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Cisco RV 120W Wireless-N VPN Firewall

At a Glance
Product Cisco Wireless-N VPN Firewall (RV 120W)
Summary Small-biz IPsec endpoint single-band N router with 10/100 ports
Pros • IPv6 support
• 802.1q VLANs
• Easy to use VPN
• Automatically changes LAN IP to avoid VPN problems
Cons • Automatically changes LAN IP to avoid VPN problems
• Doesn't support L2TP / IPsec
• Outbound only QoS / bandwidth control
• Slower WLAN uplink throughput vs. downlink

The Cisco RV 120W is an update to the Cisco WRV210 small business router.  Like the WRV210, the new RV 120W is targeted at small networks needing IPsec VPN capability and a customizable firewall.

The RV 120W brings some updates to the Cisco RV series.  The RV 120W includes an 802.11b/g/n 2.4 GHz wireless radio and 802.1q VLAN support vs. the 802.11b/g wireless radio and port based VLAN support on the WRV210.  Other key improvements over the WRV210 are support for IPv6, content filtering, greater security controls, and enhanced traffic management.

The RV 120W looks very similar to the WRV210.  The RV 120W has a classic gray and black business look, with Cisco logos prominently displayed on the front and top of the unit.  The front of the device has the indicator and port status lights, as shown in the product shot above.

The rear of the device, shown in Figure 1, has two non-upgradeable antennas, a reset button, the LAN and WAN Ethernet ports, as well as the power connector and a power switch.  The power supply is a basic wall wart.

RV 120W rear view 

Figure 1: RV 120W rear view

The RV 120W is a small desktop device, measuring 5.9”W x 5.9”D. x 1.4”H.  The device runs silent with no cooling fan.  Inside the case is the motherboard and components, which were detailed in Tim's New To The Charts article. The quick summary of the hardware is Cavium CN5010 CPU, Broadcom BCM5325 10/100 switch, 64 MB of RAM and 16 MB of flash.

Physically, the RV 120W is pretty basic.  It's the configuration options that make it interesting.

The volume of configuration options is deceptive.  The menu is a simple web GUI with configuration options down the left side, as shown in Figure 2.  At first look, it doesn't seem like there are that many menus. 

Admin GUI

Figure 2: Admin GUI

There are 8 different menus that expand when you click on them.  Each of the main menus has 2-12 submenus, and some of the submenus have another 2-10 more submenus.  It all adds up to 101 different configuration screens. 

Despite this abundance of options, I found the RV 120W relatively easy to configure.  Sure, configuring the RV 120W is more advanced than configuring a Linksys/Cisco WRT or E series consumer router. But the choices are familiar and, for the most part, easy to figure out.

I spent a couple weeks with the RV 120W, and never crashed it.  At times, there was a brief lag in menu responsiveness, but the router always responded.

I found the RV 120W to be more than a standard gateway router for connecting to the Internet and sharing an Internet connection.  In addition to the typical functionality of most gateway routers, the RV 120W supports IPv6, Dynamic Routing, VPNs, Security, and a host of 802.x technology, including 802.1q VLAN, 802.11b/g/n wireless, 802.1X authentication, and 802.1p QoS.  Let’s take a look.


In an article from late 2010, John Curran, chief executive of American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), stated 32 percent of ISP's offer IPv6 services to business customers today.  He went on to say 60 percent intend to have services within a year, and within two years, 80 percent.

Cisco has long supported IPv6 in its Enterprise grade devices; it's nice to see Cisco include IPv6 for small network devices.  Other devices, such as the D-Link DIR-825, Apple Airport Extreme, and devices using DD-WRT software have supported IPv6 for some time.

My ISP does not support IPv6, which is frustrating.  I've emailed them several times and asked when they will support it, but I've never gotten an intelligent response.  Personally, I can't wait for IPv6 to gain traction and become widely used.  My day job involves VoIP networking, and using IPv6 has the potential to resolve a lot of VoIP problems.  Sure, deploying IPv6 will likely cause challenges and confusion, but I believe IPv6 will improve networking.

To use IPv6 on the RV 120W, you change its routing mode from IPv4 to IPv4/IPv6 mode, which then requires a reboot.  This was surprising, as the devices listed previously don’t require a reboot to enable IPv6.  Rebooting the RV 120W is a bit slow; it takes about 2 minutes for the router to completely restore.

Once the reboot is complete, you can enable various IPv6 options.  An IPv6 address can be statically assigned to the WAN interface, or it can receive an IPv6 address via stateful or stateless DHCPv6.  Likewise, on the LAN interface, you can set up the RV 120W to provide an IPv6 address via stateful or stateless DHCPv6.

Stateful DHCPv6 is akin to the DHCP services we're used to with IPv4.  Stateless DHCPv6 is where a device will learn its subnet from another router, but create its own IPv6 address based on the learned subnet and its own MAC using the EUI-64 format.

I set up a simple test where I used a PC connected to the WAN interface of the RV 120W and gave both the PC and WAN interfaces a static IPv6 address.  I used 5001::1/64 for the RV 120W and 5001::2/64 for the PC.  To test the functionality, I ran a simple ping from the PC to the WAN interface of the RV 120W, and you can see in Figure 3, my ping succeeded.

IPv6 ping test

Figure 3: IPv6 ping test

I configured the LAN side of the RV 120W to be 4001::1/64 and set up its DHCPv6 server to run in stateful mode.  I set up a DHCPv6 range of 4001::10 – 4001::1F on the RV 120W DHCPV6 server.  My Windows 7 PC interface was set to obtain an IPv6 address automatically. 

As you can see in Figure 4, my PC has both an IPV4 address and IPv6 address from the RV 120W.  Note that the IPv6 address is 4001::10, which is the first address from the range I created.

IPv4 and IPv6 addresses via DHCP

Figure 4: IPv4 and IPv6 addresses via DHCP

These two tests are pretty basic, but they show IPv6 functionality on the RV 120W.  I'm not sure I'd use IPv6 today without an ISP connection that supports it, other than messing around with it on my LAN.  However, for a small business, I think it is good Cisco included IPv6 functionality.

I mentioned the RV 120W supports dynamic routing.  RIPv1, RIPv2, and RIPng are all supported if you're going to use the RV 120W to exchange routing information with other routers.  RIPng is the version of RIP for IPv6 routing.

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