HA Modes

You can set up the firewalls in an HA pair in one of two modes:
  • Active/Passive
    — One firewall actively manages traffic while the other is synchronized and ready to transition to the active state, should a failure occur. In this mode, both firewalls share the same configuration settings, and one actively manages traffic until a path, link, system, or network failure occurs. When the active firewall fails, the passive firewall transitions to the active state and takes over seamlessly and enforces the same policies to maintain network security. Active/passive HA is supported in the virtual wire, Layer 2, and Layer 3 deployments.
  • Active/Active
    — Both firewalls in the pair are active and processing traffic and work synchronously to handle session setup and session ownership. Both firewalls individually maintain session tables and routing tables and synchronize to each other. Active/active HA is supported in virtual wire and Layer 3 deployments.
    In active/active HA mode, the firewall does not support DHCP client. Furthermore, only the active-primary firewall can function as a DHCP Relay. If the active-secondary firewall receives DHCP broadcast packets, it drops them.
    An active/active configuration does not load-balance traffic. Although you can load-share by sending traffic to the peer, no load balancing occurs. Ways to load share sessions to both firewalls include using ECMP, multiple ISPs, and load balancers.
When deciding whether to use active/passive or active/active mode, consider the following differences:
  • Active/passive mode has simplicity of design; it is significantly easier to troubleshoot routing and traffic flow issues in active/passive mode. Active/passive mode supports a Layer 2 deployment; active/active mode does not.
  • Active/active mode requires advanced design concepts that can result in more complex networks. Depending on how you implement active/active HA, it might require additional configuration such as activating networking protocols on both firewalls, replicating NAT pools, and deploying floating IP addresses to provide proper failover. Because both firewalls are actively processing traffic, the firewalls use additional concepts of session owner and session setup to perform Layer 7 content inspection. Active/active mode is recommended if each firewall needs its own routing instances and you require full, real-time redundancy out of both firewalls all the time. Active/active mode has faster failover and can handle peak traffic flows better than active/passive mode because both firewalls are actively processing traffic.
    In active/active mode, the HA pair can be used to temporarily process more traffic than what one firewall can normally handle. However, this should not be the norm because a failure of one firewall causes all traffic to be redirected to the remaining firewall in the HA pair. Your design must allow the remaining firewall to process the maximum capacity of your traffic loads with content inspection enabled. If the design oversubscribes the capacity of the remaining firewall, high latency and/or application failure can occur.
For information on setting up your firewalls in active/passive mode, see Set Up Active/Passive HA. For information on setting up your firewalls in active/active mode, see Set Up Active/Active HA.
In an HA cluster, all members are considered active; there is no concept of passive firewalls except for HA pairs in the clusters, which can keep their active/passive relationship after you add them to an HA cluster.

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