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How to Build a Redundant Loadbalancer and Firewall Infrastructure With pfSense and HAproxy on a Scaleway Dedibox

Reviewed on 10 May 2021Published on 11 March 2020
  • Loadbalancer
  • pfSense
  • HAproxy
  • dedibox
  • server

pfSense Overview

pfSense is an open-source firewall and router distribution based on FreeBSD and released under the Apache license. The configuration and management of the software can be done through a web-based interface, requiring no knowledge of the underlying FreeBSD system. The source code of the project is available on GitHub.

This tutorial guides you through the installation of pfSense on a Scaleway Dedibox server, the automatic configuration of failover IPs, and loadbalancing using HAProxy/Acme. It was written in collaboration with our community member shannara.

Requirements:

Installing pfSense

Important:

The installation of pfSense is done using the KVM-over-IP device of the Bare Metal server or the Scaleway Dedibox.

  1. Connect to the KVM-over-IP device of your Bare Metal server or Scaleway Dedibox.

  2. Depending on the type of the KVM-over-IP device, you can either mount a locally downloaded pfSense ISO Image or mount a virtual media from a network share.

  3. Boot the server from the ISO file or the virtual CD ROM drive.

  4. The pfSense install wizard displays. Accept the copyright and distribution notice by pressing the Enter key on your keyboard:

  5. The pfSense welcome screen displays, select Install and confirm by pressing Enter to launch the setup wizard:

  6. Choose the Keymap for your pfSense installation. By default, the US keymap is preselected. Select the desired keymap from the list and confirm by pressing Enter:

  7. Choose the disk to install pfSense on. If your server has more than one disk, choose ada0 as installation destination. Press Enter to confirm.

    Important:

    All data on the disk will be deleted during the installation of pfSense. Make sure to have a backup of data stored on the disk if you re-install your machine.

  8. Select the partition scheme for the volume. The default option is MBR. You can keep this value and confirm by pressing Enter:

  9. The setup wizard starts copying the data from the virtual CD ROM drive to the servers hard disk. This may take a while depending on the connection speeds:

  10. The automatic installation finishes. Choose Yes and confirm by pressing on Enter to open a shell in the newly installed system to run a manual configuration:

    Important:

    The following steps are important. Skipping them may result in your server getting blocked for DHCPv6 Flood upon reboot.

  11. Open the file /conf.default/config.xml using the vi text editor:

    vi /conf.default/config.xml
  12. In the configuration file, scroll down to the network configuration section:

    Replace the line <ipaddrv6>dhcp6</ipaddrv6> with <ipaddrv6></ipaddrv6> and type :x to save the file and exit vi.

  13. Type exit to leave the shell and confirm to reboot the machine.

Configuring the Network Interfaces

Once rebooted, the pfSense welcome screen displays:

  1. Press 1 to assign the network interfaces.

  2. The network configuration wizard launches :

    Should VLANs be set up now [y|n]?

    Enter n and confirm by pressing Enter.

    Enter the WAN interface name or 'a' for auto-detection
    (igb0 igb1 or a):

    Enter the name of the first interface (in this case igb0) and press Enter to confirm.

    Enter the LAN interface name or 'a' for auto-detection
    NOTE: this enables full Firewalling/NAT mode.
    (igb1 or a):

    Leave this value blank and confirm by pressing Enter. The network interface igb1 is being used for the RPNv2 network and will be configured in a later step through the web interface.

    Wizard summary on interfaces assignement, Do you want to proceed [y|n]?

    Enter y and confirm by pressing Enter to proceed with the network configuration.

First Connection to the Web Interface

  1. Open a web browser and point it to https://<server_public_ip>. The pfSense Web Interface displays. Log in using the user admin and the password pfsense:

    Important:

    pfSense uses a self-signed TLS certificate, and your web browser might display a connection warning that the certificate is not valid. Open the advanced settings in the warning and confirm that you want to proceed to the site.

  2. Once logged in, the pfSense setup wizard displays:

    Click Next to move forward.

  3. In the second step, the wizard proposes different support options, proceed by clicking on Next if you do not need them.

  4. Enter general information about the pfSense server. These include the Hostname and the Domain of the server. Leave Primary DNS Server and Secondary DNS Server empty and the option Override DNS checked. Click Next to continue:

  5. Configure the NTP Time Server. You can leave the default value and set the Timezone to Europe/Paris, then click Next to continue:

  6. Set a strong and secure password, confirm it and click Next

  7. Setup is complete now. Click Finish to exit the wizard and start configuring rules.

Configuring Remote Access to the Web Interface

  1. Click Firewall > Rules to display a list of the configured firewall rules:

    You can see the Anti-Lockout Rule, which allows the connection to the web interface in the current state of the firewall. This rule will be deleted once the LAN interface is set up.

  2. To avoid being locked out from the configuration interface, create a new rule by clicking on Add.

    Configure the rule as follows:

    SettingsDescription
    ActionPass
    Disableleave unchecked
    InterfaceWAN
    Address FamilyIPv4
    ProtocolTCP
    SourceSelect Single host or alias to specify a static IP address that is allowed to connect to the pfSense interface. Alternatively, you may specify an IP range.
    DestinationSelect This firewall (self)
    Destination Port RangeLeave the values for From/To on other and set the port to 31337 on both.
    DescriptionEnter a description for the firewall rule.

    Save the rule once all settings are configured.

  3. Go to System > Advanced and change the TCP port in the WebConfigurator settings to 31337 to match the previously configured rules.

  4. Save the settings by clicking on Save at the bottom of the page.

Configuring Interfaces

Scaleway Dedibox dedicated servers come with two physical network interfaces. In this configuration the interface igb0 is configured as WAN (Internet) interface, and the interface igb1 acts as LAN (RPNv2) interface. With RPNv2, it is possible to configure multiple private networks on the physical network interface. We suppose the RPNv2 group is already configured.

In this tutorial, we will configure a cluster of two pfSense servers that are using the following VLANs:

VLANMembers
pfsync (VLAN-ID 2000)pf1, pf2
failover (VLAN-ID 2001)pf1, pf2
vlan (VLAN-ID 2002)pf1, pf2, and other servers
  1. From the pfSense web interface, go to Interfaces > Assignments and click the VLANs tab.

  2. Click + Add to configure the VLAN on the physical LAN interface:

    SettingsDescription
    Parent interfaceSelect the second interface (in this example igb1)
    VLAN Tag2002
    VLAN Priorityleave blank
    Descriptionlan
  3. Click Save.

  4. Repeat steps two and three with the following parameters:

    SettingsDescription
    Parent interfaceSelect the second interface (in this example igb1)
    VLAN Tag2000
    VLAN Priorityleave blank
    Descriptionpfsync

    and

    SettingsDescription
    Parent interfaceSelect the second interface (in this example igb1)
    VLAN Tag2001
    VLAN Priorityleave blank
    Descriptionfailover
  5. From the pfSense web interface, go to Interfaces > Interface Assignments.

  6. From the drop-down menu Available network ports select:

    • VLAN 2002 on igb1 (lan) and click + Add
    • VLAN 2000 on igb1 (pfsync) and click + Add
    • VLAN 2001 on igb1 (failover) and click + Add
    • igb1 (xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx) and click + Add

    Then click Save.

  7. Set the MTU value to 9000 for the physical network adapter by clicking on Interfaces > OPT3. Set the following parameters:

    SettingsDescription
    DescriptionRPN_NIC
    MTU9000

    Then click Save and Apply Changes to complete the configuration of the RPN NIC.

  8. Configure the PFSYNC interface by clicking on Interfaces > OPT1

    SettingsDescription
    Enable:Check the box Enable Interface
    DescriptionPFSYNC
    IPv4 Configuration TypeSelect Static IPv4
    MTU9000
    IPv4 Address172.16.1.1, set the netmask to /29.

    Then click Save and Apply Changes to complete the configuration of the PFSYNC interface.

  9. Configure the local network by clicking on Interfaces > LAN and configure it as follows:

    SettingsDescription
    Enable:Check the box Enable Interface
    IPv4 Configuration TypeSelect Static IPv4
    MTU9000
    IPv4 Address172.16.30.1, set the netmask to /24.

    Click Save, then Apply Changes to activate the new configuration

    The configuration of the first pfSense is complete now.

Backing up the Configuration and deploying a second machine

Backup and download the configuration to deploy it on the second machine.

  1. Go to Diagnostics > Backup & Restore.

  2. In the Backup Configuration tab, click Download configuration as XML to download and save the configuration. The downloaded file named config-<hostname>-<timestamp>.xml contains all the configuration of pfSense (admin account, interfaces, vlan settings, firewall rules). The downloaded file can be used to deploy a second pfSense machine, based on the identical hardware configuration.

  3. Once downloaded, copy the file to a new configuration:

    cp config-<hostname>-<timestamp>.xml config-pf2-<timestamp>.xml
  4. Open the newly created file in a text editor and scroll down to the system block. Replace the hostname value with pfsense2. In the interface block replace the <ipaddr> values for lan / opt1 / opt2 / opt3 as follows: On the first firewall the IP is configured as x.x.x.1, use x.x.x.2 for the second one.

  5. Install the second firewall from the steps described above.

  6. Once installed, log in with the default credentials (admin/pfsense) and go to Diagnostics > Backup & Restore. Click Restore Backup, leave Restore Area on all to restore all pfSense configuration options.

  7. Click Browse and select the previously created configuration file.

  8. Click Restore Configuration and confirm in the pop-up message to restore the configuration. Once done, the server reboots on the uploaded configuration.

Configuring Synchronisation

Before configuring High Availability, rules to allow pfsync traffic have to be created on both firewalls.

Note:

The following steps have to be executed on both firewalls.

  1. From the pfSense web interface, go to Firewall > Rules > PFSYNC.

  2. Click the first Add in the new Edit Firewall Rule and configure the rule as follows:

    SettingsDescription
    Actionleave Pass
    Disableleave unchecked
    Interfaceleave PFSYNC
    Address Familyleave IPv4
    Protocolselect Any
    Sourceselect PFSYNC net to allow only traffic from pfsync network
    Destinationselect PFSYNC net, to allow only traffic to pfsync network
    Descriptionenter pfsync link
  3. Click Save to validate and test the configuration, then click Apply Changes to apply the new configuration.

    Once these steps are done on both firewalls, continue with the configuration of the “High Availability Synchronisation” of pfSense.

  4. From the pfSense web interface, click System > High Avail. Sync.

  5. Configure it as follows:

    • State Synchronisation Settings (pfsync)

      SettingsDescription
      Synchronize Config to IPenter the IP address of the second firewall (172.16.1.2)
      Synchronize Statescheck the box pfsync transfers state insertion, update and deletion messages between firewalls
      Synchronize Interfaceselect PFSYNC
      pfsync Synchronize Peer IPEnter the IP address of the second firewall (172.16.1.2)
    • Configuration Synchronization Settings (XMKRPC Sync)

      SettingsDescription
      Synchronize Config to IPenter the IP address of the second firewall (172.16.1.2)
      Remote System Usernameenter admin
      Remote System Passwordenter the password of the admin user in both fields
      Select options to synccheck the following boxes: User manager users and groups, Certificate Authorities, Certificates, and Certificate Revocation Lists, Firewall rules, Firewall schedules, Firewall aliases, NAT configuration, OpenVPN configuration (Implies CA/Cert/CRL Sync)

    Then click Save.

  6. On the second firewall, go to System > High Avail. Sync in the pfSense web interface.

  • State Synchronization Settings (pfsync)

    SettingsDescription
    Synchronize statescheck the box pfsync transfers state insertion, update, and deletion messages between firewalls
    Synchronize Interfaceselect PFSYNC
    Remote System Passwordenter the password of the admin user in both fields
    pfsync Synchronize Peer IPenter the IP address of the first firewall (172.16.1.1)

    Click Save.

Configuring Failover IPs

Two failover IPs are being used as an endpoint for HAProxy (one by each instance). In order to automatize the configuration in case of unavailability of one of the servers, the following workflow is needed:

  • In case of a failure of pf1, pf2 calls the Scaleway Dedibox API to switch the failover IP to lb1
  • In case of a failure of pf2, pf1 calls the Scaleway Dedibox API to switch the failover IP to lb2

As the crashed server can not send a message by itself, the CARP functionality will be used but in cross-context:

  • Virtual IP 172.16.3.1: pf1 (Master), pf2 (Slave)
  • Virtual IP 172.16.3.2: pf1 (Slave), pf2 (Master)

With this, we delegate lifecycle management of the failover IP to CARP, by tweaking a bit of the pfSense CARP config to integrate the Scaleway Dedibox API

Setting Failover rules

The following steps must be done on each firewall.

  1. From the pfSense web interface, go to Firewall > Rules > Failover.

  2. Click the first Add in the Edit Firewall Rule section and configure the rule as follows:

    SettingsDescription
    Actionleave Pass
    Disableleave unchecked
    InterfaceFAILOVER
    Address Familyleave IPv4
    Protocolselect Any
    Sourceselect FAILOVER net to allow only traffic from the pfsync network
    Destinationselect FAILOVER net, to allow only traffic to pfsync network

    Click Save, then Apply Changes to apply the new configuration.

Virtual IP Settings

The following steps must be done on the first firewall.

  1. From the pfSense web interface on the first firewall, go to Firewall > Virtual IPs

  2. Click the first Add in the Edit Virtual IP section and configure it as follows:

    SettingsDescription
    TypeSelect CARP
    Interfacechoose FAILOVER
    Address(es)enter 172.16.3.1 and set the netmask to /29
    Virtual IP Passwordset a password and type it again in the Confirm field
    VHID Group1
    Advertising frequencySet the values to: 1 for Base and O for Skew
    Descriptionenter failover CARP

    Click Save, then on Apply changes to apply the new configuration.

  3. Click the first Add in the Edit Virtual IP section and configure it as follows:

    SettingsDescription
    TypeSelect CARP
    Interfacechoose FAILOVER
    Address(es)enter 172.16.3.2 and set the netmask to /29
    Virtual IP Passwordset a password and type it again in the Confirm field
    VHID Group2
    Advertising frequencySet the values to: 1 for Base and 1 for Skew
    Descriptionenter failover CARP2

    Click Save, then on Apply changes to apply the new configuration.

    The following steps have to be done on the second firewall

  4. Click the first Add in the Edit Virtual IP section and configure it as follows:

    SettingsDescription
    TypeSelect CARP
    Interfacechoose FAILOVER
    Address(es)enter 172.16.3.1 and set the netmask to /29
    Virtual IP PasswordEnter the same password and its confirmation as configured on the first firewall
    VHID Group1
    Advertising frequencySet the values to: 1 for Base and 1 for Skew
    Descriptionenter failover CARP

    Click Save, then on Apply changes to apply the new configuration.

  5. Click the first Add in the Edit Virtual IP section and configure it as follows:

    SettingsDescription
    TypeSelect CARP
    Interfacechoose FAILOVER
    Address(es)enter 172.16.3.2 and set the netmask to /29
    Virtual IP Passwordset a password and type it again in the Confirm field
    VHID Group2
    Advertising frequencySet the values to: 1 for Base and O for Skew
    Descriptionenter failover CARP2

    Click Save, then on Apply changes to apply the new configuration.

  6. As two virtual IPs are configured, add the CARP Status widget on the dashboard by clicking on Status > Dashboard. Click + in the Available Widgets section and choose the CARP Status widget.

  7. The first firewall is now master for the virtual IP 172.16.3.1 and backup for the virtual IP 172.16.3.2. The reverse is visible on pfsense2.

  8. On each firewall, edit the file /etc/pfSense-devd.conf by clicking on Diagnostics > Edit File. Enter the path /etc/pfSense-devd.conf in the form Path to file to be edited and click Load.

  9. Once loaded, go to line 30 of the file and replace lines 30-48 with the following block:

    # CARP notify hooks. This will call carpup/carpdown with the
    # interface (carp0, carp1) as the first parameter.
    #notify 100 {
    # match "system" "CARP";
    # match "type" "MASTER";
    # action "/usr/local/sbin/pfSctl -c 'interface carpmaster $subsystem'";
    #};

    #notify 100 {
    # match "system" "CARP";
    # match "type" "BACKUP";
    # action "/usr/local/sbin/pfSctl -c 'interface carpbackup $subsystem'";
    #};

    notify 100 {
    match "system" "CARP";
    match "type" "INIT";
    action "/usr/local/sbin/pfSctl -c 'interface carpbackup $subsystem'";
    };

    # Manage IP Failover with FAILOVER CARP interfaces
    notify 100 {
    match "system" "CARP";
    match "type" "(MASTER|BACKUP)";
    action "/root/carpcontrol.sh $subsystem $type";
    };

    Once done, click “Save”.

  10. Create the carpcontrol.sh script by clicking on Diagnostics > Edit file on the first firewall. Enter the path /root/carpcontrol.sh in placeholder.sh in the form, paste the content and click Save.

    #!/bin/sh
    #
    # Description: Online.net REST API client for failover IP change.
    #
    # Based on work of Pierre-Yves Landure <pierre-yves.landure@biapy.fr>,
    # adapted for pfSense usage with CARP
    # https://raw.githubusercontent.com/biapy/howto.biapy.com/master/various/OnlineFailoverIP
    #
    # License: GNU General Public License (GPL)
    # Copyright: (C) 2013 Biapy
    #

    # API Token (Obtain the token at: https://console.online.net/en/api/access)
    API_TOKEN=xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    # Public IP
    PF1_IP=xx.yy.zz.xx
    PF2_IP=aa.bb.cc.dd

    # Failover IP
    PF1_IPFO=ff.ff.aa.ff.zz
    PF2_IPFO=ba.ag.ah.xh.re

    INTERFACE=$1
    STATUS=$2
    echo $INTERFACE $STATUS >> /root/carp.log

    if [ "$INTERFACE" == "2@igb1.2001" ]; then
    if [ "$STATUS" == "MASTER" ]; then
    FAILOVER_IP=$PF2_IPFO
    DESTINATION_IP=$PF1_IP
    curl -X POST \
    -H "Authorization: Bearer ${API_TOKEN}" \
    -H "X-Pretty-JSON: 1" \
    --data "source=${FAILOVER_IP}&destination=${DESTINATION_IP}" \
    "https://api.online.net/api/v1/server/failover/edit" | tee /root/carp.log
    fi
    elif [ "$INTERFACE" == "1@igb1.2001" ]; then
    # Retreive main IP FO
    if [ "$STATUS" == "MASTER" ]; then
    FAILOVER_IP=$PF1_IPFO
    DESTINATION_IP=$PF1_IP
    curl -X POST \
    -H "Authorization: Bearer ${API_TOKEN}" \
    -H "X-Pretty-JSON: 1" \
    --data "source=${FAILOVER_IP}&destination=${DESTINATION_IP}" \
    "https://api.online.net/api/v1/server/failover/edit" | tee /root/carp.log
    fi
    fi

    Replace the following values in the script above: API_TOKEN: The Scaleway Dedibox API private token > PF1_IP: Public IP of the first firewall PF2_IP: Public IP of the second firewall PF1_IPFO: failover IP assigned on the first firewall PF2_IPFO: failover IP assigned on the ssecond firewall

  11. Create the carpcontrol.sh script on the second firewall by clicking on Diagnostics > Edit file. Enter the path /root/carpcontrol.sh in the form, paste the content and click Save.

    #!/bin/sh
    #
    # Description: Online.net REST API client for failover IP change.
    #
    # Based on work of Pierre-Yves Landure <pierre-yves.landure@biapy.fr>,
    # adapted for pfSense usage with CARP
    # https://raw.githubusercontent.com/biapy/howto.biapy.com/master/various/OnlineFailoverIP
    #
    # License: GNU General Public License (GPL)
    # Copyright: (C) 2013 Biapy
    #

    # API Token
    API_TOKEN=xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    # Public IP
    PF1_IP=xx.yy.zz.xx
    PF2_IP=aa.bb.cc.dd

    # Failover IP
    PF1_IPFO=ff.ff.aa.ff.zz
    PF2_IPFO=ba.ag.ah.xh.re

    INTERFACE=$1
    STATUS=$2
    echo $INTERFACE $STATUS >> /root/carp.log

    if [ "$INTERFACE" == "1@igb1.2001" ]; then
    if [ "$STATUS" == "MASTER" ]; then
    FAILOVER_IP=$PF1_IPFO
    DESTINATION_IP=$PF2_IP
    curl -X POST \
    -H "Authorization: Bearer ${API_TOKEN}" \
    -H "X-Pretty-JSON: 1" \
    --data "source=${FAILOVER_IP}&destination=${DESTINATION_IP}" \
    "https://api.online.net/api/v1/server/failover/edit" | tee /root/carp.log
    fi
    elif [ "$INTERFACE" == "2@igb1.2001" ]; then
    # Retreive main IP FO
    if [ "$STATUS" == "MASTER" ]; then
    FAILOVER_IP=$PF2_IPFO
    DESTINATION_IP=$PF2_IP
    curl -X POST \
    -H "Authorization: Bearer ${API_TOKEN}" \
    -H "X-Pretty-JSON: 1" \
    --data "source=${FAILOVER_IP}&destination=${DESTINATION_IP}" \
    "https://api.online.net/api/v1/server/failover/edit" | tee /root/carp.log
    fi
    fi

    Replace the following values in the script above: API_TOKEN: The Scaleway Dedibox API private token > PF1_IP: Public IP of the first firewall PF2_IP: Public IP of the second firewall PF1_IPFO: failover IP assigned on the first firewall PF2_IPFO: failover IP assigned on the second firewall

  12. Set the exec bit on the script on each firewall by clicking on Diagnostics > Command Prompt. Enter the command chmod +x /root/carpcontrol.sh in the Execute Shell Command section and run the command.

  13. Reboot each firewall to finalize the configuration.

Setting up HAProxy / Acme

By default, pfSense provides only support for firewalling and VPN features. To support both, HTTP/HTTPS endpoints and the Let’s Encrypt CA, the Acme / HAProxy package has to be installed.

The following steps have to be done on both firewalls

  1. On each firewall, go to System > Package Manager from the pfSense web interface and switch to the Available Packages tab.

  2. The available packages are listed in alphabetical order. Click Install in the row of the acme package, then click Confirm to validate the automatic installation.

  3. Return to the Available Packages tab and type haproxy in the Search term field. Click Search to find the package. Then click Install in the HAProxy package row and confirm the installation by clicking on Confirm.

The installation of ACME and HAproxy on both firewalls is complete now.

The following steps have to be done on the first firewall:

  1. On the first firewall, go to Services > HAProxy from the pfSense web interface.

  2. Click the Settings tab and configure the service as follows:

  • General Settings

    • Check the box Enable HAProxy
    • Maximum Connections: Set the value to 1000
    • Internal Stats Port: Set the value to 2200
  • Tuning

    • Max SSL Diffie-Hellman size: Set the value to 4096
  • Configuration synchronization

    • Check the box Sync HAProxy configuration to backup CARP members via XMLRPC.

    Click Save, followed by Apply Changes to apply the new configuration.

  1. The configuration is replicated automatically on the second firewall.

You have now configured a redundant loadbalancer and firewall infrastructure using pfSense and HAproxy on Scaleway Dedibox dedicated servers. To go further with the configuration of pfSense and HAproxy, refer to their official documentation: