The challenge with OpenVPN

In 2017, Veeam PN was released as part of Veeam Recovery to Microsoft Azure. The Veeam PN use case went beyond the extending of Azure networks for workload recoverability and was quickly adopted by IT enthusiasts for use of remote connectivity to home labs and the connectivity of remote networks that could be spread out across cloud and on-premises platforms.

Our development roadmap for Veeam PN had been locked in, however, we found that customers wanted more. They wanted to use it for data protection, with Veeam Backup & Replication to move data between sites. When moving backup data utilizing the underlying physical connections to its maximum is critical. With OpenVPN, our R&D found that it couldn’t scale and perform to expectation no matter what combination of CPU and other resources we threw at it.

Veeam Powered Network v2 featuring WireGuard

We strongly believe that WireGuard is the future of VPNs with significant advantages over more established protocols like OpenVPN and IPsec. WireGuard is more scalable and has proven to outperform OpenVPN in terms of throughput. This is why we chose to make a tough call to rip out OpenVPN and replace it with WireGuard for site-to-site VPNs. For Veeam PN developers, this meant the rip and replacement of existing source code and meant that existing users of Veeam PN would not be able to perform an in-place upgrade.

Further to our own belief in WireGuard, we also looked at it as the protocol of choice due to the rise of it in the Open Source world as a new standard in VPN technologies. WireGuard offers a higher degree of security through enhanced cryptography that operates more efficiently, leading to increased performance and security. It achieves this by working in kernel and by using fewer lines of code (4,000 compared to 600,000 in OpenVPN) and offers greater reliability when connecting hundreds of sites…again thinking about performance and scalability for more specific backup and replication use cases.

Recent support for WireGuard becoming a defacto standard in VPNs was ratified by Linus Torvalds:

 

"Can I just once again state my love for [WireGuard] and hope it gets merged soon? Maybe the code isn't perfect, but I've skimmed it, and compared to the horrors that are OpenVPN and IPSec, it's a work of art."

Linus Torvalds, on the Linux Kernel Mailing List

Increased security and performance

WireGuard’s security was also a factor in moving on from OpenVPN. Security is always a concern with any VPN, and WireGuard takes a more simplistic approach to security by relying on crypto versioning to deal with cryptographic attacks… in a nutshell it’s easier to move through versions of primitives to authenticate rather than client server negotiation of cipher type and key lengths.

Because of this streamlined approach to encryption in addition to the efficiency of the code WireGuard can outperform OpenVPN, meaning that Veeam PN can sustain significantly higher throughputs (testing has shown performance increases of 5x to 20x depending on CPU configuration) which opens up the use cases to be for more than just basic remote office or homelab use. Veeam PN can now be considered as a way to connect multiple sites together and have the ability to transfer and sustain hundreds of Mb/s which is perfect for data protection and disaster recovery scenarios.

Solving the UDP problem, easy configuration and point-to-site connectivity

One of the perceived limitations of WireGuard is the fact that it does all it’s work over UDP, which can cause challenges when deploying into locked down networks that by default trust TCP connections more than UDP. To solve this potential road block for adoption, our developers worked out a way to encapsulate (with minimal overhead) the WireGuard UDP over TCP to give customers choice depending on their network security setup.

By incorporating WireGuard into an all in one appliance (or installable via a simple script on an already installed Ubuntu Server), we have made the installation and configuration of complex VPNs simple and reliable. We have kept OpenVPN as the protocol for connecting point-to-site for the moment due to the wider distribution of OpenVPN Clients across platforms. Client access through to the Veeam PN Hub is done via OpenVPN with site-to-site access handled by WireGuard.

Other enhancements

Core what we wanted to achieve with Veeam PN is simplifying complexity and we wanted to ensure this remained in place regardless of what was doing the heavy lifting underneath. The addition of WireGuard is easily the biggest enhancement from Veeam PN v1, however, there are several other enhancements listed below

  • DNS forwarding and configuring to resolve FQDNs in connected sites.
  • New deployment process report.
  • Microsoft Azure integration enhancements.
  • Easy manual product deployment.

Conclusion

Once again, the premise of Veeam PN is to offer Veeam customers a free tool that simplifies the traditionally complex process around the configuration, creation and management of site-to-site and point-to-site VPN networks. The addition of WireGuard as the site-to-site VPN platform will allow Veeam PN to go beyond the initial basic use cases and become an option for more business-critical applications due to the enhancements that WireGuard offers. Once again, we chose WireGuard because we believe it is the future of VPN protocols and we are excited to bring it to our customers with Veeam PN v2.

Download it now!

Helpful resources:

WireGuard is a registered trademark of Jason A. Donenfeld.

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