Configuring Airwall

Configuring Airwall

In a previous post I have already shared some information about the Airwall solution from Tempered Networks. In this blog, I will share my experiences in configuring and operating the Airwall solution. I have been running an Airwall setup to test for a number of months.

Airwall components

Before moving into the configuration aspect, let’s first describe the components of the Airwall solution.

Airwall Conductor

The conductor is the “heart” of the Airwall solution. It is the SDN controller (running on-prem or in a cloud) with which you manage all Airwall components and configure the different policies.

Airwall Agent

The airwall agent is a software component that is running on your user endpoint devices, such as your smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop. It is effectively the client that connects to gateways and Airwall Server agents. 

Airwall Server agent

The Airwall Server agent is the software component that you can install on individual servers. You might say that it is comparable with the Airwall agent, except it runs faceless and is optimized for running on your servers. I have been running one on a virtual server I have hosted in the cloud. 

Airwall Gateway

The airwall gateway is a special component within the solution. You can use it to secure networks behind a gateway with agents. E.g., if you allow a connection from an agent to a gateway, you are able to securely connect from the agent through the gateway to multiple hosts or networks behind the gateway. The gateway comes in different flavors, a virtual machine, a cloud instance, a physical gateway for wired connections, and a phyisical gateway that connects to the unsecure networks via WiFi. The gateway is also capable of acting as a relay agent between agents that cannot communicate directly with each other, but only if you have specified and allow that communication in the conductor.  

Overlay networks

Overlay networks within Airwall are a bit different compared to the traditional overlay networks seen with VPN solutions, which is also what makes Airwall unique in its approach. An overlay network is basically a secured IP network that can be configured between agents, servers, and gateways. And the unique twist is that you can manage completely different overlay networks and configure a policy that a single agent can communicate via these different overlay networks.

My personal experience is that I initially misinterpreted overlay networks and thought of it as a single network with unique policies; it is easier to see each overlay network as a security policy that defines who can securely communicate with who at which moment in time. 

Underlay network

The underlay networks is your regular network, or the Internet. It is the insecure network via which you connect the different Airwall components. The conductor of course needs to be reachable via the underlay network.

Getting started

The team at Tempered networks was kind enough to provide me with a complete set of components to test with and try out use cases. My kit consisted of agents for my iOS devices, my laptops, 1 virtual gateway (Cloud), 2 physical gateways (one wired, one wireless), a server agent and a conductor.

Getting started with the conductor is pretty much straight forward, after running through the provisioning guide, you have the link to the conductor portal, which provides a good overview of your environment. The tab labels itself speak for itself. Now that the conductor is setup correctly, it is time to download and provision agents.


For the physical gateway, it was effectively the same setup. Hook a serial console to the device, configure the hostname and port for the conductor, activate the device and you can define your policies.

I used the provided download links to download an agent to my Mac and used the App-Store to download the iOS apps. Once they are downloaded, you provide the agent with a profile that contains the hostname and port to your conductor. It took me a while to figure out that I had to manually approve the license before further configuration was possible. So after you’ve configured your agent, go back to the conductor and hit the settings -> Licensing tab. Activate the just registered device and a license will be consumed. With that action, the airwall agent/gateway becomes active.

Remember, the gateway has different behavior compared to the agent with more functionality. Make sure that the communication ports you defined in the Conductor are available via the underlay networks. It took me a while to figure that out (I assumed too much routing in my mind), and once I had the PAT configured correctly, the gateway was working as expected and the agent on my mac could communicate with it. If you use NAT, you can configure the external IP address for the gateway via the conductor (auto-detect and auto-set would be great when you have dynamic outbound IP-addresses and relay on PAT). The screen shot below shows the setting for my gateway.

In my next post, I will give you a sample underlay network that I have been using very succesfull (including demos and firepower trainings) over the past months.