbeat interfaces

For most FortiGate models if you do not change the heartbeat interface configuration, you can isolate the default heartbeat interfaces of all of the cluster units by connecting them all to the same switch. Use one switch per heartbeat interface. If the cluster consists of two units you can connect the heartbeat interfaces together using crossover cables.

HA heartbeat and data traffic are supported on the same cluster interface. In NAT/Route mode, if you decide to use heartbeat interfaces for processing network traffic or for a management connection, you can assign the interface any IP address. This IP address does not affect HA heartbeat traffic.

In Transparent mode, you can connect the heartbeat interface to your network and enable management access. You would then establish a management connection to the interface using the Transparent mode management IP address. This configuration does not affect HA heartbeat traffic.

Heartbeat packets and heartbeat interface selection

HA heartbeat hello packets are constantly sent by all of the enabled heartbeat interfaces. Using these hello packets, each cluster unit confirms that the other cluster units are still operating. The FGCP selects one of the heartbeat interfaces to be used for communication between the cluster units. The FGCP selects the heartbeat interface for heartbeat communication based on the linkfail states of the heartbeat interfaces, on the priority of the heartbeat interfaces, and on the interface index.

The FGCP checks the linkfail state of all heartbeat interfaces to determine which ones are connected. The FGCP selects one of these connected heartbeat interfaces to be the one used for heartbeat communication. The FGCP selects the connected heartbeat interface with the highest priority for heartbeat communication.

If more than one connected heartbeat interface has the highest priority the FGCP selects the heartbeat interface with the lowest interface index. The GUI lists the FortiGate interfaces in alphabetical order. This order corresponds to the interface index order with lowest index at the top and highest at the bottom. If more than one heartbeat interface has the highest priority, the FGCP selects the interface that is highest in the heartbeat interface list (or first in alphabetical order) for heartbeat communication.

If the interface that is processing heartbeat traffic fails or becomes disconnected, the FGCP uses the same criteria to select another heartbeat interface for heartbeat communication. If the original heartbeat interface is fixed or reconnected, the FGCP again selects this interface for heartbeat communication.

The HA heartbeat communicates cluster session information, synchronizes the cluster configuration, synchronizes the cluster kernel routing table, and reports individual cluster member status. The HA heartbeat constantly communicates HA status information to make sure that the cluster is operating properly.

Interface index and display order

The GUI and CLI display interface names in alphanumeric order. For example, the sort order for a FortiGate with 10 interfaces (named port1 through port10) places port10 at the bottom of the list:

  • port1
  • port2 through 9
  • port10

However, interfaces are indexed in hash map order, rather than purely by alphabetic order or purely by interface number value comparisons. As a result, the list is sorted primarily alphabetical by interface name (for example, base1 is before port1), then secondarily by index numbers:

  • port1
  • port10
  • port2 through port9

HA heartbeat interface IP addresses

The FGCP uses link-local IPv4 addresses (RFC 3927) in the 169.254.0.x range for HA heartbeat interface IP addresses and for inter-VDOM link interface IP addresses. When a cluster initially starts up, the primary unit heartbeat interface IP address is 169.254.0.1. Subordinate units are assigned heartbeat interface IP addresses in the range 169.254.0.2 to 169.254.0.63. HA inter-VDOM link interfaces on the primary unit are assigned IP addresses 169.254.0.65 and 169.254.0.66.

If a failover occurs, the primary unit heartbeat interface could be something other than 169.254.0.1. If for example, the first subordinate unit is now the primary unit, the primary unit heartbeat interface IP address would be 169.254.0.2.

The output from the get system ha status CLI command shows the HA heartbeat interface IP address of the primary unit.

get system ha status
.
.
.
vcluster 1: work 169.254.0.2
.
.
.

 

You can also use the execute traceroute command from the subordinate unit CLI to display HA heartbeat IP addresses and the HA inter-VDOM link IP addresses. For example, use execute ha manage 1 to connect to the subordinate unit CLI and then enter the following command to trace the route to an IP address on your network:

execute traceroute 172.20.20.10

traceroute to 172.20.20.10 (172.20.20.10), 32 hops max, 72 byte packets
1 169.254.0.1 0 ms 0 ms 0 ms
2 169.254.0.66 0 ms 0 ms 0 ms
3 172.20.20.10 0 ms 0 ms 0 ms

Both HA heartbeat and data traffic are supported on the same FortiGate interface. All heartbeat communication takes place on a separate VDOM called vsys_ha. Heartbeat traffic uses a virtual interface called port_ha in the vsys_ha VDOM. Data and heartbeat traffic use the same physical interface, but they’re logically separated into separate VDOMs.

Heartbeat packet Ethertypes

Normal IP packets are 802.3 packets that have an Ethernet type (Ethertype) field value of 0x0800. Ethertype values other than 0x0800 are understood as level 2 frames rather than IP packets.

By default, HA heartbeat packets use the following Ethertypes:

  • HA heartbeat packets for NAT/Route mode clusters use Ethertype 0x8890. These packets are used by cluster units to find other cluster units and to verify the status of other cluster units while the cluster is operating. You can change the Ethertype of these packets using the ha-eth-type option of the config system ha command.
  • HA heartbeat packets for Transparent mode clusters use Ethertype 0x8891. These packets are used by cluster units to find other cluster units and to verify the status of other cluster units while the cluster is operating. You can change the Ethertype of these packets using the hc-eth-type option of the config system ha command.
  • HA telnet sessions between cluster units over HA heartbeat links use Ethertype 0x8893. The telnet sessions are used to synchronize the cluster configurations. Telnet sessions are also used when an administrator uses the execute ha manage command to connect from one cluster unit CLI to another. You can change the Ethertype of these packets using the l2ep-eth-type option of the config system ha command.

Because heartbeat packets are recognized as level 2 frames, the switches and routers on your heartbeat network that connect to heartbeat interfaces must be configured to allow them. If level2 frames are dropped by these network devices, heartbeat traffic will not be allowed between the cluster units.

Some third-party network equipment may use packets with these Ethertypes for other purposes. For example, Cisco N5K/Nexus switches use Ethertype 0x8890 for some functions. When one of these switches receives Ethertype 0x8890 packets from an attached cluster unit, the switch generates CRC errors and the packets are not forwarded. As a result, FortiGates connected with these switches cannot form a cluster.

In some cases, if the heartbeat interfaces are connected and configured so regular traffic flows but heartbeat traffic is not forwarded, you can change the configuration of the switch that connects the HA heartbeat interfaces to allow level2 frames with Ethertypes 0x8890, 0x8891, and 0x8893 to pass.

Alternatively, you can use the following CLI options to change the Ethertypes of the HA heartbeat packets:

config system ha

set ha-eth-type <ha_ethertype_4-digit_hex

set hc-eth-type <hc_ethertype_4-digit_ex>

set l2ep-eth-type <l2ep_ethertype_4-digit_hex>

end

For example, use the following command to change the Ethertype of the HA heartbeat packets from 0x8890 to 0x8895 and to change the Ethertype of HA Telnet session packets from 0x8891 to 0x889f:

config system ha

set ha-eth-type 8895

set l2ep-eth-type 889f

end

Modifying heartbeat timing

In an HA cluster, if a cluster unit CPU becomes very busy, the cluster unit may not be able to send heartbeat packets on time. If heartbeat packets are not sent on time other units in the cluster may think that the cluster unit has failed and the cluster will experience a failover.

A cluster unit CPU may become very busy if the cluster is subject to a syn flood attack, if network traffic is very heavy, or for other similar reasons. You can use the following CLI commands to configure how the cluster times HA heartbeat packets:

config system ha

set hb-interval <interval_integer>

set hb-lost-threshold <threshold_integer>

set hello-holddown <holddown_integer>

end

Changing the lost heartbeat threshold

The lost heartbeat threshold is the number of consecutive heartbeat packets that are not received from another cluster unit before assuming that the cluster unit has failed. The default value is 6, meaning that if the 6 heartbeat packets are not received from a cluster unit then that cluster unit is considered to have failed. The range is 1 to 60 packets.

If the primary unit does not receive a heartbeat packet from a subordinate unit before the heartbeat threshold expires, the primary unit assumes that the subordinate unit has failed.

If a subordinate unit does not receive a heartbeat packet from the primary unit before the heartbeat threshold expires, the subordinate unit assumes that the primary unit has failed. The subordinate unit then begins negotiating to become the new primary unit.

The lower the hb-lost-threshold the faster a cluster responds when a unit fails. However, sometimes heartbeat packets may not be sent because a cluster unit is very busy. This can lead to a false positive failure detection. To reduce these false positives you can increase the hb-lost-threshold.

Use the following CLI command to increase the lost heartbeat threshold to 12:

config system ha

set hb-lost-threshold 12

end

Changing the heartbeat interval

The heartbeat interval is the time between sending HA heartbeat packets. The heartbeat interval range is 1 to 20 (100*ms). The heartbeat interval default is 2 (200 ms).

A heartbeat interval of 2 means the time between heartbeat packets is 200 ms. Changing the heartbeat interval to 5 changes the time between heartbeat packets to 500 ms (5 * 100ms = 500ms).

The HA heartbeat packets consume more bandwidth if the heartbeat interval is short. But if the heartbeat interval is very long, the cluster is not as sensitive to topology and other network changes.

Use the following CLI command to increase the heartbeat interval to 10:

config system ha

set hb-interval 10

end

The heartbeat interval combines with the lost heartbeat threshold to set how long a cluster unit waits before assuming that another cluster unit has failed and is no longer sending heartbeat packets. By default, if a cluster unit does not receive a heartbeat packet from a cluster unit for 6 * 200 = 1200 milliseconds or 1.2 seconds the cluster unit assumes that the other cluster unit has failed.

You can increase both the heartbeat interval and the lost heartbeat threshold to reduce false positives. For example, increasing the heartbeat interval to 20 and the lost heartbeat threshold to 30 means a failure will be assumed if no heartbeat packets are received after 30 * 2000 milliseconds = 60,000 milliseconds, or 60 seconds.

Use the following CLI command to increase the heartbeat interval to 20 and the lost heartbeat threshold to 30:

config system ha

set hb-lost-threshold 20

set hb-interval 30

end

Changing the time to wait in the hello state

The hello state hold-down time is the number of seconds that a cluster unit waits before changing from hello state to work state. After a failure or when starting up, cluster units operate in the hello state to send and receive heartbeat packets so that all the cluster units can find each other and form a cluster. A cluster unit should change from the hello state to work state after it finds all of the other FortiGates to form a cluster with. If for some reason all cluster units cannot find each other during the hello state then some cluster units may be joining the cluster after it has formed. This can cause disruptions to the cluster and affect how it operates.

One reason for a delay in all of the cluster units joining the cluster could be the cluster units are located at different sites of if for some other reason communication is delayed between the heartbeat interfaces.

If cluster units are joining your cluster after it has started up of if it takes a while for units to join the cluster you can increase the time that the cluster units wait in the hello state. The hello state hold-down time range is 5 to 300 seconds. The hello state hold-down time default is 20 seconds.

Use the following CLI command to increase the time to wait in the hello state to 1 minute (60 seconds):

config system ha

set hello-holddown 60

end

Enabling or disabling HA heartbeat encryption and authentication

You can enable HA heartbeat encryption and authentication to encrypt and authenticate HA heartbeat packets. HA heartbeat packets should be encrypted and authenticated if the cluster interfaces that send HA heartbeat packets are also connected to your networks.

If HA heartbeat packets are not encrypted the cluster password and changes to the cluster configuration could be exposed and an attacker may be able to sniff HA packets to get cluster information. Enabling HA heartbeat message authentication prevents an attacker from creating false HA heartbeat messages. False HA heartbeat messages could affect the stability of the cluster.

HA heartbeat encryption and authentication are disabled by default. Enabling HA encryption and authentication could reduce cluster performance. Use the following CLI command to enable HA heartbeat encryption and authentication.

config system ha

set authentication enable

set encryption enable

end

HA authentication and encryption uses AES-128 for encryption and SHA1 for authentication.

Heartbeat bandwidth requirements

The majority of the traffic processed by the HA heartbeat interface is session synchronization traffic. Other heartbeat interface traffic required to synchronize IPsec state/keys, routing tables, configuration changes, and so on is usually negligible.

The amount of traffic required for session synchronization depends on the connections per second (CPS) that the cluster is processing since only new sessions (and session table updates) need to be synchronized.

Another factor to consider is that if session pickup is enabled, traffic on the heartbeat interface surges during a failover or when a unit joins or re-joins the cluster. When one of these events happens, the whole session table needs to be synchronized. Lower bandwith HA heartbeat interfaces may increase failover time if they can't handle the higher demand during these events.

You can also reduce the amount of heartbeat traffic by:

  • Turning off session pickup if you don't need it,
  • Configuring session-pickup-delay to reduce the number of sessions that are synchronized,
  • Using the session-sync-dev option to move session synchronization traffic off of the heartbeat link.

See Session failover (session-pickup) for details.