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Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

Sysadmin blog First there was OpenVPN community edition, an SSL VPN product popular with enterprises, and a model of open source development. The maturity and staying power of OpenVPN led its developers to create an enterprise version, OpenVPN Access Server (OpenVPNAS), which was an attempt to fund both payware and open source versions.

OpenVPNAS is a web interface to OpenVPN’s features as well as a service delivery platform to ease deployment of the OpenVPN client. OpenVPNAS charges $5 for a license, for which you get two free client access licences, so you can experiment before deciding if the convenience of the interface is worth the cost.

OpenVPNAS server is available as an installable package for RedHat/CentOS, Fedora and Ubuntu, and as a virtual appliance for either VMWare or Hyper-V. The client software covers Windows NT 5 through 6.1. The server side of OpenVPNAS offers integration with PAM, LDAP and RADIUS, and the ability to use a local DB. It scales from one to hundreds of thousands of concurrent connections, offering active/passive failover support. Active-active, including load balancing, is promised in the future.

You get statistics and logging features, and an API to integrate of third-party apps. There are also client installers for OSX and Linux. New features are being added on a regular basis, but the documentation is thorough.

At its most basic the OpenVPN client can provide a remote user access to network resources using an SSL tunnel. It can also be configured to share resources on the client and server network. It can even serve as a layer 2 Ethernet bridge.

Use the client for dynamic application deployment: it can deploy and execute scripts or applications based on a trigger. There are security features on the client and server sides so that only the right person can download a pre-configured client, which can be restricted in where, when or how it can access the server.

The real prizes are OpenVPNAS GUI and, more specifically, the pre-canned virtual appliance. If you need to set up a VPN server in ten minutes so almost any group of client operating systems can access to your network, this is what you need.

Sadly, the interface at the moment doesn’t support what I require: an OpenVPNAS virtual appliance on each site as a dedicated non-layer-2-bridging site-to-site VPN server. It's possible, but not yet fully integrated into the GUI.

It’s one of very few things this product doesn't do, and a configuration I could get to work just fine in the community edition. That said, even though I had purchased just 10 client access licenses, OpenVPNAS was quite happy to provide support to get OpenVPNAS to work the way I wanted it to.

Other projects have attempted to simplify OpenVPN configuration (the OpenVPN-admin module for Webmin is an example of the effort put in by OpenVPN GUI projects). But the folks behind OpenVPNAS are out in front in providing an easy-to-use interface to OpenVPN. ®

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