About the author

My name is Solène Rapenne. I like learning and sharing experiences about IT stuff. Hobbies: '(BSD OpenBSD h+ Lisp cmdline gaming internet-stuff Crossbow). I love % and lambda characters. OpenBSD developer solene@.

Contact : solene on Freenode or solene+www at dataswamp dot org

Faster SSH with multiplexing

Written by Solène, on 22 May 2018.
Tags: #unix #ssh

I discovered today an OpenSSH feature which doesn’t seem to be widely known. The feature is called multiplexing and consists of reusing an opened ssh connection to a server when you want to open another one. This leads to faster connection establishment and less processes running.

To reuse an opened connection, we need to use the ControlMaster option, which requires ControlPath to be set. We will also set ControlPersist for convenience.

  • ControlMaster defines if we create, or use or nothing about multiplexing
  • ControlPath defines where to store the socket to reuse an opened connection, this should be a path only available to your user.
  • ControlPersist defines how much time to wait before closing a ssh connection multiplexer after all connection using it are closed. By default it’s “no” and once you drop all connections the multiplexer stops.

I choosed to use the following parameters into my ~/.ssh/config file:

Host *
ControlMaster auto
ControlPath ~/.ssh/sessions/%h%p%r.sock
ControlPersist 60

This requires to have ~/.ssh/sessions/ folder restricted to my user only. You can create it with the following command:

install -d -m 700 ~/.ssh/sessions

(you can also do mkdir ~/.ssh/sessions && chmod 700 ~/.ssh/sessions but this requires two commands)

The ControlPath variable will creates sessions with the name “${hostname}${port}${user}.sock”, so it will be unique per remote server.

Finally, I choose to use ControlPersist to 60 seconds, so if I logout from a remote server, I still have 60 seconds to reconnect to it instantly.

Don’t forget that if for some reason the ssh channel handling the multiplexing dies, all the ssh connections using it will die with it.

Benefits with ProxyJump

Another ssh feature that is very useful is ProxyJump, it’s really useful to access ssh hosts which are not directly available from your current place. Like servers with no public ssh server available. For my job, I have a lot of servers not facing the internet, and I can still connect to them using one of my public facing server which will relay my ssh connection to the destination. Using the ControlMaster feature, the ssh relay server doesn’t have to handle lot of connections anymore, but only one.

In my ~/.ssh/config file:

Host *.private.lan
ProxyJump public-server.com

Those two lines allow me to connect to every servers with .private.lan domains (which is known by my local DNS server) by typing ssh some-machine.private.lan. This will establish a connection to public-server.com and then connects to the next server.