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Cisco ASA & ESX: strange ARP behavior

Last week I had a very strange problem with a Cisco ASA firewall. The firewall is configured with multiple interfaces, including a DMZ interface. There are multiple servers in the DMZ. These servers are physical and virtual servers. The virtual servers are VMware servers in a blade environment.

I configured the feature

ip verify reverse-path interface DMZ

to prevent spoofing to occur. I also configured a transparent static NAT rule between the Inside network and the DMZ network and multiple static NAT rules between the DMZ network and the Outside network. I left the proxy ARP feature configured with its default settings.

The customer was complaining about log in problems and connectivity problems on the DMZ servers, especially between different DMZ servers. I have done some research and noticed that all problems were related to DMZ servers in the blade environment.

I started some connectivity test and noticed some strange ICMP behavior on the specific servers. When I started a ping from one DMZ VMware server to an other DMZ server on the same ESX host, the first ping responded with an echo-reply, but consequent pings failed. Looking at the ARP table of the server, I noticed that the firewall responded with its own MAC address for every ARP broadcast.

Looking at different forums on the Internet, everybody is speaking about the proxy ARP feature and that you should disable this feature. By default proxy ARP is enabled and I always leave it enabled. Till now I never had this problem. After disabling the proxy ARP feature for the DMZ interface

sysopt noproxyarp DMZ

the problem was solved, because the firewall doesn’t respond to the ARP queries, except for its own interface. Digging a bit deeper on forums, I never found one thread who explains why the proxy ARP feature should be disabled to solve this particular problem.

In my opinion this problem is related to the VMware environment, because I don’t have these problems with physical DMZ servers. So it is strange why the DMZ servers on the same ESX hosts cannot see each other and why does the firewall respond to the ARP queries?

In the near future the blade environment (ESX hosts, network configuration and SAN configuration) is changed, so I hope to find the exact cause and solution of the problem. Does anybody else have some suggestions??

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René Jorissen

Co-owner and Solution Specialist at 4IP Solutions
René Jorissen works as Solution Specialist for 4IP in the Netherlands. Network Infrastructures are the primary focus. René works with equipment of multiple vendors, like Cisco, Aruba Networks, FortiNet, HP Networking, Juniper Networks, RSA SecurID, AeroHive, Microsoft and many more. René is Aruba Certified Edge Expert (ACEX #26), Aruba Certified Mobility Expert (ACMX #438), Aruba Certified ClearPass Expert (ACCX #725), Aruba Certified Design Expert (ACDX #760), CCNP R&S, FCNSP and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEF) certified. You can follow René on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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