What is Cisco FirePOWER? The introduction

Design & Configure

What is Cisco FirePOWER? The introduction

What is Cisco ASA FirePOWER?

The flagship firewall of Cisco – the Cisco ASA (Adaptive Security Appliance) and FirePOWER technology (the result acquision of Source Fire company by Cisco in 2013) lied down the foundation of “next generation firewall” line of products in Cisco’s portfolio: ASA FirePOWER Services. This next generation firewall is composed of widely known ASA-OS and software module (SFR) that takes care of main “next generation” functions like Application control, Intrusion Protection, Anti-Malware and URL Filtering.


ASA FirePOWER licensing

Align with next generation functions there is appropriate licensing proposed by Cisco, in fact similar to other vendors, where licensing goes according to firewall functionality (you can read more about other vendors licensing here). In ASA FirePOWER there are following licenses available:

  • Control License – allows user and application control by adding application and user conditions to access control rules. To enable control you need to enable protection as well. Doesn’t expire.
  • Protection License – includes intrusion detection and prevention behavior, file control and Security Intelligence filtering. Doesn’t expire.
  • Advanced Malware Protection (AMP) license – performs malware code detections and blocking when transmitted over the network. License is time based.
  • URL Filtering License – used in access control rules that determine the traffic that can traverse the network based on URLs and web category requested by monitored hosts. Categories are correlated with information about those websites, which is obtained from the Cisco cloud by the ASA FirePOWER module. License is time based.

Besides licenses described above ASA OS itself is also licensed as it was before. It means

  • Security Plus license for small platforms (5506X, 5508X, 5512X) enables:
    • More VLANs
    • Active Standby Clustering
    • Higher performance
    • Low End platforms don’t support contexts


  • VPN – Anyconnect licensing
    • Plus
      • basic VPN client connectivity
      • Third party IPsec IKEv2 RA clients
      • Per Application VPN
      • Cloud Web Security and WSA
      • NAM module (802.1x)
      • AMP for endpoints enables (AMP itself licensed separately)
    • Apex
      • All above
      • Network Visibility Module (from 4.2)
      • Posture (Compliance and remediation with ISE, Apex for ISE needed)
      • Suite B or NG Encryption
      • Clientless VPN
      • ASA multi-context mode remote access


Firepower Management Center (FMC) and network architecture

In red you can see the production traffic flow. Traffic flows normally from appliance to appliance between regular ASA interfaces based on routing table (or PBR). However, ASA internal traffic redirection which is done by Modular Policy Framework (MPF) is responsible for directing the production traffic to FirePOWER modules (know also as SFR module) which is optional by design but of course essential for next generation firewall functions to take effect.

This traffic redirection is performed within internal ASA interface connecting ASA dataplane and SFR module plane. Traffic which is directed to SFR module is inspected under different conditions and actions are made according to configured policies. Those policies called Access Control Policies are in turn configured from management station called Firepower Management Center (FMC) where all the modules are synchronized to. FMC can be VM as well as physical appliance. Black lines depict Firepower management traffic from FMC to sensors and from sensors to FMC. This black line is typically some kind of management segment within the network. Designing for FirePOWER in your network you need to remember that sensors use mgmt segment for logging to FMC and FMC uses mgmt to monitor sensors, pull data and push configuration. That means that this part of network could be somehow utilized especially by logging traffic.Cisco ASA FirePOWER

See how to redirect traffic to sensor with Modular Policy Framework (MPF)

Author: Marcin Bialy