<Span Class="caps">ASA</Span> <Span Class="caps">TU</Span>

Read­ing Time: 2 min­utes

You ever have one of those weeks where every­thing that can go wrong, does? And even things that can’t go wrong, still do? Last week was that week for me. But more on that lat­er.

I’m final­ly relax­ing with a beer in my home office, Fri­day after­noon, after said hell-week, when sud­den­ly I notice that my desk phone has mys­te­ri­ous­ly pow­ered off. Beyond the visu­al cue of no screen dis­play, and a nag­ging sus­pi­cion that some­thing was still not right in the world, I also heard it when it shut down (The Cis­co 7940 mod­els in par­tic­u­lar seem to make some noise when turn­ing on and off.) Since this phone is using PoE from a Cis­co ASA 5505, I glanced over at the 5505 to see what might be caus­ing all of the unhap­pi­ness. Imme­di­ate­ly I noticed that some­thing was­n’t right, as the sta­tus light was orange for a sec­ond, then the whole unit reboot­ed. At that point the dis­play lights go all green, then amber, then anoth­er reboot… ad nase­um.

What the @#$!?

Try­ing to log in via either SSH or ASDM yields no love at all, so I hook up a con­sole cable. There it is: the ASA appar­ent­ly does­n’t have any OS to boot.

Again with the @#$!?

So, I take the cov­er off and pull out the *cough* expen­sive-as-hell *cough* flash card to dou­ble-check things on desk­top com­put­er. Sure enough, the com­put­er reports that the flash card is not for­mat­ted. So I for­mat­ted it, rein­stalled the OS and license infor­ma­tion from–wait for it–the back­up I had made recent­ly. At this point I could have used this as anoth­er learn­ing expe­ri­ence and re-con­fig­ured the unit from scratch, just to test myself, but at the time I was try­ing to get some movie tick­ets pur­chased and had just got­ten done with a very, very tir­ing week. Not sur­pris­ing­ly then, I took the easy way out and restored the con­fig­u­ra­tion as well.

After a quick rein­stall, the unit came back up and every­thing is fine.

My main les­son learned here–and I’m won­der­ing if this is some­thing that has hap­pened to oth­er peo­ple, or hap­pens fre­quent­ly with the ASA units–is that the Cis­co ASAs seem to occa­sion­al­ly wipe out the installed flash card (cards plur­al if you have 5510s or big­ger.) Either that, or the ridicu­lous­ly expen­sive (like $300 or some­thing) Cis­co-brand­ed 512mb flash cards are flakey as hell. I don’t tend to go with that last option, how­ev­er, sim­ply because when flash cards go bad they’re not usu­al­ly amenable to being re-for­mat­ted and work­ing prop­er­ly again: it’s usu­al­ly game-over, buy anoth­er one.

So, anoth­er ran­dom prob­lem at least solved in the short-term. I’ll keep every­one post­ed on whether or not this hap­pens again. I haven’t seen any­thing indi­cat­ing that this is a known issue, but admit­ted­ly I haven’t real­ly been look­ing. Auto-mag­i­cal­ly wip­ing out the entire boot OS, con­fig­u­ra­tion, licens­es, etc. would seem to be a fair­ly non-use­ful type of bug to have–even by, say, Microsoft stan­dards… let alone Cis­co.

So, has any­one seen this before?