Use Amazon’s AWS VPC, & Your VPN To Extend Your Server Infrastructure (using Static Routing)

With the invent of cloud computing, a much powerful addition to a corporate data centre was the ability to scale its infrastructure in a virtual private cloud. The setup thus becomes flexible enough to manage the resource demand and remains safe from the public eye.

Using AWS VPC with Corporate VPN is an excellent option to extend a corporate data centre.

  • AWS offers multiple regions and extreme flexibility to tweak your infrastructure needs
  • The data rides on a VPN Tunnel and is not publicly exposed, thus meeting information security & confidentiality needs of an organisation

In the following post, I will delve deeper into creating a prototype of how you can extend your business network and put it on the “cloud”.

What we will be doing:

  1. Setup VPC & VPN on AWS
  2. Configure an External Machine to act as Corporate IPsec VPN (using “racoon”)
  3. Connect our External Machine to AWS and test

Note: We will use “Static” routing, which is simpler, and not “Dynamic (BGP)” routing, which requires many more steps.

AWSVPN-VPN Architecture

Interconnecting AWS VPC & VPN with Corporate VPN through IPSec (racoon)

Our Base Setup

  1. An External Machine to act as a Corporate VPN Appliance (referred as “CorpVPN”), running Ubuntu/Debian Linux variant with a public IP. I took a cloud server with Rackspace Cloud, but you can take it up on AWS in a different region too if you prefer.
  2. Opening of UDP 500 & UDP 4500 on the CorpVPN Firewall (or AWS Security Group Inbound Rule if you’re using AWS EC2 machine as CorpVPN Appliance).
  3. Since CorpVPN is an independent device, we don’t have a connecting internal network to it. So we will use the Link-local 169.254.x.x IP Addresses.
  4. An AWS Account where we can create an EC2 machine and configure VPN Services


Part 1 – AWS Setup

1a) VPC Configuration

Create a New VPC

Select “VPC” option under Services

Go to “Your VPCs”, and “Create New” VPC

AWSVPN-Setup of VPC 02

We will use the network as for the EC2 Machines which will work as our extended network.

Create a Subnet for your EC2 Machines. We will select it when we configure our EC2 Machine. In this example, we use as the subnet.

AWSVPN-Setup Subnet

Add an Internet Gateway

Create an Internet Gateway and attach it with the new VPC that you created so that your EC2 machines can reach Internet & you can connect to them remotely. You can let go of this option if you don’t want any external connectivity.

AWSVPN-Setup Internet Gateway 01AWSVPN-Setup Internet Gateway 02AWSVPN-Setup Routing

Setup a Security Group

Create a Security Group that allows ping and SSH to your EC2 machines. As per your preference, open ICMP and SSH for everyone or only to limited IP addresses.

AWSVPN-Create Security Group 01AWSVPN-Setup Security Group 02

1b) VPN Configuration

Customer Gateway (CGW)

The Customer Gateway is primarily our CorpVPN gateway. We need to provide the IP Address of our CorpVPN server. If you have it readily available, then provide it, else add a random IP and change later once your CorpVPN server is setup.

AWSVPN-Setup Customer Gateway

We will use as an example as the IP of the CorpVPN Server. Please note that “Static” routing is selected.

Virtual Private Gateway (VGW)

We create a Virtual Private Gateway that enables network connectivity to our VPC. It is a two step process

  • We create the VGW
  • We attach it to our VPC that we created

AWSVPN-Setup Virtual Private Gateway 01AWSVPN-Setup Virtual Private Gateway 02

VPN Connection

It is a hardware VPN and is a paid service. Create a new VPN and select the following

  • VGW that you created before
  • CGW that you created before
AWSVPN-Setup VPN Connection 01

Routing Option should be “Static”

AWSVPN-Setup VPN Connection 02


Static IP Prefixes will be Link-local addresses It means you will reach the AWS network through your Private IP Address in 169.254.x.x series.

Note: We are using the above configuration because we have an independent CorpVPN machine. If you do have a VPN appliance and a network behind it, please go ahead and use your internal IP range.

It takes a few minutes to get the VPN ready.

Once the VPN is available, you can download the “Generic” configuration. It is a text file with the VPN IP Addresses and other configuration details.

AWSVPN-Sample Tunnel Config

Example Tunnel #1 Configuration’s Text File

Enable Route Propagation

Open the “Route Table”, select the “Route Propagation” tab. For the CorpVPN VGW, enable “Propagate”.

AWSVPN-Route Propagation

It is a critical step. Without “Route Propagation”, you will not be able to reach the EC2 machines from the VPN.

1c) EC2 Machine Setup

In the same region where you have setup your VPN, create an EC2 machine. I used t2.nano with Ubuntu 16.04. This EC2 machine will act as our extended network hosted on AWS.

Please ensure that you select the VPC that we created when configuring the EC2 instance.

AWSVPN-EC2 Machine Setup 01

Also, ensure that you select the Security Group that we created for the Corporate VPC.

AWSVPN-EC2 Machine Setup 02

Part 2 – CorpVPN Setup (the CGW Setup)

Points to note:

  • AWS VPN Setup by default provides 2 VPN Tunnels (for Failover). However, since we are just testing it out, we will only be using 1 Tunnel. It will help ease the setup.
  • The CorpVPN setup is our Customer Gateway, and we had provided its IP address while configuring the VPN in AWS.
  • Remember – we are using a separate server (hosted on Rackspace Cloud) to act as CorpVPN Appliance. You can use an AWS Setup also by setting up an Ubuntu based server in a different region. Don’t forget to open UDP 500 & UDP 4500 in the Security Group / Firewall.

2a) Base Installation for IPsec & Racoon VPN Server

Install ipsec-tools & racoon. On a Debian/Ubuntu machine, you can use

apt-get install ipsec-tools racoon

Racoon is the IPsec server that we will use to establish the VPN. We will also use ipsec-tools to setup the SPD (Security Policy Database) to allow connection to-and-from AWS.

2b) IPsec Tools Configuration

Modify the file /etc/ipsec-tools.conf and use the entries below. You will need to refer to the “Generic Configuration” that you downloaded in the steps above from AWS interface.

To be specific, the IP Addresses as mentioned in our downloaded configuration are:

  • CGW Inside IP – (At Customer/CorpVPN’s end)
  • VGW Inside IP – (At AWS End)


  • CGW Outside IP – (CorpVPN’s publicly exposed IP)
  • VGW Outside IP – (For Tunnel #1, it is AWS VPN IP)



#!/usr/sbin/setkey -f

## Flush the SAD and SPD

# Tunnel 1
# -4 means use only IPv4. Can be omitted.
# a) Allow CGW Inside IP Address to VGW Inside IP Address "outbound" from CGW Outside IP Address to VGW Outside IP Address
spdadd -4 any -P out ipsec esp/tunnel/;
# b) Allow VGW Inside IP Address to CGW Inside IP Address "inbound" from VGW Outside IP Address to CGW Outside IP Address
spdadd -4 any -P in ipsec esp/tunnel/;

# c) Allow CGW Inside IP Address to VPC Network "outbound" from CGW Outside IP Address to VGW Outside IP Address
spdadd -4 any -P out ipsec esp/tunnel/;
# d) Allow VPC Network to CGW Inside IP Address "inbound" from VGW Outside IP Address to CGW Outside IP Address
spdadd -4 any -P in ipsec esp/tunnel/;

Now on the CorpVPN setup, we will add the CGW Inside IP

ip a a dev eth0

Replace eth0 with the relevant network card, preferably the one on which you have configured the CorpVPN/CGW IP.
Later, if you need to delete it, you can use ip a d dev eth0

Do a

route -n

To confirm if the IP is now available in the routing table.

Reset the ipsec-tools rules

/etc/init.d/setkey restart

2c) Racoon Configuration

We will now setup the IPsec Server – Racoon. The configuration is simple, and you can copy paste the following and replace the IPs with your relevant IP Address Ranges.

Modify the file /etc/racoon/racoon.conf

path pre_shared_key "/etc/racoon/psk.txt";

# Tunnel 1
# VGW Outside IP Address
     exchange_mode main;
     # CGW Outside IP Address
     my_identifier address; 
     # VGW Outside IP Address
     peers_identifier address;
     ike_frag on;
     generate_policy = off;
     initial_contact = on;
     nat_traversal = on;

     dpd_delay = 10;
     dpd_maxfail = 3;
     support_proxy on;
     proposal_check claim;

          authentication_method pre_shared_key;
          encryption_algorithm aes 128;
          hash_algorithm sha1;
          dh_group 2;
          lifetime time 28800 secs;

# CGW Inside IP Address & VGW Inside IP Address
sainfo address any address any
     encryption_algorithm aes 128;
     authentication_algorithm hmac_sha1;
     pfs_group 2;
     lifetime time 3600 secs;
     compression_algorithm deflate;


In /etc/racoon/psk.txt, enter the VGW Outside IP Address, and the Pre-Shared Key that is available in the configuration.    pjt61xwU3jRoNiUBXVli73aQs31awm4Gg


Restart Racoon.

  • To begin with, you can do a debug mode ON racoon initialisation. For example:
racoon -Fvdd
  • Later on, you can just manage it through init script.
/etc/init.d/racoon restart

Part 3 – Testing the setup

Now you need to ping your VGW Inside IP Address from your CorpVPN/CGW machine


It should start pinging within a few seconds.

You should be able to see the status of the VPN Tunnel as up for your VGW Outside IP Address under VPN Connections on Amazon. It is important for this to happen.


If the above doesn’t work, please refer to the Troubleshooting section.

Now you need to add a route so that you can reach your range of IP Addresses.

route add -net gw dev eth0

Do a

route -n

To check if your configuration is correct, and you have set the appropriate gateway.

Now ping your EC2 instance’s Private IP address.


It should work.

Similarly, from your AWS EC2 instance, you can ping the CGW Inside IP Address


If it works, then CONGRATULATIONS to you. You have successfully established the two way connection.

Part 4 – Maintenance & Troubleshooting

To make it permanent, you need to add the ip address addition (of CGW Inside IP Address), and routing rules (Using VGW Inside IP Address as Gateway for range) in maybe /etc/rc.local or in your /etc/network/interfaces so that they apply automatically on a reboot.

Also, to keep the tunnel alive, traffic has to pass through it. You can setup a cron job with the following to ensure that the tunnel is always up

* * * * * (/bin/ping -c 10 > /dev/null 2>&1

You have to be able to ping the inside IP Address of VGW. If that is not happening, please make sure you have done ‘Route Propagation’ for that VGW under ‘Routing Tables’ -> ‘Route Propagation’ under AWS VPC Settings.

You should be able to ping your EC2 instance. If not, then

  • Make sure you’ve allowed ICMP (ping packets) to pass through in the Firewall (Security Group for your EC2 Instance).
  • You have added the route on your CGW, for reaching your EC2 Subnet (172.16.x.x series for example) through your VGW Inside IP Address (as mentioned in the tutorial above).
  • Have you replaced the IP addresses with the ones provided in the Downloaded Configuration File as well as the ones of your Customer Gateway?

If the tunnel works but goes down intermittently, then to keep it active you need to ping the VGW Inside IP Address continuously. Use a cron job for that as explained in the tutorial above.

That’s all. There are instructions on AWS to setup through dedicated VPN Appliances. You can refer those to Extend Your Network and make it more scalable.


Amazon RDS Multi-AZ Setup Failover Simulation

I had setup an Amazon RDS MySQL instance with Multi-AZ option turned on. However, I couldn’t test if the Multi-AZ setup was working as expected. Thus, I prepared the test cases below to simulate a downtime and verify if the Failover worked and the servers switched places.

I am assuming you have already setup a Multi-AZ RDS instance for MySQL. If not, check out

How will we test it?

  1. Identify the two servers that AWS allocates to us (Primary & Secondary)
  2. Start adding data/load test one of the servers and do a reboot of that server to simulate a downtime.
  3. Review if the switchover happened, and the data consistency.

Base Setup

  1. Multi-AZ MySQL installation (db.t2.micro) in Mumbai Location (AP-South-1)
  2. Ubuntu EC2 Instance (t2.nano) in Mumbai Location (AP-South-1)
  3. Security Group Changes to allow access to the incoming port 3306 from the internal IP address of the EC2 instance.
AWSRDS-Security Group

Security Group Settings • is the IP Address of the EC2 instance

Determine Primary & Secondary Zone IPs for your RDS instance

In Amazon RDS with a Multi-AZ setup, there are two availability zones within a location. Primary Availability Zone (referred as Availability Zone) & Secondary Availability Zone (Referred as Secondary Zone).

The purpose of Multi-AZ setup is that your database setup is running on an automatic failover environment with a realtime replicated standby server. In case the primary server goes down, the secondary server can elevate itself to primary and continue the services. Refer and


Endpoints & Availability Zones in RDS

Amazon RDS provides you with an Endpoint, which is a domain that you use as your hostname, and connect to your MySQL instance on Port 3306.

The Endpoint is a DNS CNAME that points at a time to one of the two instances available in the different availability zones (Primary & Secondary) with a TTL of 5 Seconds. The first step that we will follow would be to determine what are these two instances, and whether the availability zone has changed successfully.

Note that the Availability Zone currently is ap-south-1b (as in the screenshot above), and the Secondary Zone is ap-south-1a.

For our reference, we’ll use as the Endpoint that we have. Yours will of course vary.

On your EC2 terminal, run the following

while true; do host | grep alias ; sleep 1; done

(you can exit using CTRL+C at any point of time)

The above script will continue to check via DNS the pointer to Endpoint. The result will be something like the following is an alias for

Note the alias name

It is the server that is running MySQL instance, and your scripts will connect to eventually. It is the MySQL server for ap-south-1b zone assigned to your instance.

Now let’s simulate a scenario through reboot where we will make the Secondary Zone the Primary.

  • From your AWS console, select the DB Instance, and under Instance Options, select “Reboot”.
AWSRDS-Reboot Instance

Rebooting RDS DB Instance

  • Under the Reboot options, select the option “Reboot With Failover?”, and click Reboot.
AWSRDS-Reboot Option

Reboot With Failover option

  • Continue to monitor the terminal where you were checking the domain name pointing for your Endpoint.
AWSRDS-RDS Endpoint DNS Change

Endpoint’s DNS Alias Changes on Server Switching

It takes <60 seconds for the Endpoint DNS information to change. You will be able to see a new domain name that your endpoint is now pointing towards. is an alias for

You can refresh the AWS console. It takes within a few seconds to <10 minutes to see the updated Availability Zone information on the AWS console.

AWSRDS-RDS Details Zone Change

Availability Zone Switchover successful

If you notice, the Availability Zone has now become ap-south-1a (instead of 1b), and Secondary Zone is now ap-south-1b (instead of 1a). Hence the servers have interchanged, and now you can connect only to the Primary Server.

Results for the above setup (your information will vary):

  • ap-south-1a is pointing to
  • ap-south-1b is pointing to

Note: You can only connect to one of the servers at a time, and that is the Primary Availability Zone server.

Testing Multi-AZ Failover

Referring to, the Multi-AZ failover mode works in a synchronous Master/Slave relationship. There are two servers running simultaneously, the Primary one is accessible to end user, and the data is replicated in real time to a Secondary server (residing in a different zone), which is not accessible to the end user.

In case of a Primary Server’s unavailability, the Secondary Zone’s server is elevated to be the Primary, and hence accessible to the end user and application.

Test Case 1 – We’ll keep on connecting to the database and inserting one record every time in the database. The purpose is to check how much time does it take for the failover to happen. Basically Primary Availability Zone will become Secondary Availability Zone, and vice versa.

Test Case 2 – We’ll connect to the Primary Zone’s Instance directly (instead of using the Endpoint provided) and start adding the data through multiple clients. While the data is being added, we’ll reboot the machine with Failover mode on. It will make the Primary Zone secondary and inaccessible, and the Secondary Zone will now be made Primary. We will then verify the data insertion that we did on the now Secondary server, and if all records are available on the now Primary server.

I will use basic PHP scripting to test out the Failover capacity and if the data is replicated correctly. You can replicate it in any other language that you prefer.

  • Install PHP & MySQL client
apt-get install mysql-client-core-5.6 php5-cli php5-mysql
  • Connect to MySQL, and create a table in the MySQL Database (please replace the values based on your environment)
 mysql -h -u vivek -p FirstRDSdb
CREATE TABLE `failover_test` (
 `id` int(10) unsigned NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT,
 `cycle` varchar(50) DEFAULT NULL,
 `counter` int(10) unsigned NOT NULL,
 `failover_date` datetime NOT NULL,


Test Case 1 Implementation

Create a PHP script named failover_test.php with the following content


$host = ""; // AWS Endpoint
$user = "vivek";
$password = "password";
$dbname = "FirstRDSdb";

if (!isset($argv[1])) {
 exit("Provide a cycle name\n");
if (!isset($argv[2])) {
 exit("Provide the id value (that will be coming from for loop)\n");
$cycle = $argv[1];
$count = $argv[2];

$conn = mysqli_connect("$host","$user","$password","$dbname");
$q = mysqli_query($conn, "insert into failover_test set cycle='$cycle',counter='$count',failover_date=now() ");

if (!$q) {
 $date = date("Y-m-d H:i:s");
 echo "\n----------- NOT INSERTED $count / $date --------------\n";
} else {
 echo "$count.";


Action Plan

  1. We will execute the above PHP script in a loop.
  2. While the terminal is executing the script, we will reboot the database with the option ‘Reboot with Failover?‘.
  3. We will monitor the PHP script and notice any numbers that are missing. The count of the missing numbers will give you the total downtime in seconds (approximately).

On your EC2 machine, from the same location where you saved your PHP script, run the following bash command from the terminal

for i in {1..5000}; do timeout 1 php failover_test.php cycle0 $i ; done

(You can use CTRL+C to terminate if you see any errors, or once your work/testing is over)

The above script does entry from 1 to 5000 (or increase it if the number is getting exhausted before you are able to do the testing) in the database. The “timeout” command is there to ensure that if there is no response for 1 second, the script will timeout & exit.

Now move on to the AWS console, and reboot the database instance with the option “Reboot With Failover?” selected.

AWSRDS-Reboot Option

Reboot with Failover option

Continue to monitor the script that is being executed.

AWSRDS-Test1 Downtime

Calculating the Downtime. Use CTRL+C to end the script execution.

Note the duration where the data insertion pauses and no numbers are displayed. It means the Primary Zone’s server has shutdown, and your EC2 instance cannot connect to any RDS server. Once the numbers start showing up again after the delay, it refers to the server in the Secondary Zone now made primary. Note the total missing numbers; their count will tell you about the approximate seconds of total downtime that you faced.


Test Case 2

In this test, we will connect with only the Primary instance and flood it with data. We will then do a reboot and make the Secondary instance Primary. The aim is to test whether the data that was saved in Primary instance is correctly replicated to the Secondary.

Create a new PHP Script failover_load.php


// You need to get the relevant servers for your testing through
// monitoring DNS changes as I mentioned in the document above
$zoneA = "";
$zoneB = "";

// Select the zone that is currently primary - so that your script can connect to it
// You can get this information from the AWS Console for your DB Instance
$host = $zoneB;
$user = "vivek";
$password = "password";
$dbname = "FirstRDSdb";

if (!isset($argv[1])) {
 exit("Provide a cycle name\n");
$cycle = $argv[1];

$link = mysqli_init();

$conn = mysqli_connect("$host","$user","$password","$dbname");

for($count=1;$count<1000000;$count++) {

 $q = mysqli_query($conn, "insert into failover_test set cycle='$cycle',counter='$count',failover_date=now()");
 echo "$count.";



Action Plan

  1. We will open 5 terminal windows and execute the above script 5 times, with different cycle names for differentiation
  2. While the scripts are being executed, we will reboot the Database instance with “Reboot with Failover?” option checked.
  3. Once the scripts stop adding further data, we’ll take the max numbers entered, and match it with the database records.

Open 5 terminal windows and connect to your EC2 instance, and prepare the execution of the failover_load.php script with different cycle names (just for identification).

AWSRDS-Prepare RDS Load Test

5 separate terminal windows, with different cycle names. Prepared for execution.

Now, execute one by one each of the commands. The faster you do, the better. While the data entry is being done, you can visit the AWS console, and reboot the DB instance with the option “Reboot with Failover?” option selected.

AWSRDS-Reboot Option

Reboot with Failover option

Why did we do this?

The purpose is to add data rapidly in the RDS database, and while the data is being written, we’ll reboot the database instance and make the ‘Secondary Zone’ the ‘Primary’. Since we connected directly to the RDS instance in the Primary Zone ( instead of using the default AWS provided endpoint (, as soon as the reboot is done, the server that we are inserting data in will stop responding.

You can see by referring to the screen below, the insertions stopped at the following numbers for each cycle

  • cycle1 – 681
  • cycle2 – 635
  • cycle3 – 571
  • cycle4 – 529
  • cycle5 – 490
AWSRDS-Load Test Cycle1

For Cycle1 – 681

AWSRDS-Load Test Cycle2

For Cycle2 – 635

AWSRDS-Load Test Cycle3

For Cycle3 – 571

AWSRDS-Load Test Cycle4

For Cycle4 – 529

AWSRDS-Load Test Cycle5

For Cycle5 – 490



We have already rebooted the database server, and now we have a new Primary Server.
We will connect to it using the mysql client from our EC2 machine, and run the following queries

ubuntu@ip-172-31-28-190:~$ mysql -h -u vivek FirstRDSdb -p
mysql> select max(counter ) from failover_test where cycle='cycle1';
 | max(counter ) |
 | 681 |
 1 row in set (0.01 sec)

mysql> select max(counter ) from failover_test where cycle='cycle2';
 | max(counter ) |
 | 635 |
 1 row in set (0.01 sec)

mysql> select max(counter ) from failover_test where cycle='cycle3';
 | max(counter ) |
 | 571 |
 1 row in set (0.01 sec)

mysql> select max(counter ) from failover_test where cycle='cycle4';
 | max(counter ) |
 | 529 |
 1 row in set (0.01 sec)

mysql> select max(counter ) from failover_test where cycle='cycle5';
 | max(counter ) |
 | 490 |
 1 row in set (0.01 sec)

If you notice, from the above, the relevant counter numbers match from what we saw while we were adding the data using the failover_load.php script.

What we can infer from the test results above is:

  • MySQL does synchronous Primary/Slave replication
  • If Primary Server goes down, the Secondary Server is made primary, and all the data available on Primary is replicated on Secondary and the services can continue to operate
  • You can connect only to the Primary Server at a time


I believe the above is a fairly good implementation and we are able to simulate the failover setup. However, since the system is doing a clean reboot, the data is synchronised properly. A better test would have been to abruptly shutdown the database (due to hardware failure), and review how reliably and swiftly it did the failover.