Like It Or Not, Firewalls Still Front And Center

Firewalls are still central to most network defense strategies, new State of the Firewall report says.

In spite of lots of advanced technology and moves to add many more layers of security to most enterprise defenses, firewalls aren’t going anywhere soon as the heart of the cybersecurity toolset, according to a new report out today. Based on a survey of over 600 IT security practitioners, the State of the Firewall Report shows that the firewall is as entrenched as ever in modern network defense strategies.

“We’re seeing small shifts in IT professionals’ perceptions of the firewall as new technologies enter the market,” says Jody Brazil, co-founder and chief product strategy officer at FireMon. “Adoption of SDN and network virtualization in general won’t decrease the need for firewalls, but it may open the door to advancements or a new category of network protection. It will be more of a continuous evolution rather than a complete upheaval as so many are quick to claim.”

According to survey respondents, 91% of security practitioners say that firewalls are as critical as always or more critical than ever to their security architecture, and the same ratio believe this will continue to be the case for the next half decade. These conclusions jibe with other industry reports that show how central firewalls still remain to network defense and management. For example, the InformationWeek 2015 Strategic Security Survey saw 61% of security practitioners reporting firewalls among their top three products on their security tool belt, the number one tool by some 25 percentage points.

Firewall technology and firewall strategies seem to be adjusting to the cloud and hybrid architectures today, as the number of organizations who find value in traditional and next generation firewalls (NGFW) for cloud services they manage increased by 10% in the past year, with over 67.7% of respondents finding them somewhat to highly valuable in cloud management.

That’s not to say that changes in networking architecture won’t impact firewall strategies; in fact, 90% of those surveyed report that software-defined networking (SDN) has impacted or will impact networking to a certain degree. And more than three times the number of respondents this year say they believe that native controls found in SDN solutions and new technologies will eventually pose a threat to the firewall’s hegemony.

But with SDN adoption still in its infancy, that’s a ways off. What’s more, advancements in NGFW may offer a forward-looking roadmap that jibes with most organizations’ security strategies, with or without SDN. Approximately, 66.5% of those surveyed say that NGFW plays a role in their SDN/virtualized environments.

As things stand, 50% of current firewall infrastructure in close to half of organizations is comprised of NGFWs, as compared to 34% in 2014. And only 6.7% of organizations today have no NGFW. The top benefits organizatons hope to gain from NGFW are IPS functionality, threat data integration and applicaton awareness.

“The threat to the firewall as the center of the security infrastructure is not immediate. It continues to play a critical role in the majority of today’s enterprises,” the report stated. “However, the role of the firewall will have to evolve more as NGFWs become the norm and as emerging infrastructure paradigms such as SDN, cloud and micro-segmentation take hold.”

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Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio

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