This year’s Gartner Security & Risk Management Summit strongly reaffirmed the pivotal role that network firewall infrastructure will continue to play, both today and in the immediate future.

While the annual analyst conference advanced an array of forward-looking concepts and methodologies, with the central theme of maturing best practices to support evolving digital business initiatives, the firewall’s role as a foundational element of security management schemes was unequivocally reinforced.

Tracking closely with the findings of FireMon’s State of the Firewall 2014 Report, Gartner analysts underlined importance of firewall infrastructure in stemming the current tide of breach incidents and grappling with further adoption of emerging networking models.

For starters, the market for firewalls remains the single largest area of IT security spending and only continues to expand. As Analyst Adam Hils highlighted in his overview of the 2015 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Network Firewalls, the market reached $9 billion in 2014, a 9.5 percent annual increase; spending is slated to reach $10.5 billion in 2015, representing 10 percent annual growth.

Driven by a consistent five-year tech refresh cycle and adoption of more expensive next-generation firewall (NGFW) devices, Gartner expects the market to expand by 10 percent annually through at least 2017.

For the record, Hils and his colleague Greg Young, Gartner’s longtime network security czar, predict the “next-generation” moniker will fade, replaced by “enterprise firewall” as organizations shift toward ubiquitous adoption of devices that integrate IDS and malware sandboxing.

In their forward-looking “Network Security 2020” predictions, the two experts forecast that firewalls will remain critical even as the hotly discussed market for cloud access security brokers (CASBs) evolves. In fact, the analysts said such providers will not replace the need for firewall systems, but that the respective technologies are more likely to integrate.

The Gartner firewall “MQ” also contends that despite the rapid uptake of virtual and cloud platforms, virtual firewalls won’t exceed 10 percent of the overall market by 2018. This further reinforces the State of the Firewall’s finding that existing firewall infrastructure will not be quickly rendered less important by these emerging paradigms.

Beyond the presentations specific to network security, longtime Gartner analyst Neil MacDonald touted the need for more advanced monitoring and analytics capabilities to find their way into the “core” of next-generation security platforms in his annual review of Gartner’s emerging Adaptive Security Architecture model – a framework of processes and technologies conceived to help ward off advanced attacks. Such capabilities will help organizations move beyond existing siloes of security management data to gain a more effective, actionable IT risk management approach, MacDonald said.

That certainly jibes with our perspective here at FireMon, as we evolve our own solutions capabilities along those very lines to both amplify and extend the existing features found in the NGFW devices with which we integrate today.

Having attended the Gartner Summit many years now, it’s fascinating to see how quickly some areas of IT security evolve, while many of the larger issues – such as finding a way to cut through the avalanche of data to better empower business – always remain the same.

Both in listening to the experts and connecting with security practitioners on the expo floor, one takeaway was clear – the need to improve and advance management of network security infrastructure, specifically firewalls, remains as important as ever.