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We use 2 Cisco PIX 501's in front of a couple of our web-servers up at a data-centre (two separate installations on different IP ranges).

Touchwood they're fine but, if we had to replace them - what are our options for an equivalent replacement today? When we bought these I remember the spec saying they would comfortably support 10,000 simultaneous connections. Is the ASA5505 the equivalent today?

[edit] I'm not against other manufacturers - just that the pix is what we have and we know a CCNA(?), albeit certified in 2003, who configures and administers our pixes.

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11 Answers 11

up vote 4 down vote accepted

As a rule of thumb, Juniper firewalls tend to be cheaper for the same feature set. I don't have a lot of direct experience with them, though. If you stick with Cisco, then an ASA 5505 would be your best bet for replacement. As far as product line goes, the 5505 is the pix501 equivalent. However, the 5505 is actually closer to spec equivalent with the 515e. That is, the 5505 supports 150Mbps throughput as opposed to the 170(?) for the pix515e. Additionally, with the ‘Security Plus’ option the ASA supports more VLANS (with trunking), H/A, and a few more connections.

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Take care ! ASA 5505 only support vlan with "Security Plus" option ! –  radius Jun 19 '09 at 11:55
    
Good point, since we have never bought one without Security Plus I didn't think of that. Edited to reflect. –  Scott Pack Jun 19 '09 at 12:22
    
Correcting my comment. The ASA vanilla does support 3 vlans, but not trunking. Security Plus adds better vlan support, and a few things. –  Scott Pack Jun 19 '09 at 12:29

If you are confortable with PIX 501, take an ASA 5505. You will keep the same CLI interface. ASA 5505 is arround 2 time better than PIX 501, you have a maximum number of connections of 10'000 (7500 on PIX 501), max. throughput of 150 mbps (60 on PIX 501). I would recommand you to check the CPU usage, number of connection and throughput of your current firewall to check if an 5505 will be enought for a long term usage. If you are near of the maximum capacity of the 501 you may want to take an ASA 5510.

I don't know Juniper firewall but Nokia are better/easier to use (from my point of view) when you have a lots of interface.

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I have had a great experience with Netgate's M1n1wall and can highly recommend pfSense. The throughput is much better than the Pix's, and the reliability has been perfect. Not a single issue in about a year at my office, where we have a business connection and 5 static external IPs.

I still have a 10-license Pix 501 at home and keep running out of local-host licenses. With my kids having their own laptops now, cell phones connecting through Wifi, the TV on the Internet as well, a Popcorn Hour streaming box, a server, a NAS, and a desktop computer, I have to clear the local-hosts almost daily because I can't get an outbound connection. I am going to replace it with a M1n1wall this week and will include a wireless kit, so that I can throw out the Verizon router and my old Linksys AP. Imagine what good this will do to my electric bill as well.

I will miss the Pix command line interface. Having mastered it made me feel part of an exclusive club, but I also spent many hours troubleshooting. Thankfully, this will be a thing of the past, as the pfSense web interface is complete and easy to use.

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+1 pfSense is very nice router/firewall distribution, has a good web interface, and supports a lot of advanced features that you just don't find in entry level firewalls. That and no maintenance fees....although commercial support is an option. I replaced a PIX 501 with one of the NetGate appliances running pfsense at my church. So much easier to deal with for the mix of volunteers on the IT team. –  3dinfluence Jan 25 '10 at 17:05

Changing to Juniper or any other vendor will cost you more in totalt because of the hours spent, so my advice for you is to stay on Cisco products.

We have several ASA5505 spread out at remote offices, they have worked flawlessly and are providing excellent performance. Highly recommended (but dont forget TAC agreement).

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I would advise against Watchguard Edges. We went all out on them at our remote sites and either they have poor performance or our vendors have done a poor job on the setup. Seeing consideraly slower connections afterwards as compared to the PIX501. A full Watchguard x5500e though is nice and GUI for regular tasks means we only occasionally need the network guy from our vendor for more complex tasks. We don't use some of the features but it does have the option for load balancing with two and for failover in the event of trouble.

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If you don't mind OpenSource alternatives: http://www.vyatta.com/downloads/index.php

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I really like the Fortinet line of firewalls/security devices.

http://davidhazar.blogspot.com/2009/10/why-cisco-fortinet-fortigate.html

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I've been very impressed with the Juniper line of firewalls recently.

http://www.juniper.net/us/en/products-services/security/ssg-series/

Outstanding price, enterprise class features and performance.

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BIG fan of Nokia firewalls myself, capable and secure.

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I used (and liked) a Nokia CP330 eight or nine years ago. Are Nokias still expensive? (2001 it was £6000 + £2000p.a. support - pretty sure that was for the "entry level") –  Dan Jun 19 '09 at 12:38
    
Shockingly so! just bought TWO of their higher-end FWs - £147k for them! –  Chopper3 Jun 19 '09 at 12:56

Don't be afraid of considering alternatives. Vyatta http://www.vyatta.com/ or Juniper could deserve your time, both in terms of functionality and reliability.

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We have been removing as many old 501s as possible and replacing them with SnapGear 310s or SnapGear 560s. Mostly this has been because the 501s can't handle VOIP well.

The SnapGear line are Linux based devices and use IP tables internally so that can be a plus if you really want to get your hands dirty. They tend to be half as much as Sonicwalls and a third as much as the Cisco stuff (Especially if you factor in yearly support - you do have the support from Cisco right...?) and the web interfaces are much much better than the ASA or Sonicwalls. No IOS goodness of course.

Anywhere you have 501s and the network is not going to grow beyond 10 offices these are a really good choice. The 560s can do fail over or load balancing for up to four lines and can just about everything else you could do with the 501s and can also prioritize VOIP traffic etc.

The Cisco 5505 are great but I think you will find them overkill for your purposes and I don't really know what they can do that the SG560s can't. I think two 560s in high availability mode would work really well and you could even configure them yourself. If anyone has comments on what the ASAs can do that these SnapGears can't I would be interested to hear.

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