Configuring RADIUS authentication on Cisco Virtual WLC (vWLC)


On enterprise networks, a central authentication is mandatory for accessing network devices. In the following scenario a Cisco Virtual WLC (vWLC or virtual Wireless LAN Controller) will be configured to authenticate users against two RADIUS servers, provided by Microsoft NPS (Network Policy Server) on Windows 2012 R2. RADIUS authentication is always used, if at least one NPS server is alive; if no RADIUS server is available, users will be local authenticated.

Cisco Virtual WLC configuration

Both WiFi users and management users are authenticated against the same RADIUS servers. Under Security -> AAA -> RADIUS -> Authentication, be sure:

  • Auth Called Station ID Type: IP Address
  • MAC Delimiter: Colon

Cisco WLC RADIUS servers

Add all RADIUS server as following:

Cisco WLC RADIUS server

In the current scenario both Network User and Management are set, because RADIUS servers provide both WiFi (network) and management authentication. So be sure your settings reflect your sceario.

Moreover on each WLAN, NAS-ID has been customized to reflect the SSID used by clients. Configure them under WLAN -> SSID -> General -> NAS-ID:


The NAS-ID will became useful during RADIUS configuration.

Go back to Security -> AAA -> RADIUS -> Fallback and set passive as fallback mode, to manage temporary RADIUS downtime:

Cisco WLC RADIUS Fallback

Finally set RADIUS then LOCAL as authentication method in this exact order, to avoid local configured users to bypass RADIUS authentication. Configure it under Security -> Priority Order -> Management User:

Cisco WLC authentication order

Before leave the controller, be sure your local admin user has a strong password. If not, change it from CLI:

(Cisco Controller) >config mgmtuser password admin new_strong_password

Microsoft NPS configuration (on Windows 2012 R2)

In this scenario, NPS servers authenticate both WiFi and management users locally, without any redirection to external RADIUS servers. This post will cover management configuration only. Before starting mind that all configurations must be replicated on both NPS servers.

Configure NPS servers so they logs to file (under NPS -> Accounting -> Change Log File Properties), using ODBC (Legacy) format:

Microsoft NPS logs

I suggest IAS Log Viewer Trial to read NPS logs and debug RADIUS authentication from the NPS servers.

Add all Cisco WLC controllers as RADIUS Clients (under NPS -> RADIUS Clients and Servers -> RADIUS Clients):

Microsoft NPS clients

Add a new connection request policy (under NPS -> Policies -> Connection Request Policies) as following (only relevant configurations are included):

  • Overview -> Policy name: Cisco WLC Devices;
  • Overview -> Policy enabled: set;
  • Overview -> Type of network access server: Unspecified;
  • Conditions -> NAS Identifier: the hostname of the Cisco WLC.

During tests, the conditions used was NAS Port Type = Async/Modem, but for some unknown reasons it didn’t match (terminate cause was Did not match connection request policy). That’s why NAS-ID has been used and customized on each SSID configured on WLC.

Microsoft NPS connection request policy

A pattern matching can be used, for example ^vwlc[0-9]+ to match all NAS-ID starting with vwlc and ending with one or more digits.

Configure now a network policy (under NPS -> Policies -> Network Policies) as following (only relevant configurations are included):

  • Overview -> Policy name: Network Administrators;
  • Overview -> Policy enabled: set;
  • Overview -> Grant access: set;
  • Overview -> Ignore user account dial-in properties: set;
  • Overview -> Type of network access server: Unspecified;
  • Conditions -> Windows Groups: the user group including all network administrators (if you include more groups, mind that they’re evaluted using AND operator);
  • Constraints -> Authentication Method -> Unencrypted authentication (PAP, SPAP)
  • Settings -> RADIUS Attributes -> Standard: add Service-Type = Administrative

Microsoft NPS network policy

Mind that:

  • Cisco WLC can only use PAP authentication, so that must be forced. IOS devices also requires unencrypted authentication too, so the same profile can be reused for all Cisco devices.
  • The Service-Typeattribute can be set to Administrative for privileged users, and unset for read-only users.
  • if Ignore user account dial-in properties is not set, then users won’t be able to login because of default user policies (terminate cause will be DIALIN_DISABLED).
Posted on 24 Feb 2016 by Andrea.
  • Gmail icon
  • Twitter icon
  • Facebook icon
  • LinkedIN icon
  • Google+ icon