Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

ISE High Level Design (HLD)







  1. Make a copy of this document
    Print For an offline or printed copy of this document, simply choose ⋮ Options > Printer Friendly Page. You may then Print, Print to PDF or copy and paste to any other document format you like.
  2. Delete anything that does not pertain to your deployment
  3. Fill in the rest with the appropriate details
  4. Make it happen
  5. Post any questions you have to the ISE Community




An ISE High Level Design (HLD) is recommended to assist you with the design and planning of your ISE deployment. Having a clearly written security policy - whether aspirational or active - is the first step in assessing, planning and deploying network access security.  Without this, it is hard to break down the deployment into phases by location or capabilities. When seeking outside help, the HLD provides a huge time savings for education other teams, partners, Cisco Sales representative, Technical Assistance Center (TAC) representative or even the ISE product and engineering teams. Clearly state the desired solution capabilities, hardware and software environment and integrations can quickly allow people to understand what you want and how to configure it or troubleshoot it.


Business Objectives


Identify the Customer Business Objectives that ISE must solve. Typically this involves regulations and compliance or identified security threats and risks to smooth operation of the business or brand. But it also involves mitigating risks with controlled network access for everyday IT processes. This is how you begin to craft your network access control policy. The more specific you can be, the better.


Consider the following example business objectives that must translate into access control policy :

  • We want to provide sponsored guest access to our visitors
  • All network device administration commands must be authorized and logged for potential audit
  • We want to identify all endpoints on our network so we can begin to apply access control policies
  • We do not want our employees personal devices on our corporate network
  • We want our employees to any device they want but we want to manage it to ensure it and any information on it is properly secured
  • Printers should only talk to print servers
  • We need to be able to re-image our workstations over the network via PXE
  • We must comply with [PCI, HIPAA, etc.] regulation
  • All Windows devices must be patched within the last 30 days to minimize known vulnerabilities
  • We want to automatically quarantine endpoints when [Stealthwatch, AMP, etc.] detects malicious behavior

Business Objectives





Physical Network Topology

<Insert image of your proposed ISE deployment here>


Identity Sources

List all of the products that ISE will need to integrate with or control. Please note any known issues or concerns with their behavior or capabilities.


Note: Cisco strongly recommends server certificate, which is signed by in-house CA or other 3rd party Root CA server, to be used for ISE. Self-signed server certificate should not be used for production deployment.


Scenario (one line per device to be validated) Vendor / Version


Identity Sources      

Certificate Authorities (CA)

  • How will ISE integrate with 3rd party CA?
  • Will ISE be issuing certificates for BYOD?
  • Utilize web based CA portal on ISE?
  • Utilize API for certificate management?
  • Utilize AnyConnect/ASA for SCEP enrollment?

Active Directory:

  • How many AD domains / forests are to be integrated?
  • ISE requires AD forest DNS consolidated into central DNS servers. What method is used to consolidate DNS information for the separate AD forests?
  • What version of AD is in use?
  • Are there any Read-Only domains in place?
  • AD Site & Services is recommended for ISE in all forests.
Microsoft #  
LDAP   #  
Token   #  
SAML   #  
ODBC   #  
Social Login Facebook? #  


User Groups

Identify the specific user groups that will require differentiated access and for which scenarios.

Scenario (one line per device to be validated) Notes




Network Devices

Provide the general switch/controller model numbers/platforms deployed and Cisco IOS and AireOS Software versions to be deployed to support ISE design. Please use the ISE Compatibility Guides to see our latest list of Validated products and protocols. If you still don't believe that ISE supports heterogeneous networks and can support your network devices, please read Does ISE Support My Network Access Device?



Hardware Model

@ Software Version


Cisco 9300 @ 15.x.x #  
Cisco WLC xxxx @ 8.x #  
Cisco Meraki xxxx    
Aruba @ 7.x    
Cisco ASA 55xx @ x.x #  



List all of the unique endpoint types you expect to find and apply policy to in your deployment.

Provide an approximate number of each of possible.


Note: For domain joined Windows machines to function properly, machine authentication is recommended. Performing user only authentication may break critical functions such as machine GPO and other background services such as backup and software push.


Note: State whether the deployment is using machine or user authentication, or both. If both machine and user authentication are planned, are Machine Access Restrictions (MAR) planned? If so, review the Appendix information on MAR caveats. For machine / user authentication details, please refer to 802.1X Authenticated Wired and Wireless Access


Endpoints (one line per endpoint to be validated) Vendor

Hardware Model

@ Software Version


  Microsoft Windows XP #  
  Microsoft Windows 7.x #  
  Microsoft Windows 8.x #  
  Microsoft Windows 10 #  
  Microsoft Windows Embedded #  
  Apple MacOS 10.13 #  
Linux   Linux #  
Mobile Devices        
  Apple iOS 11.x    
  Android Android 8.x    
  Android Android 7.x    
  Android Android 6.x    

Access Points

Cisco   #  

IP Phones

Cisco 7xxx #  


Cameras     #  
Lighting     #  
Badging     #  
HVAC     #  
Medical     #  
Manufacturing     #  




    Approximate Total: ###  


ISE Cube

List all of the nodes in your ISE deployment.

When deploying VMs:

  • The VM host should be sized comparably with the ISE hardware appliance(s)
  • The resources need to be reserved for each ISE node and cannot be shared among different ISE nodes or other guest VMs on the host.
  • Hard disks with 10K or higher RPM are required. Average IO Write performance for the disk should be higher than 300MB/sec and IO Write performance should be higher than 50MB/sec. Please make sure to reserve the RAM and CPU cycles for the ISE node deployed as VM.
  • If disk size needs to be resized, the node will need to be re-imaged from the ISO


Host Name (FQDN) Persona IP Address VM/HW Size Storage PAN+MnT   VM 3595 600GB


Device Administration (TACACS+)

Differentiated access for network device administrators

Scenarios ✓ Done Notes
Read-Only Admin    



See what, when, where and how users and endpoints are on your network.

In the table below, list the primary endpoint devices (one per row) that need to be profiled.

  • Identify the primary device types to be profiled
  • Which probes/protocols will be used to collect the required data? Leverage Device Sensor to collect endpoint attributes whenever possible and SNMP for other network devices. Uncommon devices may require collecting additional protocol attributes to classify the endpoint properly.
    • ISE Probes: AD, DHCP, DNS, HTTP, NMAP, RADIUS, SNMP, Netflow
    • Device Sensor: CDP, LLDP, DHCP, HTTP, H323, SIP, MDNS
    • AnyConnect: ACIDex
  • What is the endpoint attribute data required to classify each device type?
  • Is profiling for visibility only or for use in authorization policy?
  • Leverage Device Sensor to collect endpoint attributes whenever possible and SNMP for other network devices
  • Uncommon devices may require collecting additional protocol attributes to classify the endpoint properly.
  • For Visibility with SPAN/RSPAN, use a dedicated interface on the ISE PSN for the DHCP SPAN or HTTP SPAN probe.
  • If RSPAN or Netflow is to be used:
    • does infrastructure support these technologies?
    • a dedicated interface should be used on the Policy Service Node for the DHCP SPAN or HTTP SPAN probe. Is there sufficient bandwidth between source SPAN/Netflow exporter and ISE Policy Service node used for profiling?


Scenarios ✓ Done Notes
Enable Profiling Feed Service or retrieve offline update    
Create Custom Endpoint Profiles for _____ Devices    
Create Endpoint Purge Policies    
Move profiled endpoints to static MAC-based endpoint lists and do not use endpoint profiles in authorization rules
if you want to minimize Plus License consumption


Secure Access

Control authenticated endpoint & user access


Scenarios ✓ Done Notes


Wireless 802.1X User Authentication & Authorization: Show Successful Login and Role-Based Access    
Wireless Machine Authentication and Authorization: use digital certificate for Corporate device    
Individual Pre-Shared Key (iPSK)    
Static Endpoint MAC Whitelisting: allow non-authenticating (no 802.1X) endpoints with MAB    
Wireless user with Passive Identity (No 802.1x)    



ISE Wired Access Deployment Guide

Static Endpoint MAC Whitelisting: allow non-authenticating (no 802.1X) endpoints with MAB    
Static Endpoint MAC Blacklisting: block non-authenticating endpoints with MAB    
Dynamic Endpoint Profiling and Authorization: List each endpoint profile and the desired authorization    
Easy Connect: Wired user with Passive Identity (No 802.1X supplicant)    
Wired Web Authentication (No 802.1X Supplicant. For Guest or Employees)    
EAP-Chaining: Wired machine+user authentication using EAP-FAST with AnyConnect    
Wired Machine Authentication and Authorization: use digital certificate for Corporate device    
Wired User 802.1X Authentication: Show Successful Login and Role-Based Access    
Wired WebAuth Login: Show Login With No Supplicant    
Wired Authentication (user or machine) & Authorization on a Docking Station    
Wired Authentication for a user via an Windows Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) Session    
Wired Authentication for Multi-User devices (Nurses Station, Call Center, etc.)    
Wired Authentication (user or machine) & Authorization on a Docking Station Behind IP-Phone    
Wired Authentication with Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)    


VPN Authentication and Authorization with Username:Password: Show Successful Login and Role-Based Access    
VPN Authentication and Authorization with Token/2FA: Show Successful Login and Role-Based Access    
VPN Access Attempt, Revoked Certificate (Testing OCSP)    



Internet access for visitors. Generally, you should only implement one type of Guest network.

Scenarios ✓ Done Notes



Customize Portal

  • Behavior: Acceptable Usage Policy (AUP), Password, Auto-Login, Success URL, etc.
  • Presentation: Logo, Colors, Fonts

Demonstrate Hotspot with desired flow:



Create desired Guest Types    
Demonstrate Self-Service Guest registration    


Customize Sponsor Portal Flow and Presentation    
Create Sponsor Groups    
Demonstrate Sponsor Portal (sponsored Guest access)    
Login with Sponsored Guest Credentials    
Concurrent Guest Logins    


Guest API integration with external application(s)    



Onboard & differentiate personal & corporate devices. Consider the following topics when determining your scenarios:

  • Is it Single SSID or Dual SSID?
  • Will Android be in the BYOD design? If so, please provide details of provisioning authorization profile
  • What devices will and will not be  provisioned?
  • What supplicant will be used? Native or AnyConnect or Other?
  • What access will unsupported device get? (i.e. Blackberry, Windows phones, Chromebooks)
  • Will EMM/MDM be integrated with BYOD design? If so, please provide details of MDM policy below in the Authorization Policy section and whether or not redirection will be used for MDM agent installation


Scenarios ✓ Done Notes

Device Registration

Single SSID: Unregistered devices are redirected to a WebAuth portal and respective users    
Dual SSID: Unregistered devices are redirected to a WebAuth portal and respective users    

Certificate Provisioning

BYOD: Onboarding, Certificate Provisioning with Internal or External CA    
Certificate Expiration with Internal or External CA    
Certificate Renewal 2-4 weeks before Certificate Expiration    

Device Management

Certificate Revocation by Administrator    
End-User self management, Device Lost; Blacklist endpoint    
End-User self management, Device Stolen; revoke Certificate    



Share contextual information with other products

Scenarios ✓ Done Notes

Context Sharing

Demonstrate pxGrid integration with SIEM    
Share identity context with StealthWatch via pxGrid    
Cisco Industrial Network Director shares IOTAsset topic with ISE    
ISE brokers pxGrid topic sharing among partners    

Threat Mitigation


Rapid Threat Containment (RTC)

Threat-Centric NAC Integration with Vulnerability Scanner or AMP    



Integrate Guest Management workflow from another application


Integrate DNA Center with ISE for Access Control Policy and software-defined Segmentation with TrustSec


Integrate network management tool for adding/updating/removing network devices, endpoints, etc.




Ensure that endpoints meet security standards.

Review the list of currently supported packages for Windows and MacOSX.


Scenarios ✓ Done Notes


Posture Windows with Temporal Agent    
Posture MacOS with Temporal Agent    


Non-Compliant endpoints are quarantined and redirected to provision AnyConnect and the Posture Module via ISE    
Non-Compliant endpoints are quarantined and redirected until provisioned by [WSUS, etc.]    
Compliant endpoints are properly authorized on the network    

Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) / Mobile Device Management (MDM)

Integrate ISE with EMM/MDM vendor(s)    
Non-Compliant endpoints are quarantined and redirected until provisioned by [WSUS, etc.]    
Compliant endpoints are properly authorized on the network    


Posture Policies

Describe posture policy requirements for endpoint compliance. This may include many areas such as asset checking, application and services checking, and antivirus and antispyware checks, as well as customized checks for specific use cases. Describe remediation plans and include remediation servers that need to be integrated into the design.

Rule Name OS (Windows/MacOSX) Conditions Posture Agent Checks Remediation Enforcement
(Audit/Opt/ Mandatory)
When Assessed
Employee_AV Windows XP/7 AD group= Employee NAC Agent for Windows AV Rule:
Microsoft Security
Essentials 2.x
Live update (Automatic) Mandatory Both
Employee_Asset Windows XP/7 AD group= Employee NAC Agent for Windows Custom registry check Link redirect
to policy page (Manual)
Mandatory Login
Contractor_AV Windows ALL ID Group= Contractor Web Agent AV_Rule:
Any AV w/current signatures
Local Message regarding AV Policy Mandatory Login


Client Provisioning Policies

Describe Client Provisioning policy requirements for posture and native supplicant provisioning.

Rule Name Identity Groups Operating Systems Other Conditions Results
Apple Any MAC OSX or Apple iOS   Native Supplicant:


Windows Any Windows All   Agent:
NAC Agent

Native Supplicant:


Android Any Android   Native Supplicant:




Limit exposure with pre-defined access segmentation


Scenarios ✓ Done Notes


Dynamically classify endpoints with SGTs via MAB (static or profiled, e.g. IOT)    
Dynamically classify endpoints with SGTs via 802.1X Machine Authentication    
Dynamically classify users with SGTs via 802.1X Authentication    
Dynamically classify users with SGTs via Easy Connect (MAB+Passive Identity)    
Dynamically classify users with SGTs using WebAuth (e.g. Guests)    

Statically classify traffic by VLAN


Statically classify traffic by Subnet


Statically classify traffic by L2 Interface


Statically classify traffic by L3 Port


Statically classify traffic by VM (port profile)


East-West Segmentation

Malware blocking between Employees    
Virtual machines in the data center    

Firewall Rule Reduction

Use group-based policies to reduce firewall rules by eliminating need to specify IPv4/IPv6 addresses    

User to Data Center

Use group-based policy to enforce access to resources in the data center    



Reduce risk with rapid threat containment.

Scenarios ✓ Done Notes
Scenario 1    
Scenario 2    
Scenario 3    


Operations & Management

List the day-to-day operations you anticipate needing to do.


Scenarios ✓ Done Notes


Real-Time Event Log (Live Log)    
Illustrate the Live Log Authentication Details    
Debug Endpoint (Working across entire ISE deployment)    
TCP Dump from Central Location    
Troubleshooting Active Directory - Basic and Detailed    
Policy Export    
Suppression Bypass    
Collection Filters    
NAD Syslog Correlation in Reports    
Time-Range Bound Support Bundles    
Guest Activity Monitoring    


Create a Wildcard Certificate for an ISE deployment    
Centralized, Encrypted Backup    
Create and run Scheduled or On-Demand Backups    
RBAC, with predefined roles, customize, add and remove options, Help desk accounts, super user account.    
Centralized Monitoring of All ISE Nodes    
Simultaneous Admin Users Logged in & working with ISE    
Enable and use External RESTful Services (ERS) APIs    
Demonstrate the Upgrading of ISE Nodes with Zero Down Time    


Scale & High Availability

List the scale and HA scenarios you want to test.


Scenarios ✓ Done Notes

ISE Cube

Multi-Forest AD Join    
Multi-AD within Single Forest Joins    
Policy Admin Node (PAN) Down    
Policy Service Node (PSN) Down    

Survivability & High Availability

Identity Store (AD) Down/Unavailable    
Remote Site WAN Link Down    
Reinitialization once WAN is back up    
Fail Open    
Fail Half-Open (Critical ACL)    
Fail Closed    


Policy Details

List all security policies that are needed to implement the business requirements described above.


Authentication Policy

For each use case (wired, wireless, VPN), describe the authentication policies that will be implemented for all users and endpoints whether managed or unmanaged.


Rule Name Condition Allowed Protocols ID Store / ID Sequence
Device Access Wired_MAB Default Network Access Internal EndPoints

802.1X Access

Wired_802.1X Default Network Access AD_then_Local
VPN NAS-Port-Type = Virtual Default Network Access AD
Default - Default Network Access Internal Users


Authorization Policy

For each use case (wired, wireless, VPN), describe the authorization policies that will be implemented for all users and endpoints whether managed or unmanaged.

Rule Name Identity Groups Other Conditions Permissions
BYOD Unknown Mobile Devices Logical Group EAP Tunnel = PEAP



NSP Redirect

BYOD Registered Registered EAP Type = EAP-TLS

SAN = Calling-StationID

Registered dACL
IP_Phones Cisco-IP-Phones - Voice VLAN
Authz VVID
Printers Managed-Printers - Printer VLAN
Cameras Managed-Cameras - Camera VLAN
Workstation_Access Any Domain PC AD Access dACL
User_Role_1_Access Any Domain Member Role1 Role1 dACL
User_Role_2_Access Any Domain Member Role2 Role2 dACL
Guest_Access Guest - Internet Only dACL
Default - - Web Auth