RE: [fw-wiz] Skip the PDM

From: Karl D. Mueller (
Date: 11/20/03

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    To: "Robert Fenerty" <>, <>
    Date: Thu, 20 Nov 2003 12:40:58 -0500

    I suspect that most people who buy PIX firewalls wouldn't use PDM to
    begin with. Most newer IOS's for their routers have an ip http server
    built-in (which is thankfully disabled by default). Cisco is not good at
    adding web interfaces to their devices, so we'll just leave it at that

    The major problem I've had with gui interfaces is keeping consistant
    configs across a network and updating/creating configs for large numbers
    of devices. Although netscreen has a nifty copy and paste CLI config
    updater built in to it's web gui (but you can admin screenOS through a
    CLI as well).

    I don't consider the PIX a consumer-grade (plug-n-play) product anyway,
    so I'd never suggest it to anyone who isn't at least familiar with
    configuring cisco routers and knows some firewall theory.


    Karl Mueller CCNP
    Office - 703 369 9800
    Mobile - 703 946 6638

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Robert Fenerty []
    Sent: Wednesday, November 19, 2003 7:42 PM
    Subject: [fw-wiz] Skip the PDM


    Although I sense that many subscribers to this list are the of the
    ipchains/linux ilk, I thought I'd tell you about my experience
    configuring a PIX 501 at a client's site. A pretty standard setup,
    which took me THREE AND A HALF HOURS to install. I think we can all
    agree that I'm not a firewall wizard. Maybe an apprentice to the guy
    who mixes the mortar for the firewall.

    The PIX Device Manager (PDM) is a GUI-based app that runs as a web
    server on the PIX 501. The 501's a tiny SOHO box with a Command-Line
    Interface (CLI) fairly similar to those found on Cisco routers. The
    differences tripped me up a bit; like grep options on HP-UX if you were
    raised on Sun.

    So to "speed things up" I tried using the PDM. Bad idea. In my network
    design, the office network uses the 172.16.x.y network to avoid any
    routing problems that might arise when remote workers with 192.168.x.y
    home networks connect to the office via software VPN.

    So I tell the GUI that the "inside" interface is, and the
    DHCP pool starts at .2. Specify the gateway, DNS, etc. and you're done.
    Right? Wrong. I'm guessing that the PDM just collects command lines
    and sends them to the PIX.

    The first error pops up when "ip address inside"
    conflicts with the factory default DHCP pool, which starts at So the interface IP isn't changed. And the request to
    change the DHCP pool doesn't match the still-unchanged factory IP
    address, so that's ignored too. At least the PDM pops up error messages,
    and it was pretty obvious to me what was going on. So I fixed it

    But the client paid $500 for this box. And a $100 Linksys or SMC box
    wouldn't have had this problem. You'd think Cisco could do better.

    Then the DHCP server on the PIX wouldn't vend IP addresses. No sniffer
    handy, so I tried various debug options on the PIX. Finally got an
    error message from the DHCPD saying that DHCP wasn't enabled. This was
    odd, considering that "dhcp enable inside" and other dhcp settings were
    in place. I don't know what I did to kick start it, but it eventually
    started lending everyone IP addresses from its stingy pool of 32 DHCP
    leases. It was pretty easy to setup the rest of it.

    Anyway, the point of this message was to say that the PDM is a rotten
    little piece of software that only confuses things. So skip the PDM.

    Robert Fenerty

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