Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Using Open Source Tinc to Setup a Peer-to-Peer VPN

Andrew Cowie on Using tinc VPN:
Peer to Peer

But for our current work, we needed something less centralized. We’re not trying to grant connectivity to a remote corporate network; we’re trying to set up a private network in the old-fashioned frame-relay sense of the word — actually join several remote networks together.

Traditional VPN solutions route all the traffic through the secure central node. If you’ve got one system in NSW and another in Victoria, but the remote access gateway is in California, then despite the fact that the two edges are likely less than 50 ms away direct path, all your traffic is going across the Pacific and back. That’s stupid.

A major complication for all of us was that everyone is (of course) stuck behind NAT. Lots of developers, all working remotely, really don’t need to send all their screen casts, voice conferences, and file transfer traffic into the central corporate network just to come all the way out again.

The 1990s approach to NAT implies a central point that everyone converges to as a means of getting their packets across the port address translation boundary. Things have come a long way since then; the rise of peer-to-peer file sharing and dealing with the challenges of internet telephony has also helped a great deal. Firewalls are more supportive and protocols have evolved in the ongoing attempt to deal with the problem.

Meet tinc

So the landscape is different today, and tinc takes advantage of this. According to their goals page, tinc is a “secure, scalable, stable and reliable, easy to configure, and flexible” peer-to-peer VPN. Uh huh. Because of its peer-to-peer nature, once two edges become aware of each other and have exchanged credentials, they can start sending traffic directly to each other rather than through the intermediary.

More on tinc – from the tinc wiki:
What is tinc?

tinc is a Virtual Private Network (VPN) daemon that uses tunnelling and encryption to create a secure private network between hosts on the Internet. tinc is Free Software and licensed under the GNU General Public License version 2 or later. Because the VPN appears to the IP level network code as a normal network device, there is no need to adapt any existing software. This allows VPN sites to share information with each other over the Internet without exposing any information to others.

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