Systems Engineering and RDBMS

Why does the IP address and subnet mask matter?

Posted by decipherinfosys on June 19, 2009

We had an interesting issue that relates to networking and SQL heartbeat with one of our clients that we would like to share with our readers.

One of our clients has their servers distributed across 3 data centers in US. Let us call them A, B and C. They have a VPN tunnel connecting all their sites together using Cisco ASA firewalls. Their IT staff access the entire infrastructure through one data center (A) which has remote access VPN enabled in the Cisco ASA. They recently reported an issue of not being able to access the servers in SQL cluster across remote access VPN located in data center (B). However, those servers are accessible from data center A, C and within B itself and others servers in data center B were accessible through remote access VPN.

As their remote VPN connection terminates at Cisco ASA at data center (A), various teams were involved to find out the cause. The following were checked to identify the cause of this issue:

1. It was ensured that the remote access VPN subnet (10.1.1.x) is added to the crypto-map on the site to site VPN configuration.
2. We also made sure all the servers are connected to the same switch and residing on same VLAN.
3. There was no specific access list (ACL) or firewall or IPS or F5 configuration that was blocking traffic to the database servers from remote access VPN subnet (10.1.1.x).
4. We ensured all the servers have the same IP default gateway configured.

During packet tracing, it is found that the traffic reaches to the ASA at data center A and also reaches data center B. It is found that the traffic was not going back from the servers to the remote access VPN subnet. We realized that there would be something wrong on the SQL cluster servers and started looking in depth on its network configuration. We identified that SQL server’s heart beat NIC was configured with the IP address of 10.0.0.x with a subnet mask of 255.0.0.0 (/8) allowing to have 16777214 hosts where only 2 IP addresses are needed for heart beat. So, all the incoming traffic from remote access VPN was forwarded to the heart beat NIC on the SQL servers and not going back to the remote access VPN ASA.

Having a subnet mask of 255.255.255.252 on SQL servers heart beat network would have allowed it to have only two IP addresses that are needed for heartbeat on the SQL cluster. As it is a production SQL network, we did not want to change the heart beat network’s IP address or subnet mask. As an alternative workaround, we used persistent route in Windows 2003 to configure the remote access VPN traffic to reach the correct NIC and gateway. A helpful article on windows 2003 routing can be found here. Once we added the persistent route, the remote access VPN users were able to access the SQL servers.

Lesson’s learned:

1. Make sure you aware of all the network addresses and subnets involved in all the locations.
2. Assign a subnet mask for the required number of host addresses.

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