[nycbug-talk] RADIUS experiences

Isaac Levy ike at lesmuug.org
Tue May 23 18:52:45 EDT 2006

Thanks Lonnie,

On May 23, 2006, at 4:23 PM, Lonnie Olson wrote:

> On May 23, 2006, at 12:49 PM, Isaac Levy wrote:
>> I'm wondering if anyone here has experience with RADIUS servers?  I'm
>> setting one up for a fun project (wireless captive portal), and not
>> all that exited about using FreeRADIUS- lots of unanswered questions
>> in my brain...
>> That stated, my concerns are with ease of management, and redundant
>> replication for high-availability.
> I only have experience using Radiator, so I am a bit biased.
> http://www.open.com.au/radiator/

Sweet- something new to grok...

>> I'm basically concerned about scale issues-
>> 1) For a network of 300-5000 users, do the standard unix /etc/
>> password files scale sanely?  I mean, the docs have this as the
>> default config for user db, which is a type of data backend I'd
>> usually have in some other kind of DB.  It just seems like a recipe
>> for poor scalability.
> I think it would work ok for that many users, but not much more.
> I use an SQL backend for my main radius setup with about 4000  
> users, but that is kept in sync with the passwd files for my legacy  
> apps.  It is pretty ugly, but it works.


>> 2) LDAP backends?  Is this common practice? (I'm concerned about  
>> over-
>> complexity)
> LDAP does introduce quite a bit of complexity, but could be useful  
> if you have many applications that do authentication.
> I actually would like to move in that direction "some day".  If  
> this is just for radius, don't even bother.

This is just for RADIUS, and with only one application connecting to  
it- totally (purposefully) isolated from anything else.

>> 3) SQL backends?  Is this common practice? (Again, concerned about
>> over-complexity)
> SQL backends work well, and won't introduce much more complexity if  
> you are already maintaining a db server.  However it is not quite  
> as ubiquitous as LDAP in your apps.  (unless you look at pam_mysql)

Gotcha.  I think, with my application, SQL and LDAP backends seem to  
be about the same amount of complexity to add- both are extra  
software to manage/secure, both need some kind of library for the  
server to interact with them, more or less.

>> 4) Custom RADIUS implementations- RADIUS is more or less just a
>> protocol, with defined parameters for how it manages the big AAA.
>> Since it's the data backend I'm concerned about, (and know a lot
>> about how to deal with), I'm thinking of just implementing a simple
>> RADIUS server on top of databases I know and love?  I've found a  
>> good-
>> looking RADIUS library in Python, my favorite language, and I was
>> thinking of rolling my own server with a tiny, easily replicatable,
>> Python embedded DB.  It seems the simplest route to me, but I'm
>> hesitant because I feel there may be best-practicices for heavy
>> RADIUS users?  (ISP's, Telcos, anyone managing remote AAA)
> Radiator will connect to a whole lot of different backends.  It is  
> extremely configurable, but has a moderate learning curve.

I'm going to look at the map before I go down the path, so to speak-  
and feel it out- (I'm bound to at least learn something, right?)

> If you are just looking for a radius server with a separate  
> authentication database, Radiator w/ an SQL db backend will work  
> fine.  However it might be better in the long run to take the time  
> to centralize you authentication if you can.
> --lonnie

Thanks for the experience Lonnie- much appreciated.


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