Scored a Cisco ESA C170, can we interface with it?

To preface, work was getting rid of the appliance as it is EOL, so of course I wouldn't pass that up. Immediately I knew I didn't need a Cisco Email Security Appliance for my homelab, plus with licensing and lack of drives, that was a dead in the water scenario anyways. However, I don't say "No" to free hardware, so YAY!

I did have an idea though... How about turning it into a pfSense or OPNsense firewall. Is it possible?

Well... the first challenge I ran into was the fact that it didn't have a VGA port. No display port of any sort. Only interface ports are two USB ports, two 10/100/1000 NICs, and a console port visible on the outside of the appliance.

But there has to be someway to interface with it, right? Okay, let's open the box.

Cisco ESA C170 Appliance (opened)

Ah, perfect. There's a VGA header. But what cable? Reddit, here I go...

VGA Header on Motherboard

reddit-ing for a few minutes

Hazzah! It is an IDC16 header. So we need a VGA-IDC16 ribbon cable. Found one here. It may be an old looking website, basically not updated since the site was opened in '96, but hey, at least payment processing is completed via a secured Paypal connection.

VGA to IDC16 Ribbon Cable

A few days go by...

And we're off to the races, the has adapter arrived and is installed. Let's boot up the C170 and see what we're working with.

  • American Megatrends BIOS w/ Aptio Setup Utility
  • Intel Hardware RAID Controller
American Megatrends, Inc. - Aptio Setup Utility

Awesome! At this point we have a working, bootable Cisco C170 appliance. This is fantastic news. The next post will cover how I was able to setup a RAID 1 configuration and install OPNsense.

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