GET VPN or Flex VPN…? Do I need both ?

- How Flex is GET ? - What do you get from FLEX ?

On two recent posts we summarized the concepts and motivations pertaining to Flex VPN and GET VPN, two important IPSec-based solutions offered by Cisco. But the availability of these two VPN paradigms may eventually generate some confusion: – Which way to go ? – Do I need both… ?

The figure below provides the backdrop for our current discussion. The two technologies are actually complementary:

  • GET VPN is designed for use within environments that do not have the public/private addressing issue and is well suited for materializing what I frequently name the Secure Intranet Service. FLEX is more flexible in that sense because it allows you to deal with either Intranet or Internet-related scenarios.
  • GET VPN is tunnel-less in nature and aims at scenarios in which the trust level is shared by VPN participants. An attractive by-product of not using tunnels: GET is very adequate to encrypt multicast, because the same distribution tree built in the WAN to forward the clear text multicast packets is equally available for ciphered ones. (Remember the IP Header Preservation inherent to GET…)
  • FLEX is tunnel-based and is able to handle environments involving dynamic (on demand) tunnel setup between spokes, EasyVPN style deployments (when the remote behaves as a hardware client) and many more.
  • GET VPN employs group-based Security Associations (SAs), as opposed to the point-to-point SAs that appear on tunnel-based VPNs (including the FLEX VPN framework). Again, this is possible as a result of the trust level parity that characterizes remote sites on INTRANET-only deployments. This is not a limitation of FLEX, which was conceived to cover a broader spectrum of VPN styles ( for which you cannot assume the same trust level for every site).
  • GET VPN is used for site-to-site only, whereas FLEX VPN is able to work with site-to-site and Remote Access (RA VPN) deployments at once.
  • GET VPN was designed to take advantage of the inherent full-mesh capabilities of MPLS networks. Of course FLEX can be employed on any-to-any clouds but, given that it is tunnel-based, its logical configuration possibilities will be hub-and-spoke and spoke-to-spoke.
  • FLEX VPN requires IKEv2 while GET VPN currently supports only IKEv1. (Of course there are plans to add IKEv2 to the GET VPN side of life at some point in time… :-)) The key information to remember: immediate IKEv2 support is less critical for GET (which presupposes private transport) than for FLEX VPN, a technology aimed at tunnel-based scenarios that involve Internet-based transport.

Flex VPN or GET VPN: quick comparison

The good news: if you have a security license on your Cisco ISR G2, the two options are available simultaneously allowing you to select the option that better fits the needs of your specific environment (eventually you will end up employing both). Some general guidelines are presented below:

  • For INTRANET-only site-to-site scenarios, GET may prove very appealing. Policy distribution and key management tasks are centralized and the Group SA concept is really convenient. The other key differentiator (associated with its tunnel-less nature) is encrypted multicast.
  • On the other hand, for any environment that includes external connections (INTERNET, EXTRANETS and the like), go FLEX. It provides an unified and structured approach for VPN creation and can handle so many connectivity options. And, remember, it relies on IKEv2 for SA negotiation (much more secure than its v1 counterpart).
  • If you want to stick to a single way of dealing with all VPNs (site-to-site and Remote Access), FLEX is the answer. Although not offering the Group SA, it covers everything. As discussed in the FLEX article, you can end up with a single block of configuration at the hub and be prepared to terminate any VPN connection.
  • If necessary, you can still leverage both technologies at the same router (GET for INTRANET site-to-site interconnection) and FLEX for all the rest.

** Notes:

** Related Posts:

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