Cisco PIX/ASA Firewall Failover

Posted on 2006-11-14
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-11-16

PIX/ASA 1----------------Catalyst Switch 1----------------Cisco Router 1
      |                                      |                                          |
PIX/ASA 2----------------Catalyst Switch 2----------------Cisco Router 2

I have the above setup in my network to achieve network redundancy.  Both firewalls have failover configured, and firewall 1 is the active one.  Both routers are running HSRP, and router 1 is the active one.  My question is:

1. If Catalyst Switch 1 fails, will failover happen to firewall 2 and router 2?  Can traffic still go from firewall to router (or the other way round)?
Question by:hoggiee
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LVL 79

Expert Comment

ID: 17938337
Most likely not unless there is catastrophic failure of the switch - full power off or all ports down.
That's the only way that the PIX would get an interface down event. Same on the router.
However, an interface down event does not necessarily create a failover situation for the ASA or the router.
My advise is to use a dynamic routing protocol such as OSPF between the two routers and the ASA's. Run the ASA's in Active/Active mode and let the routing determine the best route. No need for HSRP on the routers either.
BGP between the two routers and the 2 ISP links.

LVL 79

Accepted Solution

lrmoore earned 2000 total points
ID: 17938357
You can also use object tracking on the PIX/ASA failover pair for a failover route and plug one interface from each ASA into each switch.
Dual ISP links:

Author Comment

ID: 17943301
That means the above setup will not achieve full redundancy isit? If switch 1 fails and no failover, there will be a communication breakdown?
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Author Comment

ID: 17943400
The link that you have given for the object tracking on the PIX/ASA is just fastastic.  Could provide alternative solution for outgoing Internet access.  Can I use that for incoming Internet access, so that outside users can still access to my web server, and also emails can still reach my Exchange server via the backup Internet link?(if I have a backup DNS server which resolves my webserver and exchange server to the set of IP addresses given by ISP 2).
LVL 79

Assisted Solution

lrmoore earned 2000 total points
ID: 17946303
>If switch 1 fails and no failover, there will be a communication breakdown?
Yep. Sorry.
Routers behave a certain way
Switches behave a certain way
PIX/ASA behaves a certain way
None of them handle failover the same way.

Best alternative to having dual switches is to have everything plugged into just one switch with a second "cold spare" racked and ready. Power it up and manually move all the cables to the spare switch in event of failover. No manual intervention is ideal, so the next best thing is dynamic routing protocols that don't care or they compensate for loss of data path. The switch in the middle is just a path and can't participate in the dynamic decision making.

Fortunately, the switch is probably the component that is least likely to fail.

Author Comment

ID: 17962241
ok. one last question..... the object-tracking feature in PIX/ASA only available in version 7.0 and above?
LVL 79

Expert Comment

ID: 17964615
Correct. ASA only comes with 7.x,  existing PIX can be upgraded to 7.x

Author Comment

ID: 17970010

"My advise is to use a dynamic routing protocol such as OSPF between the two routers and the ASA's. Run the ASA's in Active/Active mode and let the routing determine the best route"

My understanding from ASA guides is that Active/Active failover mode can only be implemented in multiple context mode.  And in multiple context mode, some features might not be available. e.g. VPN, dynamic routing.  In this case, how true the above statement is?
LVL 79

Expert Comment

ID: 17971411
I forgot about the multiple context mode requirement...

OK, back to the drawing board, but you can see that making total redundancy is a difficult thing to do.
1 x high availability switch in between the PIX Active/Standby pair and the routers. I'd still use OSPF though.

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