( don't ) use CiscoVMS to configure PIX firewalls.

I've played around a bit with CiscoVMS but find it very disappointing. The system is not only slow, it is also very time-consuming to modify the configuration of a PIX, also the software doesn't recognize several command lines from the pixes that I've tried uploading in it. I find it a weak attempt from Cisco to create a Checkpoint GUI like interface for users that don't know how to use the CLI. I cannot imagine that someone who knows the CLI would start using CiscoVMS to manage his PIXES. Does anyone disagree on this ?

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In article , ciscoham wrote: :I've played around a bit with CiscoVMS but find it very disappointing.

:I cannot :imagine that someone who knows the CLI would start using CiscoVMS to :manage his PIXES. Does anyone disagree on this ?

I do not disagree about the slowness, or the number of operations required to enter that which would be simple to do via the CLI. CiscoVMS does, however, have its uses.

a) CiscoVMS is able (or so it claims) to push a new configuration out to a remote active firewall. If you have ever tried using the CLI to configure the very VPN that you are accessing a remote firewall through, you will know that the process is painful: the moment you touch the ACL (or any object-group referenced therein) that defines the VPN tunnel, you have inconsistancies in your Security Associations (SA's) and may lose the connection.

There are some things you can do to mitigate the inconsistant-SA problem, but they require essentially duplicating all objects and ACLs and crypto maps, then activating the new version. But even then you run into the problem that as soon as you enable the new crypto map complex on the interface, you have to clear the SA's in order to put it fully into effect (*strange* things happen otherwise)... and when you do that, you lose the VPN connection you are configuring over. This makes it impossible to reliably push a new configuration out via 'config net' (tftp).

b) If you are working with multiple firewalls in an impure mesh (only some accesses are allowed between some of the pairs), then what might seem a simple change can end up requiring a number of changes which is exponential in the number of firewalls. For example, adding a udp flow all around to 5 firewalls requires ((2*2) * (4+3+2+1)) = 40 ACL updates. [The udp port as source

  • as destination, times incoming + outgoing ACL, times each of the mesh pairs.] It doesn't take very long at all before you really start needing a configuration generator, in which you specify the flows in a more compact form and have the ACL entries automatically generated for each of the firewalls. CiscoVMS gives you that kind of configuration generation potential. It has notable limitations, and you have to be disciplined to use it to best effect, but it's a *lot* better to update only four entries and have that propogate appropriately.

c) I did up a home-brew configuration generator before I found CiscoVMS. It turned out that using CiscoVMS best requires the same kind of structuring that I used in my home-brew, but my generator was text-based so it was a wee bit faster to stick with it than to go for CiscoVMS. But I'm the -only- person who knows how my home-brew generator works... it is logical and extensible, but it isn't something that would be obvious (especially to someone who hasn't run into the problems that drove me to write the generator!) If I had done the work in CiscoVMS, I could at least have handed it over to someone else and they could have read the documentation and played with the pretty little {slow} GUI, and placed support calls on it. Technical superiority is not the only measure of success; it is often not even the most important measure.

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Walter Roberson


Thank you for your detailed comments. Looking at all pro's and con's I think we will not use it. We manage a bunch of pixes for customers, all these pixes have little in common and we don't have the VPN problems you talked about. We'll stick with the good old CLI.


Walter Robers> > :I've played around a bit with CiscoVMS but find it very disappointing. >

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