Cisco products are generally good and reliable, but often expensive. RickC had some issues with a Cisco firewall and takes the free pfSense for a spin, and he loves it… Is that surprising?
Enter PFSense – the BSD-based firewall distro closely related to the m0n0wall project. Having used several host-based firewalls like Smoothwall and m0n0wall over the years, I figured I’d give PFSense a shot. I threw together a PIII 550 with 256MB RAM and a pair of Intel NICs – and installed pfsense, which is actually a LiveCD that you can then install to disk or usb drive. The most basic setup is done from a menu-driven CLI, but once the Interfaces are assigned and the LAN side has an IP, you can access the web UI. Better yet – it’s a web UI that works! From their I was able to config PPPoE and all the NAT settings I needed in minutes. From there is was just a matter of moving a few cables and I was switched over with an absolute minimum of downtime.
The feature set of pfsense is rich, easily on par with commercial appliances. IPSEC, 1:1 NAT, inbound and outbound load balancing, fail-over, good logging options, lots of built-in graphing and monitoring and an excellent UI. It’s built on BSD 7.0 and costs you absolutely nothing. The distro is under constant development and it’s current status as per Secunia is zero unpatched vulnerabilities. The PFsense community is strong and development of utils and add-ons offers many options to the operator. The nice thing about having such a reasonable solution – you can easily afford to build a backup to either run in failover mode or use to swap out should your pfsense hardware fail.
I will likely continue to use PFSense going forward as my main firewall. I guess I will still play with the 851 I can use it to learn more IOS and become a 1337 Cisco zealot like those I so admire.
Full story on parallel42.ca (23/03/2008)