Cisco ASA Virtual Context Mode

A single Cisco ASA or a cluster of two ASAs can be partition into multiple virtual firewalls known as security contexts. Each context has it’s own independent firewall, with its own security policy, interfaces, and administrators. These contexts are similar to having multiple standalone ASA devices. In combination with failover groups you can run a ASA cluster in active/active state andĀ utilize both devices. Don’t forget when a failover happens that both failover groups need to run on a single device, keep enough ressources free on both devices and do not oversubscribe too much.

You have to look because there are limitation what features are supported in context mode. In version 8 is unsupport to use dynamic routing protocols, VPN, Threat Detection and Quality of Service. In version 9 are some changes and now dynamic routing protocols (not RIP or OSPFv3) and site-to-site IPsec VPNs are supported.

Here the configuration example how to set-up an Cisco ASA 5580 with 10 Gigabit Ethernet interfaces.

Enabling the context mode

mode noconfirm multiple

Physical interface configuration

interface GigabitEthernet4/2 
  description Failover 
  no shutdown 
  exit 

interface GigabitEthernet4/3 
  description Stateful 
  no shutdown 
  exit 

interface TenGigabitEthernet5/0 
  description TeTrunk-1st 
  no shutdown 
  exit 

interface TenGigabitEthernet5/1 
  description TeTrunk-2nd 
  no shutdown 
  exit

Redundant interface configuration

interface Redundant 1
  description Redundant-Trunk
  member-interface TenGigabitEthernet5/0
  member-interface TenGigabitEthernet5/1
  exit

interface Redundant 1.800
  vlan 800
  description Link-Outside1
  exit

interface Redundant 1.801
  vlan 801
  description Link-Outside2
  exit

interface Redundant 1.100
  vlan 100
  description Link-Inside1
  exit

interface Redundant 1.101
  vlan 101
  description Link-Inside2
  exit

interface Redundant 1.500
  vlan 500
  description Link-Management
  exit

Here you need to start configuring the ASA failover settings. Like you see in the failover group configuration that I put group 1 to the primary device and group 2 to the seconday device for active/active set-up, when I create the virtual security context I join them to the different failover groups.

failover group 1
  primary
  polltime interface 1 holdtime 5
  exit

failover group 2
  secondary
  polltime interface 1 holdtime 5
  exit

failover

failover lan unit primary
failover lan interface failover GigabitEthernet4/2
failover interface ip failover 169.254.0.1 255.255.255.0 standby 169.254.0.2

failover link stateful GigabitEthernet4/3
failover interface ip stateful 169.254.1.1 255.255.255.0 standby 169.254.1.2

failover polltime unit 2 holdtime 6
failover polltime interface 1 holdtime 5
failover timeout 0:00:00

failover active

Failover configuration on the seconday device

interface GigabitEthernet4/2
  description Failover
  no shutdown
  exit

failover lan unit secondary
failover lan interface failover GigabitEthernet4/2
failover interface ip failover 169.254.0.1 255.255.255.0 standby 169.254.0.2

failover

copy running-config startup-config

Now you start to set-up the virtual contexts and add the interfaces I configured before

admin-context admin-asa-01

context admin-asa-01
  allocate-interface Redundant1.500 Link-Management
  config-url disk0:/admin-asa-01.conf
  join-failover-group 1
  exit

context virtual-asa-02
  allocate-interface Redundant1.800 Link-Outside1
  allocate-interface Redundant1.100 Link-Inside1
  config-url disk0:/virtual-asa-02.conf
  join-failover-group 1
  exit

context virtual-asa-03
  allocate-interface Redundant1.801 Link-Outside2
  allocate-interface Redundant1.101 Link-Inside2
  config-url disk0:/virtual-asa-03.conf
  join-failover-group 2
  exit

In the end save the configuration

write memory all

Afterwards you can change to the configured contexts with the command

changeto context virtual-asa-02

and start configuring your virtual firewalls.

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