It was not so long ago that the standard firewall was considered to be enough to protect the corporate network. However, with every networking innovation businesses are finding that the standard LAN/WAN model is becoming obsolete. The advances in WAN optimisation, protocol-specific enhancements for applications and data deduplication mean that all-too-often businesses adopt advanced technologies without accounting for advanced threat protection such as a current VPN or deep packet filtering.
The huge increase in the number of applications is causing the enterprise network to become more dispersed each year, whilst services like cloud computing are becoming less of a commodity and more of a necessity. The expectations for the modern firewall are higher than ever before – they simply need to do it all. This has been a major issue for businesses looking to strengthen their security with their existing security infrastructure, as using firewalls for VPN and packet inspection at the same time as WAN optimisation is extremely complex. Instead, many companies turned to MPLS-based WAN structures that would aggregate all the traffic back to the data centre.
Whilst this MPLS-focused structure may have been a viable option before the inception of SaaS solutions, it is simply not enough to securely support cloud services and the influx of applications that have become essential to productivity. This is because the MPLS system cannot distinguish between apps using the same physical line, and therefore cannot prioritise the apps that need to perform well and the apps that can run at a moderate pace in the background. The large number of apps running simultaneously oversaturates the line, causing apps that are essential to the running of the business to become sluggish and inefficient. Ironically, it is often the case that workers at home or travelling may receive a superior user experience than those using the corporate network.
It’s time for businesses to make sure their network security is keeping up with the times. Not only must a firewall protect its users from advanced security threats, it also has to anticipate the needs of businesses in an ever-increasing world of connectivity by delivering application traffic efficiently.
The most efficient way to solve this problem is by utilising a firewall that will differentiate between the different types of app traffic and prioritise the important apps such as backup solutions whilst deprioritising the unnecessary ones such as personal social media accounts. This will minimise latency and boost the performance of fundamental corporate apps.
By implementing local Internet breakouts at every location where the business operates, installing multiple intelligent next-generation firewalls will create a secure environment that ensures that each corporate location has optimal protection catered to their application needs. With a hybrid WAN consisted of standard WAN lines enhanced with Internet-based VPN links, further advances can be made. Using different ISPs to create a variety of distinct tunnels and avoid complete reliance upon an individual Internet-based VPN.
Application delivery management is such a fundamental capability not simply because of its optimisation, but because of its adaptability. If an individual link fails, the firewall will be able to redirect all of the application traffic without any disruption. In addition to this, each application will be differentiated, as it was before to maintain the quality of service. All in all a next-generation firewall will increase the life cycle of your IT management architecture.
There are many reasons why security is paramount for any business, however, keeping up with the demands of modern enterprise networks needs a firewall to be intelligent as well as functional. By distinguishing between application traffic to optimise efficiency, organisations can not only keep up with current developments, but get ahead of the curve and flourish in an age where enterprise networks are only becoming more dispersed.
The author: Klaus Gheri is VP Network Security, Barracuda Networks