Product Documentation

How String Matching works with Pattern Sets and Data Sets

Jul 11, 2013

A pattern set or data set contains a set of patterns, and each pattern is assigned a unique index. When a policy is applied to a packet, an expression identifies a string to be evaluated, and the operator compares the string to the patterns defined in the pattern set or data set until a match is found or all patterns have been compared. Then, depending on its function, the operator returns either a boolean value that indicates whether or not a matching pattern was found or the index of the pattern that matches the string.

Note: This topic explains the working of a pattern set. Data sets work the same way. The only difference between pattern sets and data sets is the type of patterns defined in the set.

Consider the following use case to understand how patterns can be used for string matching.

You want to determine whether the URL suffix (target text) contains any of the image file extensions. Without using pattern sets, you would have to define a complex expression, as follows:


If the URL has a suffix of "jpg," with the above compound expression, the NetScaler appliance has to iterate through the entire compound expression sequentially, from one sub expression to the next, to determine that the request refers to a jpg image. The following figure shows the steps in the process.

When a compound expression includes hundreds of sub expressions, the above process is resource intensive. A better alternative is an expression that invokes a pattern set, as shown in the following figure.

During policy evaluation as shown above, the operator (CONTAINS_ANY) compares the string identified in the request with the patterns defined in the pattern set until a match is found. With the Sample_Patset expression, the multiple iterations through six sub expressions are reduced to just one.

By eliminating the need to configure compound expressions that perform string matching with multiple OR operations, pattern sets or data sets simplify configuration and accelerate processing of requests and responses.