As any network operator can attest, the words “firewall” and “security appliance” carry multiple connotations; some of which are flattering and others that are… not.

That being said, developing scalable and feature driven security devices is a difficult task, especially while trying to provide the best performance at the most competitive price.

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Over the past few years, the number of enterprises that have migrated to hybrid datacenters and cloud architecture has increased dramatically, exacerbating underlying issues such as throughput, redundancy and administration.

As a result, today’s enterprise architectures are far more distributed than ever before – most often a conglomeration of multiple vendors, code versions and management methods.

Imagine being an operator responsible for multiple datacenter network security systems and having to integrate your security management methodology into a cloud environment.

This remains a daunting challenge not only due to many organizations’ inability to find critical staff or the sheer difficulty of centrally managing systems seamlessly, but also in achieving a high level of faith that everything will operate in the same manner after a code upgrade or activation of a new feature.

Since the rest of the networking space has already adopted horizontal scaling for hardware and software, why aren’t we following the same methodology for security? Security appliances are not carrier grade routers, nor should they be treated as such. Yet, the sheer number of features that enterprises require from their security systems often comes at the sacrifice of throughput, creating subsequent traffic flow issues across the network.

As a result, firewalls and other security appliances must evolve to operate as a piece of software on commodity hardware or a virtual machine to both scale horizontally and empower all the necessary features, regardless of their deployment location. A common, easily tunable API abstraction management layer will also be critical in reducing operational overhead for network engineers.

By adopting this mindset, security systems will provide a much higher level of accuracy for threat detection and mitigation, along with administration of rule sets, resiliency and throughput – all while reducing operational and capital expenditures. The rest of the network must communicate and share critical information, especially as we progress more and more into Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Networks Function Virtualization (NFV).

Yet, network security systems continue to operate as islands today.

To change this we must truly embrace the mindset that security is just another key service that operates within the chain that is the network. Only then can we can move forward in developing a more protective, unified, vendor neutral and architecturally agnostic framework.

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