This article first appeared in the Autumn 2016 issue of The Record.
Imagine a manufacturing facility that not long ago ran its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system in a datacentre. It typically relied on expensive multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) lines going from the manufacturing floor to the datacentre. This was a fairly common network scenario, where internet usage did not affect traffic to critical business systems.
Fast-forward to today and it is likely that same manufacturing facility is now running its ERP system in the cloud. Now these companies must prioritise traffic – streaming videos from YouTube can eat significant bandwidth, causing certain business systems to run slower than normal and even halt productivity. Does this mean the network can no longer operate as efficiently without a cost?
Small to midsized companies typically neither have the IT resources nor the budget allocated to deploy enterprise-grade next-generation firewalls, WAN optimisation devices and link balancers to help make the most of their hybrid cloud networks. This forces them to choose between security and network performance. Fortunately, cloud-ready technology amplifies both security and performance when managing hybrid cloud environments.
When customers talk about using the cloud, there are certain characteristics that repeatedly appear. They want something that can be deployed quickly, can scale and shrink to meet demand, includes cross-geo access, and usually has an ephemeral lifecycle. In the cloud era, it is all about performance. A cloud-ready solution must be optimised for cloud environments so that its architecture, manageability and usability accentuate the overall experience. Most next-generation firewalls used today are designed to only filter out unwanted traffic then create a virtual-form factor to put in a cloud, which is not cloud ready.
The firewall has evolved. It has progressed from a perimeter-based hardware appliance to a ubiquitous distributed solution that is closer to the endpoint and workloads that need to be managed. It has moved on from an IP-port number-based rule set to a sophisticated set of dynamic policies that map to users, applications and locations. It has grown from a single-purpose device to a platform that includes a complete portfolio of security capabilities tailored to workloads and evolving threat vectors.
As more companies embrace cloud in all its flavours, they will demand cloud-ready next-generation firewalls as a default for their enterprises. One thing is certain, change is constant. This is certainly true as it relates to security threats and network optimisation to ensure we maximise all the benefits cloud innovation has to offer.
Klaus Gheri is Vice President of Network Security at Barracuda Networks
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