Cisco ASA Time-of-Day Service Policies

The company I work for (Acme Networking) does “realtime” data transfers of their production servers to an off-site disaster recovery facility. This lets them bring up a near current copy of our servers in a disaster recovery scenario at an off-site location. However, this generates a great deal of traffic, typically crushing our Internet pipe.

Enter Cisco’s ASA Firewall policies: Enabling QoS policing

Our disaster recovery site receives our replicated data over a LAN-to-LAN VPN tunnel. Initially, this made creating a QoS policy limiting their bandwidth quite easy. Later however, it added complexity (we’ll get to that).

To limit a LAN-to-LAN tunnel to a specific amount of bandwidth you will need to create a class-map that matches the tunnel-group, a corresponding policy-map, and then apply that policy-map to an interface. We do all that in the example below, keeping the tunnel to 50Mbps or less.

figure 1

! Create the class-map
! Class-maps just "identify" the traffic
class-map DR-Tunnel-Group
 match flow ip destination-address
 match tunnel-group

! Create the policy-map
! Policy-maps tell the firewall what to do with the traffic
! you identified in the class-map
policy-map Police-DR-50Mbps
 class DR-Tunnel-Group
  police output 52428750 4000000

! Now you have to tell the firewall *where* to take the action
! specified in the policy-map
! In our case we are applying it to the outside interface of the firewall
service-policy Police-SG-50Mbps interface outside

While this is a great solution for keeping LAN-to-LAN tunnels in line with an environment that has constrained bandwidth, it isn’t very dynamic. Before QoS, our disaster recovery traffic killed our Internet bandwidth and caused production issues. Our Recovery Point Objective however was close to real-time. After QoS we had plenty of available Internet bandwidth during the day, but the continued constraint on our backups during off-hours affected the point-in-time we could recover to in the event of a failure.

Enter Cisco’s ASA Firewall policies: Enabling QoS policies based on time-range

We decided the best approach would be to continue limiting our backup traffic to 50Mbps during business hours (7AM – 8 PM ET, Monday – Friday) and allowing 100Mbps at all other times and days. Since there is no “match time-range xyz” in the class-map function (Cisco, if you are reading this, please make this a feature! I’ll take a Cisco shirt for payment of my idea) we have to use access-lists to identify the traffic.

Since this is a LAN-to-LAN VPN, we already have an access-list identifying our interesting traffic (hereafter I’m going to call it an encryption domain), so this makes it very easy to setup two more access-lists; one defining our encryption domain with a time-range of “business hours” and the other defining the encryption domain with a time-range of “off hours”. Just to give a starting point, here is a subset of our crypto config:

figure 2

crypto map crypto-map 30 match address ED-DR-L2L
crypto map crypto-map 30 set pfs
crypto map crypto-map 30 set peer
crypto map crypto-map 30 set ikev1 transform-set ESP-AES-256-SHA ESP-AES-192-SHA ESP-AES-128-SHA
crypto map crypto-map 30 set nat-t-disable

access-list ED-DR-L2L extended permit ip object-group OG-Acme-To-DR-ED object-group OG-DR-To-Acme-ED

object-group network OG-Acme-To-DR-ED
object-group network OG-DR-To-Acme-ED

Because the encryption domain is already specified, the time based access-lists become easy:

figure 3

time-range TR-OffHours
 periodic weekdays 20:00 to 23:59
 periodic weekdays 0:00 to 7:00
 periodic weekend 0:00 to 23:59
time-range TR-OnHours
 periodic weekdays 7:01 to 19:59

access-list Policy-DR-OffHours extended permit ip object-group OG-Acme-To-DR-ED object-group OG-DR-To-Acme-ED time-range TR-OffHours

access-list Policy-DR-OnHours extended permit ip object-group OG-Acme-To-DR-ED object-group OG-DR-To-Acme-ED time-range TR-OnHours

class-map DR-Tunnel-OffHours
 match access-list Policy-DR-OffHours
class-map DR-Tunnel-OnHours
 match access-list Policy-DR-OnHours

policy-map Police-DR
 class DR-Tunnel-OffHours
  police output 104857000 8000000
 class DR-Tunnel-OnHours
  police output 52428500 4000000

service-policy Police-DR interface outside

This is an especially elegant solution because if we make any changes to the VPN encryption domain via the object-groups, those changes will be “replicated” to the QoS policies as well.

However, here lies the problem with this configuration: Once a TCP session has been established and assigned a policy (based on the time of day it was when the session was established) it will forever flow over that policy. So, a TCP session established at 4PM ET which is only allowed 50Mbps will still only receive 50Mbps if the session is still active at 10PM ET. Conversely, a TCP session established at 6AM ET which is allowed 100Mbps will continue to soak up throughput well into business hours if the session stays established until 11AM ET. Normally, this is not a big deal. Web based TCP connections are short lived, minutes at most. Even FTP or some other file transmission is probably going to use different TCP sessions throughout its relatively short connection lifetime. But this traffic is backup / DR replication. The backup software installed on the servers maintains the same TCP session with the DR site throughout the day. So what our policy ends up doing is allowing a combined total of 150Mbps (depending on when a session was initialized) regardless of time or day.

Enter Cisco’s ASA Firewall policies: VPN Access Hours

For the solution we have to go back to time-ranges. We can make the tunnel available during certain hours and days and unavailable otherwise via group-policy:

figure 4

time-range TR-DR-VPN
 periodic weekdays 0:00 to 7:00
 periodic weekdays 7:10 to 19:59
 periodic weekdays 20:10 to 23:59
 periodic weekend 0:00 to 23:59

! This command already set by default
! Just making sure for documentation to keep it in config
! You can verify the command is set by issuing 'show run all | include sysopt
no sysopt connection preserve-vpn-flows

! This is the default group-policy set by the tunnel group
group-policy GroupPolicy1 attributes
 vpn-access-hours value TR-DR-VPN

! Tear down the VPN so that it re-reads the new configuration
clear crypto ikev1 sa

So here is the problem with this solution: The ‘vpn-access-hours’ value does not disconnect the tunnel when the time is outside of scope. It only prevents the firewall from initiating or responding to tunnel creation events during the off times (c’mon Cisco, get this stuff fixed!). So, you still need to disconnect the VPN tunnel at the beginning of the transition times so that the TCP sessions can time out.

We have elected to use our management server to SSH into the firewall at 7:02 and 20:02 every weekday and issue a ‘clear crypto ikev1 sa’ automatically with a service account. However, if you are running version 9.2(1) or later on your firewall, you can use code similar to the following to handle things locally:

figure 5

event manager applet clear-vpn-peer-
 event timer absolute time 7:02:00
 output none
 action 1 cli command "clear crypto ikev1 sa"
event manager applet clear-vpn-peer-
 event timer absolute time 20:02:00
 output none
 action 1 cli command "clear crypto ikev1 sa"

To recap: If you want to make a standard QoS policy change policing the amount of bandwidth a VPN tunnel utilizes, use figure 1’s config to craft a variation of your own. If you would like to rate-limit a subset of outbound Internet traffic (not going over a VPN tunnel) then figure 3 should provide most of the configuration you need. On the other hand, if you need time-of-day QoS policing on a VPN tunnel, then combine figures 3 and 4 and you should have a pretty bullet-proof policy in place.

This config was written on an ASA running software version 9.5(x)
The peer IP address in these configs is a class D address to obfuscate the real peer address.
These configs were bounced off of Cisco TAC for accuracy and appropriateness.

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