[Networking Lab] Configure 802.1x authentication on Cisco switch IOU with GNS3

In this post I will show you again the power of GNS3 in doing laboratories to test new features. I will provide you a Lab example to configure and test port-based 802.1X authentication over a wired connection having a Windows Server 2012 configured as AD, DHCP and NPS/Radius, a switch running on IOU Layer 2 image and a Windows 7 Client. The topology looks like this:

GNS3 802.1x Topology

GNS3 802.1x Topology

As you can see I have 1 server and 2 clients, one of them is a GNU/Linux PC. You don’t really need the GNU/Linux PC for this lab, I used it exclusively to run some personal tests.

I have to tell you that I decided to run Windows Server in VmWare Workstation (I used version 11). I decided to go for that for 2 reasons: first GNS3 is going to be very soon updated with full support to VmWare so we will be able to use guests in VmWare more or less in same way we are doing now with VirtualBox. Second reason is that I wanted to have an overview of the current interaction between VmWare and GNS3 under GNU/Linux, also because this is slightly different than how it works using Windows as Host.

The goal of this blog post will be to show you how to configure your GNU/Linux box to use Windows Server with VmWare and how to configure the switch and Windows Client to use port based 802.1x authentication. In particular we want that the PC client will get access to the Network ONLY if the user is authenticated toward the Active Directory. This will give the opportunity to better understand the protocols and how to manage them in case you will be asked to implement them in a real world. I will not cover the configuration of the Windows Server and I will not show you how to have Win7 PC joining the Windows domain. For that I will only give you some links that will guide you through the necessary steps if you don’t know what to do.

Let’s start, then, preparing our GNU/Linux Host to have VmWare “talking” to GNS3. As you probably know at the moment the only way to achieve this goal is to use the GNS3 Cloud. Actually I am using Fedora 21 as Linux Host but commands I will use in the Terminal are valid also with other distributions.

By default, when you install VmWare, it creates 3 new network interfaces (vmnet0, vmnet1, vmnet8). You can double check your current interfaces typing the command “ifconfig” in your GNU/Linux console/terminal.
For my lab I used a new dedicated VmNet host-only interface that I then linked to my Windows Server. The creation of the new interface is very easy. In VmWare Workstation click on Menu “Edit –> Virtual Network Editor”. You will be asked for your root password and then a new window will open. There you need to click on button “Add Network” and you will create a new interface (I used vmnet6) as host-only network. The final result you want to have is the following:

VmWare host-only - vmnet6

It is important to unselect the option to use DHCP. For the Subnet IP you can use whatever you prefer because we are going to remove the configuration very soon.

Now, select your Windows Server Virtual Machine in VmWare, click the mouse right button and then “Settings“. In the window that will open, add (or select for the one already there) the VmNet6 network interface:

vmnet6 in Windows Server

Save the change and open a Terminal in GNU/Linux. Login as root user and type the following commands:

# tunctl -u <your_username> -t tap6
# ifconfig tap6 promisc up
# ifconfig vmnet6 promisc up
# brctl addbr br6
# brctl addif br6 tap6
# brctl addif br6 vmnet6

It is possible that you receive a message of error when you try to use tunctl. If so, you need to install tunctl utility. The same will be with brctl and in that case you will need to install bridge-utils package. Please refer to your GNU/Linux distribution for that.
Moreover, in the first command please change <your_username> with the name of the user that will run GNS3.

We are now ready to add the link between our Windows Server running under VmWare and GNS3. If you are using my lab you will just need to open the proper file, otherwise you can simply create a new project from scratch, and add a Cloud in your project:

GNS3 - Cloud for VmWareNow, right click on the cloud and select “Configure“. Open the tab “Tap” and add the interface that we created before:

Add tap interface in GNS3

I also changed the name of the Cloud to Windows Server 2012-AD+NPS in the “Misc.” Tab as well as the symbol of the Cloud to the one of a Server.

Now, you are ready to add in your topology a Switch and the Windows 7 Client. Once you do this, you can start Windows Server in your VmWare and then start all other devices (Switch and Win7 CLient) in GNS3. In my LAB I used the network and I assigned the static IP to Windows Server. I configured then Win7 to obtain the address from DHCP Server configured as well on Win Server.  The Ip address assignment worked fine (so the communication between the Cloud/Windows Server 2012 was properly configured) and then I had Win7 joining the AD Domain previously configured on the Server

At this time the switch configuration is not touched at all. Links are in the default VLAN 1 and there is no security configuration or any other feature active. Is now time to configure 802.1x!

I assume you already know what 802.1x is and how it works more or less. If it’s not the case, please read at least this document from pages. Our goal is to configure all components – and especially the switch – to have the feature working: - 802.1x Components – 802.1x Components

In our LAB we will have Win7 as Supplicant, IOU Layer2 switch as Authenticator and Windows Server 2012 as Authentication Server. It’s worth to mention that a very important role will be the one of the Windows Server that will act as a Radius server for the authentication and will at the same time provide authorized username/password from Active Directory that is configured on same virtual machine. As I told you before I will not cover the configuration of Windows Server but you can follow this guide to prepare your virtual machine (even if it is for Windows Server 2008 and for WiFi authentication, you can adapt for your scope without issues as I did for myself).

Is now time to finally configure the switch! It is possible to configure several features thanks to 802.1x but what we are going to do is a very simple one where the switch will keep the port in non-authorized state until the authentication with EAPOL will positively occur.

Let’s jump on our switch console and add the following global config commands:

# conf t
(config) # dot1x system-auth-control
(config) # aaa new-model
(config) # aaa authentication dot1x default group radius

Till now we only added to the switch the dot.1x capabilities. It’s now time to configure 1 SVI, the radius server to query for authorization and the port(s) we want to be authorized before they get access to the network:

(config) # int vlan1
(config-if) # ip address
(config-if) # exit

(config) # radius-server host <IP_of_RADIUS_Server> key <Password_of_Radius>
(config) #ip radius source-interface vlan1

(config) # interface eth2/0
(config-if) # switchport mode access
(config-if) # authentication host-mode multi-host
(config-if) # dot1x pae authenticator
(config-if) # authentication port-control auto

Above commands I guess are quite intuitive regarding their role. I used vlan1 as SVI and access vlan because I wanted to keep things simple. The result of what we did is that now the port eth2/0, even if will be UP/UP will not give access to the network to the device that is connected to it (in our lab Win7 client). We will start receiving some messages on the console like this one:

  %AUTHMGR-5-FAIL: Authorization failed for client (Unknown MAC) on Interface Et2/0 AuditSessionID AC1086050000000200C7A9C1

It is clear that this is what we wanted to have as a result before the client will be authenticated!

We can also check the status of the port and authorization with the commands:

#show authentication interface eth2/0
#show authentication sessions interface eth2/0

The last step is to “teach” to our Windows 7 client to  authenticate using 802.1x. You can use this guide to have that. After everything is configured, the EAP protocol will work properly:

EAP Capture - Authorization Succeded

EAP Capture – Authorization Succeded – Click to enlarge

We can of course also double check the status of the authorization on the switch port:

#show authentication sessions interface eth2/0

          Interface:  Ethernet2/0
          MAC Address:  0800.2706.b87e
          IP Address:  Unknown
          User-Name:  random.user
          Status:  Authz Success
           Domain:  DATA
           Security Policy:  Should Secure
           Security Status:  Unsecure
          Oper host mode:  multi-host
          Oper control dir:  both
          Authorized By:  Authentication Server
          Vlan Policy:  N/A
          Session timeout:  N/A
          Idle timeout:  N/A
         Common Session ID:  AC1086050000000800F72E6E
         Acct Session ID:  0x0000000A
         Handle:  0x70000009

Runnable methods list:
       Method   State
       dot1x    Authc Success

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10 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    Hi Stefano, very good post! By the way, which IOU version are you using here? I am having problems with 802.1x on emulated platforms, it simply doesn’t work for me.

  2. stefano says:

    Hello Mike,

    I just double checked and I used an old L2 version compiled at July-26-2013… to be honest I thought I was using a more recent version. What kind of issues are you experiencing and on what image?


  3. stefano says:


    I started the lab and tried now also on newer versions of IOU and it works with all of them:

    IP Address: Unknown
    User-Name: random.user
    Status: Authz Success
    Domain: DATA
    Security Policy: Should Secure
    Security Status: Unsecure
    Oper host mode: multi-host
    Oper control dir: both
    Authorized By: Authentication Server

    I suggest you to review the configurations of the switch, run some debug commands and go ahead with packet capture. There is definitely something wrong in your configs 🙂


  4. Mike says:

    Stefano, thanks for letting me know. I will give it one more try, I may have goofed up on some config.
    Thanks for your quick response back, I appreciate it.

  5. Mike says:

    Stefano, thanks very much, the problem was with the windows client I was using, it was not sending EAP for some weird reason, I switched it over to a linux distro and it worked just fine. At least I know that L2IOU works fine with 802.1x
    Thanks a lot

  6. Stefano says:

    Hi Mike,

    I am very glad it worked 🙂


  7. Jan says:

    How did You add Windows 7 Client to GNS3 topology? As a separate host or is it inside Cloud?

  8. stefano says:


    sorry for late reply.
    I added a separate Virtualbox host.


  9. kumar says:

    Hi could you please let me know which IOU version you are Running on the Switch , i am using the i86bi-linux-l3-adventerprisek9-15.2.4M1.bin image , with this image i am not able enable dot1x at interface level , so not able to do the dot1x lab . can you please let me know the exact iou image you are using for L2 switch

  10. stefano says:

    HI Kumar,
    I used an image for switching, not L3. It was this one at the time:




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