Cisco Firepower NGFW Firewall Review

Gives us more visibility into the inbound/outbound traffic being managed

What is our primary use case?

We have an offshore development center with around 1,400 users (in one location) where we have deployed this firewall.

The maturity of our organization’s security implementation is a four out of five (with five being high). We do have NOC and SOC environments along with in-built access to our systems. 

We use Acunetix as one of our major tools. We do have some open source. There are a couple of networks where we are using the Tenable tool. We have implemented an SIEM along with a Kaspersky at the cloud level. In the Cisco firewall, we installed Kaspersky in the firewall logs which upload to Kaspersky for us to review back.

How has it helped my organization?

Being able to determine our active users vs inactive users has led us to increased productivity through visibility. Also, if an issue was happening with our throughput, then we wouldn't know without research. Now, notifications are more proactively happening.

What is most valuable?

The advance malware protection (AMP) is valuable because we didn't previously have this when we had an enterprise gateway. Depending on the end user, they could have EDR or antivirus. Now, we have enabled Cisco AMP, which give us more protection at the gateway level. 

The application visibility is also valuable. Previously, with each application, we would prepare and develop a report based on our knowledge. E.g., there are a couple business units using the SAS application, but we lacked visibility into the application layer and usage. We use to have to configure the IP or URL to give us information about usage. Now, we have visibility into concurrent SAS/Oracle sessions. This solution gives us more visibility into the inbound/outbound traffic being managed. This application visibility is something new for us and very effective because we are using Office 365 predominantly as our productivity tool. Therefore, when users are accessing any of the Office 365 apps, this is directly identified and we can see the usage pattern. It gives us more visibility into our operations, as I can see information in real-time on the dashboards.

What needs improvement?

The solution has positively affected our organization’s security posture. I would rate the effects as an eight (out of 10). There is still concern about the engagement between Cisco Firepower and Cisco ASA, which we have in other offices. We are missing the visibility between these two products.

We would like more application visibility and an anti-malware protection system, because we don't have this at the enterprise level.

The central management tool is not comfortable to use. You need to have a specific skill set. This is an important improvement for management because I would like to log into Firepower, see the dashboard, and generate a real-time report, then I question my team.

For how long have I used the solution?

Nearly a year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

So far, it has been stable.

We have around 32 people for maintenance. Our NOC team works 24/7. They are the team who manages the solution.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability is one of our major business requirements. We are seeing 20 percent growth year-over-year. The plan is to keep this product for another four years.

How are customer service and technical support?

We contacted Cisco directly when issues happened during the implementation, e.g., the management console was hacked.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We used Fortinet and that product was coming to end of life. We had been using it continuously for seven years, then we started to experience maintenance issues.

Also, we previously struggled to determine who were all our active users, especially since many were VPN users. We would have to manually determine who was an inactive user, where now the process is more automated. It also had difficult handling our load.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was complex. We engaged NTT Dimension Data as there were a couple things that needed to be done for our requirements and validation. This took time to get signed off on by quality team. However, the configuration/implementation of the system did not take much time. It was a vanilla implementation.

We did face performance issues with the console during implementation. The console was hacked and we needed to reinstall the console in the virtual environment. 

What about the implementation team?

We were engaged with a local vendor, NTT Dimension Data, who is a Cisco partner. They were more involved on the implementation and migration of the firewall. Some channels were reconfigured, along with some URL filtering and other policies that we used for configuration or migration to the new server.

Our experience with NTT Dimension Data has been good. We have been using them these past four to five years.

What was our ROI?

We have seen ROI. Our productivity has increased.

The change to Cisco Firepower has reduced the time it takes for our network guy to generate our monthly report. It use to take him many hours where he can now have it done in an hour.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Cisco pricing is premium. However, they gave us a 50 to 60 percent discount.

There are additional implementation and validation costs.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We also evaluated Check Point, Palo Alto, Sophos, and Cisco ASA. In the beginning, we thought about going for Cisco ASA but were told that Firepower was the newest solution. We met with Cisco and they told us that they were giving more attention going forward to Firepower than the ASA product.

We did a small POC running in parallel with Fortinet. We evaluated reports, capability, and the people involved. Palo Alto was one of the closest competitors because they have threat intelligence report in their dashboard. However, we decided not to go with Palo Alto because of the price and support.

What other advice do I have?

We are using Cisco at a global level. We have internally integrated this solution with Cisco Unified Communications Manager in a master and slave type of environment that we built. It uses a country code for each extension. Also, there is Jabber, which our laptop users utilize when connecting from home. They call through Jabber to connect with customers. Another tool that we use is Cisco Meraki. This is our all time favorite product for the office WiFi environment. However, we are not currently integrating our entire stack because then we would have to change everything. We may integrate the Cisco stack in the future. It should not be difficult to integrate since everything is a Cisco product. The only issue may be compliance since we have offices in the US and Europe.

We are now using a NGFW which helps us deep dive versus using a normal firewall.

Overall, I would rate Cisco Firepower as an eight (out of 10).

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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