Tag Archives: netscaler

Replace SSL certificates on Citrix NetScaler using the CLI

Sometimes you have to replace SSL certificates instead of updating them, e.g. if you switch from a web server SSL certificate to a wildcard certificate. The latter was my job today. In my case, the SSL certificate was used in a Microsoft Exchange 2016 deployment, and the NetScaler configuration was using multiple virtual servers. I’m using this little script for my NetScaler/ Exchange deployments.

skylarvision/ pixabay.com/ Creative Commons CC0

When using multiple virtual servers, replacing a SSL certificate using the GUI can be challenging, because you have to navigate multiple sites, click here, click there etc. Using the CLI, the same task is much easier und faster. I like the Lean mindset, so I’m trying to avoid “waste”, in this case, “waste of time”.

Update or replace?

There is a difference between updating or replacing of certificates. When using the same CSR and key as for the expired certificate, you can update the certificate. If you use a new certificate/ key pair, you have to replace it. Replacing a certificate  includes the unbinding of the old, and binding the new certificate.

Replacing a certificate

The new certificate usually comes as a PFX (PKCS#12) file. After importing it, you have to install (create) a new certificate/ key pair.

Do yourself a favor and add the expiration date to the name of the certificate/ key pair.

Now you can unbind the old, and bind the new certificate. Please note, that this causes a short outage of your service!

SSL Cert Unbind Causing NetScaler Crash

You should check what NetScaler software release you are running. There is a bug, which is fixed in 12.0 build 57.X, which causes the NetScaler appliance to crash if a SSL certificate is unbound and a SSL transaction is running. Check CTX230965 for more details.

Demystifying “Interfaces on which heartbeats are not seen”

By accident, I found a heartbeat/ VLAN issue on a NetScaler cluster at one of my customers. The NetScaler ADC appliances have three interfaces connected to a switch stack. Two of the three interfaces were configured as a channel (LAG). This is a snippet from the config:

On the switch stack, the port to which interface 1/3 is connected, is configured as an access port. The ports, to which the channel is connected, is configured as a trunk port with some permitted VLANs. The customer is using HPE Comware based switches. The terminology is the same for Cisco. If you use HPE ProVision or Alcatel Lucent Enterprise, translate “access” to “untagged” and “trunk” to “tagged”. Because the channel is configured as a trunk port on the switch, the tagall option was set.


While examining the output of  show ha node I saw this:

Because interface 1/3 was not affected, this had to be a VLAN issue. During the initial troubleshooting, I was able to discover heartbeat packets in VLAN 1 and in VLAN 10.


The solution was easy: Remove the tagged option for VLAN 10 on LA/1.

instead of

Because of the configured tagall  option, all packets sourced by LA/1 are tagged with the corrosponding VLAN ID. But because it’s now explicitly configured without a tag for VLAN 10, VLAN 10 is now also the native VLAN for LA/1.

Now the NetScaler was sending heartbeat packets with a tag for VLAN 10, and the issue was solved.


Heartbeat packets are always send without a VLAN tag (untagged). There are two exceptions:

  • The NSVLAN is configured with a specific VLAN ID, or
  • an interface used for hearbeats is configured with the tagall

In this case, the heartbeat packets are tagged with the ID of the native VLAN ID of the interface. A show interface of the channel showed, that the channel was using VLAN 1 as the native VLAN.

How does the NetScaler determine the native VLAN for an interface? The native VLAN is the VLAN, to which an interface is bound untagged. An interface can only be bound untagged to a single VLAN. But it can be bound tagged to multiple VLANs.

If you take a look at the config snippet at the top of this blog post, you might notice, that interface 1/3 is bound untagged to VLAN 10. So this is the native VLAN for interface 1/3. But this interface is not using the tagall  option. Therefore, heartbeat packets are not tagged. The channel LA/1 is bound tagged to VLAN 10. But it was also bound to VLAN 1, without the tagged  option. This caused, that VLAN 1 was used as the native VLAN for channel LA/1. And because LA/1 is configured with the tagall  option, the heartbeats were tagged with a tag for VLAN 1. That’s why I was able to see the heartbeats, that were send over channel LA/1, in VLAN 1.

In the end, the NetScaler appliances were sending heartbearts from interface 1/3 to VLAN 10, and from channel LA/1 to VLAN 1. This caused the message “Interfaces on which heartbeats are not seen: LA/1”.

NetScaler native OTP does not work for users with many group memberships

Some days ago, I have implemented one-time passwords (OTP) for NetScaler Gateway for one of my customers. This feature was added with NetScaler 12, and it’s a great way to secure NetScaler Gateway with a native NetScaler feature. Native OTP does not need any third party servers. But you need a NetScaler Enterprise license, because nFactor Authentication is a requirement.

To setup NetScaler native OTP, I followed the availbe guides on the internet.

The setup is pretty straightforward. But I used the AD extensionAttribute15  instead of userParameters, because my customer already used userParameters  for something else. Because of this, I had to change the search filter from  userParameters>=#@  to extensionAttribute15>=#@ .

Everything worked as expected… except for some users, that could not register their devices properly. They were able to register their device, but a test of the OTP failed. After logoff and logon, the registered device were not available anymore. But the device was added to the extensionAttribute. While I was watching the nsvpn.log with tail -f , I discovered that the built group string for $USERNAME  seemed to be cut off (receive_ldap_user_search_event). My first guess was, that the user has too many group memberships, and indeed, the users was member for > 50 groups. So I copied the user, and the copied user had the same problem. I removed the copied user from some groups, and at some point the test of the OTP worked (on the /manageotp website).

With this information, I quickly stumbled over this thread: netscaler OTP not woring for certain users. This was EXACTLY what I discovered. The advised solution was to change the “Group Attribute” from memberOf  to userParameter , or in my case, extensionAttribute15. Problem solved!

Meltdown & Spectre: What about HPE Storage and Citrix NetScaler?

In addition to my shortcut blog post about Meltdown and Spectre with regard of Microsoft Windows, VMware ESXi and vCenter, and HPE ProLiant, I would like to add some additional information about HPE Storage and Citrix NetScaler.

When we talk about Meltdown and Spectre, we are talking about three different vulnerabilities:

  • CVE-2017-5715 (branch target injection)
  • CVE-2017-5753 (bounds check bypass)
  • CVE-2017-5754 (rogue data cache load)

CVE-2017-5715 and CVE-2017-5753 are known as “Spectre”, CVE-2017-5754 is known as “Meltdown”. If you want to read more about these vulnerabilities, please visit meltdownattack.com.

Due to the fact that different CPU platforms are affected, one might can guess that also  other devices, like storage systems or load balancers, are affected. Because of my focus, this blog post will focus on HPE Storage and Citrix NetScaler.

HPE Storage

HPE has published a searchable and continously updated list with products, that might be affected (Side Channel Analysis Method allows information disclosure in Microprocessors). Interesting is, that a product can be affected, but not vulnerable.

Nimble StorageYesFix under investigation
StoreOnceYESNot vulnerable – Product doesn’t allow arbitrary code execution.
3PAR StoreServYESNot vulnerable – Product doesn’t allow arbitrary code execution.
3PAR Service ProcessorYESNot vulnerable – Product doesn’t allow arbitrary code execution.
3PAR File ControllerYESVulnerable- further information forthcoming.
MSAYESNot vulnerable – Product doesn’t allow arbitrary code execution.
StoreVirtualYESNot vulnerable – Product doesn’t allow arbitrary code execution.
StoreVirtual File ControllerYESVulnerable- further information forthcoming.

The File Controller are vulnerable, because they are based on Windows Server.

So if you are running 3PAR StoreServ, MSA, StoreOnce or StoreVirtual: Relax! If you are running Nimble Storage, wait for a fix.

Citrix NetScaler

Citrix has also published an article with information about their products (Citrix Security Updates for CVE-2017-5715, CVE-2017-5753, CVE-2017-5754).

The article is a bit spongy in its statements:

Citrix NetScaler (MPX/VPX): Citrix believes that currently supported versions of Citrix NetScaler MPX and VPX are not impacted by the presently known variants of these issues.

Citrix believes… So nothing to do yet, if you are running MPX or VPX appliances. But future updates might come.

The case is a bit different, when it comes to the NetScaler SDX appliances.

Citrix NetScaler SDX: Citrix believes that currently supported versions of Citrix NetScaler SDX are not at risk from malicious network traffic. However, in light of these issues, Citrix strongly recommends that customers only deploy NetScaler instances on Citrix NetScaler SDX where the NetScaler admins are trusted.

No fix so far, only a recommendation to check your processes and admins.

Citrix NetScaler and Exchange: Case-sensitivity of internal and external URLs

Exchange has known the concept of internal and external URLs for the different services (Outlook Web Access, OAB, EWS, ActiveSync etc) since Exchange 2007. And it’s still confusing people. The internal URL is the URL, that is used to access the desired service from the intranet. The external URL represents the URL that is used to access the service from the internet. Best practice is to use the same URL (the external) for both, use a certificate from a public CA, and use split DNS to access the external domain from the inside of your network.

People tend to imply, that URLs are not case-sensitive. This seems to be true in most cases. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) states:

URLs in general are case-sensitive (with the exception of machine names). There may be URLs, or parts of URLs, where case doesn’t matter, but identifying these may not be easy. Users should always consider that URLs are case-sensitive.

Source W3C

Citrix NetScaler and URLs

Citrix NetScaler handles URLs as case-sensitive.

A frequently used concept to load balance Microsoft Exchange with a NetScaler is Content Switching. Policies are used to identify traffic, and actions are used to take action on the traffic that matches the policies. The NetScaler uses the advanced policy engine to create expressions for the Content Switching Policies. When creating a Content Switching policy by creating an expression that uses the CONTAINS operator, you might notice that the results are case-sensitive.

This can be a problem in case of Microsoft Exchange, because /Autodiscover/Autodiscover.xml and /autodiscover/autodiscover.xml, or /ews/exchange.asmx and /EWS/Exchange.asmx are handled different.


To make sure that different cases are handled, you should add  SET_TEXT_MODE(IGNORECASE)  to you policy expression. Citrix describes this in CTX115528.

I’ve changed my NetScaler setup script for Exchange to handle this behavior.

Citrix Certified Professional – Networking (CCP-N) exam experience

Last friday I passed the 1Y0-351 (Citrix NetScaler 10.5 Essentails and Networking) exam with a pretty good score. The exam was necessary, not only because I will do much more NetScaler projects in the future, but also because Citrix has made it mandatory to have a CCP-N in your company to to sell Citrix NetScaler.


My employer booked me a 5-day course (CNS-220 Citrix NetScaler Essentials and Traffic Management). Very nice, although I already had experience with NetScaler deployments. This training was designed for NetScaler 12.0, not for 10.5.

A training might be recommended to prepare for an exam, but usually it is not sufficient to pass it. But I want to pass the exam in the first try, so I took a closer look into the Citrix NetScaler 10.5 Essentials and Networking Preparation Guide.

In addition to the student and lab material, I deployed three NetScaler VPX (10.5,11.1 and 12.0) in my lab. I really recommend this! Especially to learn the CLI and how to read the log files.

The exam

S. Hofschlaeger / pixelio.de

The exam 1Y0-351 is focused on NetScaler 10.5, and will be not available after January 19, 2018. The sucessor of this exam is 1Y0-340, which is based on NetScaler 12.0. It is available since October 20, 2017. You might have noticed that my course was designed for 12.0, but I took the 10.5 exam. Well, I could not identify a question that would have had to be answered differently for NetScaler 12.0. But I really recommend to take the exam matching your course.

You have to answer 72 questions in 120 minutes. I got 30 minutes extra, because I’m a non-native english speaker. I had to answer two survey before the exam. One of them was a self-assessment about my NetScaler skills.

The questions were pretty fair, no trick questions, or questions were multiple answers seemed to be correct. The exam met the exam objectives from the prep guide. And because I already wrote it: You really should work with the CLI, and you really should know the important logs.

In sum: A challenging, but pretty fair exam. No marketing, no factual knowledge from spec sheets etc. When you are quite familiar with NetScalers, there is a good chance to pass the exam in the first attempt.

NetScaler ADC – Hidden vServer for HTTPS redirect

Starting with release 11.1, NetScaler ADC offers an easy way to redirect traffic from HTTP to HTTPS within the configuration of a load-balanced vServer. With 11.1, Citrix introduced the paramter  -redirectFromPort and -redirectURL.

While playing with a NetScaler ADC in my lab, I discovered a strange error message as I tried to configure the redirect.

Internal vserver couldn’t be set?! Okay, there was already a vServer, that was listening on port 80. After removing the vServer, I was able to setup the redirection and it was working as expected.

A hidden vServer

Later, I was really suprised to find a hidden vServer in the output of the “stat lb vserver” command.

The name of the vServer is always the same (name of the vServer plus suffix _httpredir_##). Sometimes, the vServer has an other ending number after a reboot. There is no hint to this vServer in the config of the NetScaler. The behaviour is the same for NetScaler ADC 11.1 and 12.0.

I don’t think that this some kind of a hack or an issue. But I think that’s something you should know when working with HTTPS redirection, or for troubleshooting purposes.