Few cyber security components are as familiar as the firewall to protect enterprises from cyber-attack. Yet, many deployments operate the firewall at layer 3 (routing) versus layer 7 (application), resulting in minimal application-level inspection and filtering capabilities. With a high proportion of end-to-end traffic encrypted using secure sockets layer (SSL)/transport layer security (TLS), if the firewall is only operated at the routing level, you miss out on the full breadth of functions from inspection to filtering and more. The resulting lack of visibility degrades an enterprises security team’s ability to take proper action and ensure full threat protection.
With this ongoing struggle to increase inspection capacity and threat protection, security teams need to look at other options for protecting their network traffic. Virtual firewalls are the deployment of choice in the data center fabric, whether private or public, and have evolved to feature parity with their physical appliance counterparts. Despite all this progress with virtual firewalls, it is still relatively uncommon for an enterprise security team to virtualize their network firewalls.
Virtual firewalls offer greater scale and flexibility
Virtual firewalls can be a particularly attractive option for enterprise security teams to scale inspection and build out their threat protection. To optimize traffic inspection at the network firewall, and to ensure proper scaling for enterprises of different sizes, virtual firewalls typically include functionality to terminate and inspect encrypted traffic. This is not something that instantly comes to mind for a network architect who equates virtual firewalls with the protection of private and public cloud workloads and applications.
Another huge advantage of virtual firewalls, given their flexible deployment and operation, is that management can be done from cloud-positioned virtual platforms which can orchestrate policy management and other administrative functions. This centralized orchestration of virtual firewalls in zero trust networks improves the tailoring of firewall functions across all protocol layers and in all areas of the network.
So why not virtualize the network firewall too?
With virtual firewalls, network architects can take advantage of horizontal scale and virtualization to build out firewall arrays and create enough inspection power to handle whatever traffic inspection needs are required. As firewall capacity needs change, virtualization lets you add new firewalls at the click of a mouse without having to make large changes to existing networks.
And, with enterprise networks expanding across multi-cloud infrastructures, introducing support for virtual firewalls, is an excellent forward-looking initiative. One of its core strengths is to support the changing enterprise perimeter by easily extending the enterprises zero-trust approach to more remote and virtual operations.
It no longer makes sense to only see the virtual firewall as a tool for protecting cloud workloads and applications. They have all the same features as the physical appliances but offer better flexibility, performance and simplicity. So, whether you are a large enterprise with a legacy network, or a managed security service provider looking to simplify and innovate your firewall as a service (FWaaS), you need to consider a virtual network firewall.