As my view of network security is grounded in my experience as a real-world practitioner I’ve always sought to back opinions with qualitative research, even when the evidence seems perfectly clear.

That said, when we hatched the idea of launching a new survey aimed at discerning the views of today’s enterprise security professionals regarding the “State of the Firewall”, I have to admit that I wouldn’t have predicted such resounding, thought-provoking results.

Based on over 700 responses garnered from wide range of practitioners representing a broad cross-section of vertical industries, the State of the Firewall 2014 Report, released today, firmly reinforces that firewalls remain as critical an element of network security strategy as ever. In fact, 92 percent of survey respondents directly endorsed this assertion. Along with this overarching validation of the firewall’s continued relevance, the report also sheds light on many other compelling concepts.

For starters, perhaps it’s not surprising that next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) are gradually taking over, with over 88 percent of respondents having already deployed at least some of the systems. However, many observers might be surprised that respondents rated both API integration capabilities and next-generation functionality as highly (or even higher in the case of APIs) as they ranked traditional factors of price, performance and manageability when selecting new device platforms.

This finding speaks volumes to me regarding the strategic nature of firewalls and the manner in which today’s practitioners are employing them – tying the devices even more deeply into overall security management via integration with other systems and deployment of advanced NGFW features, including applications awareness.

Yet, the biggest surprise, and perhaps greatest evidence of the firewall’s continued importance is found in the report’s final section where emerging networking paradigms including virtualization, cloud computing, software defined networking (SDN) and DevOps are addressed.

Clearly, many people believe that these evolving networking methodologies will introduce entirely new security models, and I wouldn’t argue that this won’t be the case. However, as evidenced by the report, most respondents also believe that today’s existing firewall infrastructure will continue to play a significant role in leveraging these emerging paradigms. I do feel that this is a fact that some network security futurists might tend to overlook.

We’re really pleased with the results of the State of the Firewall 2014 report in general because the findings provide us with greater visibility into some truly captivating perceptions held by today’s practitioners, the real-world experts.

Hopefully you’ll download the report, tell us what you think about it, and maybe even participate when we conduct our next survey.

You can also register to join us for a State of the Firewall webcast hosted by Alan Shimel of Network World and DevOps.com on March 11.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to help us gather this year’s results.