Nick vs Networking

Category Archives: EPC

Diameter Routing Agents (Why you need them, and how to build them) – Part 1

Answer Question 1: Because they make things simpler and more flexible for your Diameter traffic.
Answer Question 2: With free software of course!

All about DRAs

But let’s dive a little deeper. Let’s look at the connection between an MME and an HSS (the S6a interface).

Direct Diameter link between two Diameter Peers

We configure the Diameter peers on MME1 and HSS01 so they know about each other and how to communicate, the link comes up and presto, away we go.

But we’re building networks here! N+1 redundancy and all that, so now we have two HSSes and two MMEs.

Direct Diameter link between 4 Diameter peers

Okay, bit messy, but that’s okay…

But then our network grows to 10 MMEs, and 3 HSSes and you can probably see where this is going, but let’s drive the point home.

Direct Diameter connections for a network with 10x MME and 3x HSS

Now imagine once you’ve set all this up you need to do some maintenance work on HSS03, so need to shut down the Diameter peer on 10 different MMEs in order to isolate it and deisolate it.

The problem here is pretty evident, all those links are messy, cumbersome and they just don’t scale.

If you’re someone with a bit of networking experience (and let’s face it, you’re here after all), then you’re probably thinking “What if we just had a central system to route all the Diameter messages?”

An Agent that could Route Diameter, a Diameter Routing Agent perhaps…

By introducing a DRA we build Diameter peer links between each of our Diameter devices (MME / HSS, etc) and the DRA, rather than directly between each peer.

Then from the DRA we can route Diameter requests and responses between them.

Let’s go back to our 10x MME and 3x HSS network and see how it looks with a DRA instead.

So much cleaner!

Not only does this look better, but it makes our life operating the network a whole lot easier.

Each MME sends their S6a traffic to the DRA, which finds a healthy HSS from the 3 and sends the requests to it, and relays the responses as well.

We can do clever load balancing now as well.

Plus if a peer goes down, the DRA detects the failure and just routes to one of the others.

If we were to introduce a new HSS, we wouldn’t need to configure anything on the MMEs, just add HSS04 to the DRA and it’ll start getting traffic.

Plus from an operations standpoint, now if we want to to take an HSS offline for maintenance, we just shut down the link on the HSS and all HSS traffic will get routed to the other two HSS instances.

In our next post we’ll talk about the Routing part of the DRA, how the decisions are made and all the nuances, and then in the following post we’ll actually build a DRA and start routing some traffic around!

Open5GS without NAT

While most users of Open5GS EPC will use NAT on the UPF / P-GW-U but you don’t have to.

While you can do NAT on the machine that hosts the PGW-U / UPF, you may find you want to do the NAT somewhere else in the network, like on a router, or something specifically for CG-NAT, or you may want to provide public addresses to your UEs, either way the default config assumes you want NAT, and in this post, we’ll cover setting up Open5GS EPC / 5GC without NAT on the P-GW-U / UPF.

Before we get started on that, let’s keep in mind what’s going to happen if we don’t have NAT in place,

Traffic originating from users on our network (UEs / Subscribers) will have the from IP Address set to that of the UE IP Pool set on the SMF / P-GW-C, or statically in our HSS.

This will be the IP address that’s sent as the IP Source for all traffic from the UE if we don’t have NAT enabled in our Core, so all external networks will see that as the IP Address for our UEs / Subscribers.

The above example shows the flow of a packet from UE with IP Address 10.145.0.1 sending something to 1.1.1.1.

This is all well and good for traffic originating from our 4G/5G network, but what about traffic destined to our 4G/5G core?

Well, the traffic path is backwards. This means that our router, and external networks, need to know how to reach the subnet containing our UEs. This means we’ve got to add static routes to point to the IP Address of the UPF / P-GW-U, so it can encapsulate the traffic and get the GTP encapsulated traffic to the UE / Subscriber.

For our example packet destined for 1.1.1.1, as that is a globally routable IP (Not an internal IP) the router will need to perform NAT Translation, but for internal traffic within the network (On the router) the static route on the router should be able to route traffic to the UE Subnets to the UPF / P-GW-U’s IP Address, so it can encapsulate the traffic and get the GTP encapsulated traffic to the UE / Subscriber.

Setting up static routes on your router is going to be different on what you use, in my case I’m using a Mikrotik in my lab, so here’s a screenshot from that showing the static route point at my UPF/P-GW-U. I’ve got BGP setup to share routes around, so all the neighboring routers will also have this information about how to reach the subscriber.

Next up we’ve got to setup IPtables on the server itself running our UPF/P-GW-U, to route traffic addressed to the UE and encapsulate it.

sudo ip route add 10.145.0.0/24 dev ogstun
sudo echo 1 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_forward
sudo iptables -A FORWARD -i ogstun -o osgtun -s 10.145.0.0/24 -d 0.0.0.0/0 -j ACCEPT

And that’s it, now traffic coming from UEs on our UPF/P-GW will leave the NIC with their source address set to the UE Address, and so long as your router is happily configured with those static routes, you’ll be set.

If you want access to the Internet, it then just becomes a matter of configuring traffic from that subnet on the router to be NATed out your external interface on the router, rather than performing the NAT on the machine.

In an upcoming post we’ll look at doing this with OSPF and BGP, so you don’t need to statically assign routes in your routers.