In order to make your architecture scalable, you may often want to use a load-balancer or an application delivery controller.
When using one of them (or a reverse-proxy), the client information is almost all the time hidden. Or if you want to get them, it requires huge modifications in the architecture.
Unfortunately, for troubleshooting and security purpose it would be interesting to know the client information (mainly source IP address)…
That’s where the proxy protocol comes in.
The proxy protocol???
As explained in a previous article“preserve source ip address despite reverse proxies”, the proxy protocol was developped to maintain client information when chaining proxies and reverse-proxies.
Two main advantages when using it:
- you can provide a downstream proxy or server (aka next hop) the client information (for now, mainly IP and port source)
- you can use servers in multiple datacenter without a complex network architecture (just need to provide routing for a TCP connection)
Why simply not using TPROXY (transparent proxy) mode?
TPROXY allows a load-balancer or reverse-proxy to open the TCP connection to the server using the client IP address.
One of the drawback of TPROXY is that the default gateway of the application servers must be the load-balancer.
Or you must do policy based routing on your network which could be painful.
Why Postfix and HAProxy?
HAProxy was the first software to implement the proxy protocol.
Note that you’ll have to use HAProxy 1.5 branch or patched HAProxy 1.4.
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An other solution would to use Aloha load-balancer which does everything for you in a box (from the OS to HAPrxoxy) with all the nice features you could expect. 😉
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Lately, Postfix implemented it. It is available in Postfix 2.10.
It is the first application server first application server to ship with it: THANKS and CONGRATULATION!!!!
Hopefully other MTAs will implement it soon. It is simple and brings so many improvements to an architecture.
SMTP, spam and security
In SMTP, it is really important to know the client IP, since we use it most of the time through RBL to fight spam.
For security purpose as well: we may want to allow only some hosts to use our SMTP relays and block any other clients.
Without the proxy protocol, the load-balancer will hide the client IP with its own IP. You would have to maintain whitelists into the load-balancer (which is doable). Thanks to proxy protocol, Postscreen would be aware of the client IP, it means you could maintain lists directly into the MTA.
HAProxy and Postfix connection flow
The diagram below shows the protocols and the process in place in this kind of architecture:
smtp proxy-protocol + smtp (INTERNET) ---> 25 (HAPROXY) ---> srv1:10024 (Postscreen / smtpd) ---> srv2:10024 (Postscreen / smtpd)
Note that the default gateway of the MTA servers is not anymore the load-balancer.
Both servers migt be in the same LAN or datacenter. Any type of architecture is now doable.
frontend ft_smtp bind 0.0.0.0:25 mode tcp timeout client 1m log global option tcplog default_backend bk_postfix backend bk_postfix mode tcp log global option tcplog timeout server 1m timeout connect 5s server postfix 127.0.0.1:10024 send-proxy
Note: I installed postfix in /opt/postfix directory
queue_directory = /opt/postfix/var/spool/postfix command_directory = /opt/postfix/usr/sbin daemon_directory = /opt/postfix/usr/libexec/postfix data_directory = /opt/postfix/var/lib/postfix mail_owner = postfix unknown_local_recipient_reject_code = 550 inet_interfaces = localhost sendmail_path = /opt/postfix/usr/sbin/sendmail newaliases_path = /opt/postfix/usr/bin/newaliases mailq_path = /opt/postfix/usr/bin/mailq setgid_group = postdrop html_directory = no manpage_directory = /opt/postfix/usr/local/man sample_directory = /opt/postfix/etc/postfix readme_directory = no inet_protocols = ipv4 postscreen_upstream_proxy_protocol = haproxy
10024 inet n - n - 1 postscreen smtpd pass - - n - - smtpd
See the results in Postfix logs
No proxy protocol
Jun 30 01:18:14 sd-33932 postfix/postscreen: CONNECT from [127.0.0.1]:52841 to [127.0.0.1]:10024 Jun 30 01:18:22 sd-33932 postfix/smtpd: disconnect from localhost[127.0.0.1]
With proxy protocol
Jun 29 09:13:41 sd-33932 postfix/postscreen: CONNECT from [<client public IP>]:59338 to [<server IP>]:25 Jun 29 09:13:52 sd-33932 postfix/postscreen: DISCONNECT [<client public IP>]:59338