Product Documentation

Architecture Overview

Sep 01, 2016

The three entities that are part of a NetScaler-Thales deployment are a Thales nShield Connect module, a remote file server (RFS), and a NetScaler ADC.

The Thales nShield Connect is a network-attached hardware security module. The RFS is used to configure the HSM and to store the encrypted key files.

Hardserver, a proprietary daemon provided by Thales, is used for communication between the client (ADC), the Thales HSM, and the RFS. It uses the IMPATH secure communication protocol. A gateway daemon, called the Hardserver Gateway, is used to communicate between the NetScaler packet engine and the Hardserver.

Note: The terms Thales nShield Connect, Thales HSM, and HSM are used interchangeably in this documentation.

The following figure illustrates the interaction between the different components.

In a typical deployment, the RFS is used to securely store keys generated by the HSM. After the keys are generated, you can securely transfer them to the ADC and then use the NetScaler configuration utility or command line to load the keys to the HSM. A virtual server on the ADC uses Thales to decrypt the client key exchange to complete the SSL handshake. Thereafter, all the SSL operations are performed on the ADC.

Note: The terms keys and application key tokens are used interchangeably in this documentation.

The following figure illustrates the packet flow in the SSL handshake with the Thales HSM.

Figure 1. SSL Handshake Packets Flow Diagram with NetScaler Using Thales HSM
Note: The communication between the ADC and the HSM uses a Thales proprietary communication protocol, called IMPATH.