Cisco Firepower NGFW Review

Has next gen features like application awareness and intrusion protection but the CLI needs to be simplified


What is our primary use case?

Our primary use case is whatever is best for our customer. I'm the service provider. The customer's main purpose is to use the malware services protection and the firewall itself, as well as the application awareness feature.

How has it helped my organization?

My client company is Cisco Oriented. They wanted to leverage something which is equivalent that can give them the next gen features like application awareness and intrusion protection. That is a major reason they were looking forward to this. The original ASA firewall did not have these features. This was the major reason the customer moved on to Cisco Firepower Threat Defense (FTD). Now they can go ahead and leverage those functionalities.

What is most valuable?

Firepower is an okay product. However, it is better as a firewall than the IPS or other services it provides.

What needs improvement?

I was trying to learn how this product actually operates and one thing that I see from internal processing is that it does fire-walling and then sends it to the IPS model and any other model that needs to be performed. For example, content checking or filtering will be done in a field processing manner. That is something that causes delays in the network, from a security perspective. That is something that can be improved upon. Palo Alto already has implemented this as a pilot passed processing. They put the same stream of data across multiple modules at the same time and see if it is giving a positive result by using an XR function. Something similar can be done in Cisco Firepower. Instead of single processing or in a sequential manner, they can do something similar to pile processing. An internal function that is something that they can improve upon.

They can also improve on cost because Cisco is normally expensive and that's the reason customers do not buy them.

Also, if they could provide integration with Cisco Umbrella, that would actually improve the store next level. Integration is one thing that I would definitely want.

From a technical perspective, maybe they could simplify the CLI. That is one thing that I would like to be implemented because Cisco ASA or Cisco, in general, is usually good at simple CLIs. That is one thing that I saw lacking in FTD. Maybe because they got it from another vendor. They're trying to integrate the product.

For how long have I used the solution?

Two years

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

From a stability diagnosis, once I did the deployment it did not give me any issue for at least six to eight months. Once it went to a stable support, I did not see major problems. I don't think there were issues with stability.

However, the core upgrades frequently come in, so you need to be carefully devising that support management. From a stability perspective, if you are happy with your current stuff and you do not require past updates it would be very stable. If you're using an IPS, the only challenge would be past management. With Cisco having cloud integration and just firing one command and getting things done, it is still okay. It is a good stable product.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We have only one or two firewalls as a site data center firewall.

From what I have studied, they are scalable. You can have eight firewalls integrated with the FTP devices. I don't think scalability would be an issue but I do not have a first-hand answer on that.

There are approximately 2,500 customer base users using Cisco Firepower. It's a data center firewall, so all the sites integrate for one data center.

You do not need extra staff to maintain Firepower. One field technician engineer, FTE would be sufficient and should not be a problem. I don't think extra staff would be needed. For support, for instance, you need one person.

How are customer service and technical support?

They have very good documentation, so there's a small chance you will actually need technical support. I would give kudos to the Cisco documentation. That would be the answer.

I have not tried the support because most of it has been solved with the documentation. Nevertheless, Cisco support has typically been a pleasant experience. I don't think that would be a problem with this.

If you previously used a different solution, which one did you use and why did you switch?

We did previously use a different solution. They had two different solutions. One was Cisco ASA itself and before that, they used Check Point.

We are a Cisco company and that's the reason they are moving from one Cisco product to another Cisco product, which was better than the previous one. So, that was a major reason for the switch. I would say the other vendors are improving. This company was just Cisco oriented so they wanted something Cisco.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is a bit difficult. Other vendors are doing the app integration solution. The initial setup was medium in complexity.

You need to install the Firepower CLI. You need to log into that and then you'll need to sit down to connect to the ASA and configure the ASA level services. You also need a Firepower management station for it to work appropriately. The setup is serious and a bit complex.

What about the implementation team?

In my scenario, because I had to learn the entire technology over there and then apply it, it took me around two weeks time to do it. Then the integration, improvisation, and stuff that normally happens took some extra time. You can safely say around two to four weeks period is what it normally takes for deployment. This is based on how the company evaluates the product. It depends on how much you know at that point.

Usually, for the deployment, the company works with Cisco, so they only use Cisco products. I am a DIY person, I did the deployment myself.

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

We normally license on a yearly basis.

The hardware procurement cost should be considered. If you're virtual maybe that cost is eradicated and just the licensing cost is applied. If you have hardware the cost must be covered by you. 

All the shipping charges will be paid by you also.

I don't think there are any other hidden charges though.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We gave them Palo Alto as an alternative option. I think they were more into Cisco. They did not evaluate the Palo Alto though, they just opted for Cisco.

What other advice do I have?

If you're really looking into Cisco Firepower, they have a good product, but I would say study hard and look around. If you want an easier product, you can always use Palo Alto. If you are a Cisco guy and you want to be with Cisco, you'll need to get an integration service engineer from the Cisco side. That will actually help you out a lot. Alternatively, maybe you can go for Palo Alto. That would be the best thing to do.

If you are not worried about the technical integration part and learning how it works and how well it can go with the environment, I would recommend you go ahead and take an integration engineer with you. Doing a POC could be troublesome for you. We have professional services. You can leverage that.

If you do not want to invest much money on all that stuff you can go ahead and hire someone who's already aware. Or if not, you can use any other vendor like Palo Alto.

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