Configuring Policy Based Routing on Cisco ASA

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Normally when a routing device receives a packet it decides where to forward it based on the destination address of the packet. Policy Based Routing (PBR) is a mechanism which allows you forward packets based on policies manually defined by network administrators. A good use case for PBR is when a company which has multiple outside connections to different ISPs needs to control how traffic can be distributed across these connections. Compared to traditional routing PBR allows you to implement routing policies based on different criterias like source or destination address, source or destination port, protocol, size of the packet, packet classification and so on. Cisco introduced this feature on Cisco ASA beginning with version 9.4(1). Let’s dive into the PBR configuration.

PBR configuration

In order to proceed with the PBR configuration the ASA firewall needs to be setup in routed mode which is the default. Transparent firewall mode is not supported. The PBR configuration on Cisco ASA is done similarly as on Cisco IOS through the use of route-maps which are applied to an interface. For the purpose of the demonstration we will use the topology below.

Before starting the configuration let’s explain our scenario setup. We have 2 internal networks (vlan 100) and (vlan 101). We want that traffic from vlan 100 to go through ISP1 and traffic from vlan 101 to go through ISP2. Since both networks are internal we need to setup NAT in order to allow them outbound communication. I have added an external host ( which will be used for testing that PBR works correctly. The IP addressing on the devices has been setup according to the diagram and the routing between ASA-FW, ISP1, ISP2 and INTERNET has been done using OSPF. In order to simplify things I have enabled OSPF on each of the layer 3 devices using the following command:

ASA-FW(config)# router ospf 100
ASA-FW(config-router)# network area 0

Now that the OSPF adjacency has been setup let’s proceed and configure the IP addresses on the inside interfaces. We have two internal networks and we need to create two subinterfaces on the ASA to allow outbound connectivity. I’ll assume we have 2 departments in our inside network so I’ll name them Engineering for vlan 100 and Accounting for vlan 101.

ASA-FW(config)# interface Gi0/0.100
ASA-FW(config-if)# vlan 100
ASA-FW(config-if)# nameif Engineering
ASA-FW(config-if)# security-level 100
ASA-FW(config-if)# ip address
ASA-FW(config)# interface Gi0/0.101
ASA-FW(config-if)# vlan 101
ASA-FW(config-if)# nameif Accounting
ASA-FW(config-if)# security-level 100
ASA-FW(config-if)# ip address

Don’t forget to enable the physical interface Gi0/0 on the ASA by issuing a no shutdown command under the interface configuration mode. These 2 subinterfaces will be used as gateways for our 2 internal networks. The outside interfaces on the ASA firewall are named ISP1 and ISP2 and have the following configuration.

ASA-FW(config)# interface Gi0/1
ASA-FW(config-if)# nameif ISP1
ASA-FW(config-if)# security-level 0
ASA-FW(config-if)# ip address
ASA-FW(config)# interface Gi0/2
ASA-FW(config-if)# nameif ISP2
ASA-FW(config-if)# security-level 0
ASA-FW(config-if)# ip address

Let’s setup NAT and define the required network objects for translation.

ASA-FW(config)# object network Engineering
ASA-FW(config-network-object)# subnet
ASA-FW(config-network-object)# nat (Engineering,ISP1) dynamic interface
ASA-FW(config)# object network Accounting
ASA-FW(config-network-object)# subnet
ASA-FW(config-network-object)# nat (Accounting,ISP2) dynamic interface

The gateway of last resort on the ASA is set to ip address which points to router ISP1.

ASA-FW(config)# route ISP1

Without any routing policy configured traffic from both Engineering and Accounting networks will go through the default gateway ISP1. As we stated before we want traffic from network to be routed through ISP2. First we need to define 2 ACLs which will be used to match traffic coming from both internal networks and going to any destination. In my example I named them LAN1-ACL and LAN2-ACL.

ASA-FW(config)# access-list LAN1-ACL extended permit ip any
ASA-FW(config)# access-list LAN2-ACL extended permit ip any

Next we need to create a route map entry called PBR which will match traffic permitted by the 2 previous ACLs.

ASA-FW(config)# route-map PBR permit 10
ASA-FW(config-route-map)# match ip address LAN1-ACL
ASA-FW(config-route-map)# set ip next-hop
ASA-FW(config)# route-map PBR permit 20
ASA-FW(config-route-map)# match ip address LAN2-ACL
ASA-FW(config-route-map)# set ip next-hop

In our case the first route-map statement with sequence number 10 is not really needed since by default traffic from Engineering network will follow the normal route lookup process and be forwarded to the default gateway, but for the sake of completness I have added that here. The set ip next-hop command tells the ASA to forward the traffic using this specified next-hop IP address if normal route lookup fails for matching traffic. Here we told that traffic that is matched by the LAN2-ACL should be forwarded to the next-hop. Lastly we need to apply this policy to an interface using the policy-route route-map command.

ASA-FW(config)# interface Gi0/0.100
ASA-FW(config-if)# policy-route route-map PBR
ASA-FW(config)# interface Gi0/0.101
ASA-FW(config-if)# policy-route route-map PBR

We can check that the policy was applied to the correct interfaces by using the show policy-route command.

ASA-FW# show policy-route
Interface                           Route map                                                 
GigabitEthernet0/0.100              PBR                                                       
GigabitEthernet0/0.101              PBR

PBR testing and troubleshooting

Now that the policy has been configured let’s test if the configuration works properly. We can use the traceroute command from PC1 and PC2 and try to reach the external host REMOTE-PC.

PC1> tracert -d
Tracing route to over a maximum of 30 hops
1	2ms	2ms	1ms
2	1ms	1ms	1ms
3	2ms	1ms	1ms
4	2ms	2ms	2ms

As we can see the traceroute from the Engineering vlan to address is following the default path through router ISP1. Let’s run the same traceroute command from PC2 to see if the routing policy is in effect.

PC2> tracert -d
Tracing route to over a maximum of 30 hops
1	1ms	1ms	1ms
2	1ms	1ms	1ms
3	2ms	2ms	1ms
4	2ms	1ms	1ms

By looking at the above output we observe that traceroute takes the secondary path through router ISP2 which means the routing policy is working properly. If we need to troubleshoot the policy based routing process we can use the debug policy-route command.

ASA-FW# debug policy-route 
debug policy-route  enabled at level 1
ASA-FW# pbr: policy based route lookup called for to proto 1 sub_proto 8 received on interface Accounting
pbr: First matching rule from ACL(2)
pbr: route map PBR, sequence 20, permit; proceed with policy routing
pbr: evaluating next-hop
pbr: policy based routing applied; egress_ifc = ISP2 : next_hop =

From the debug output we can see that the second route-map from the PBR was matched and the action was to route traffic according to the policy through the next-hop ip address


In this article we have discussed the basics of policy based routing. Although PBR is very useful it should be used with caution because if used improperly it can cause asymmetric routing in your environment.

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