9 Features to Consider while Selecting Next-Generation Virtual Firewall Solutions

Deployment and implementation of a Virtual Firewall is indispensible to facilitate various fundamental competences at an organisation

Enterprises are witnessing a phase wherein the connection between technology and business processes has developed into a closely interwoven, symbiotic relationship. In this scenario, it is essential to maintain pace with significant technological breakthroughs, revolutionizing data center operations and services to support the organization’s continued growth.

To stay in the long game, a company’s IT task force must stay abreast with developments in today’s application-dominated, virtualized realms. Data centers are virtualizing their infrastructure operations and application workloads, implying that the comprehensive virtualization of computing, networking, storage and security must be operationalized in a scientific manner. For proficient delivery of services, these components need to be integrated, while also focusing on scalability.

A wholesome route to adoption of a Next-Generation Virtual Firewall

To tackle the security challenges faced by public/private cloud environments, a holistic approach includes the design, implementation and deployment of a virtual firewall that facilitates four fundamental competences:

  • Gaining a 360-degree visibility into intra-host communication between virtual machines (VM) for achieving threat prevention.
  • Ensuring the apt placement of security policies for the application all through the virtual environment.
  • Providing safe application enablement policies by way of classification in terms of application, user and content, irrespective of VM location.
  • Implementation of accurate security zoning (i.e., VLANs) and isolation/segmentation.

While applying a Software-Defined Data Center Model (SDDC), best practices champion the cause of deployment of a next-generation virtual firewall, which should leverage cutting-edge security tools and services that safeguard the total virtual and cloud environment.

Core criteria-based recommendations for next-generation Virtual Firewall

First and foremost, a next-generation virtual firewall should promise all the security benefits of a traditional physical firewall with the operational and economic advantages of virtualization. Mandatory components include system scalability and agility, speed of system provisioning, simple management and cost reduction.

Ideally, it should comprise a full-fledged firewall service, which can perform deep-pack inspection, security controls and networking services on par with a physical firewall. It ought to be strategically positioned on the virtual network (VN), on a default basis between VNs in multi-tenant ecosystems.

The virtual firewall also needs to catch the virtual traffic between VNs in order to prevent automated breach and establish access control measures for data confidentiality and VMs’ safety and reliability.

In effect, it should proactively shield all crucial components of the private/public cloud environments from resource misuse attacks, cross-virtual-machine attacks, side-channel attacks, common network-based intrusions, and application and protocol vulnerabilities.

Infrastructure support for virtual firewall high availability (HA) is also strongly proposed. This fulfils SDDC scalability and availability criteria, by ensuring system resiliency, operational uptime, service delivery and uptime, and adherence to regulatory norms.

Organizations should be on the lookout for virtual firewall solutions that are augmented for a wide array of public/private cloud/virtualized deployment use cases. A new-age virtual firewall should be effective in adapting to service-level increases and offer VNs safety and application workloads and data assets, in a secure manner.

In order to meet these requirements, it should possess multi-Gbps performance for threat prevention and encrypted traffic inspection as necessary. In an ideal scenario, virtual firewall deployments can be centrally managed using both on-premises or via an open, scalable cloud-based security management platform, that is offered as a cost-effective software-as-a-service (SaaS). This would ensure the best possible proposition in terms of visibility, agility and capacity to govern the comprehensive virtual and physical firewall ecosystem with greater clarity, precision, and speed – from a single screen.

Best-Practice functionalities to contemplate upon

While in the process of selecting its next-generation virtual firewall solution, an enterprise should look for these listed feature-set functionalities:

  1. Automated breach prevention: Assurance of holistic and advanced protection against threats, including high-performance intrusion and malware prevention, and cloud-based sandboxing.
  2. Secure communications: Promising data exchange between relevant groups of virtual machines in a secure manner, including isolation, confidentiality, integrity and information flow control within these networks through the usage of segmentation.
  3. Access control: Confirm only those VMs that fulfil a given set of criteria are able to access data that belongs to another VM, using VLANs.
  4. User authentication: Formulate policies to control or limit VM and workload access by unauthorized users.
  5. Data confidentiality: Block information theft and unlawful access to shielded data and services.
  6. Virtual application resilience and availability: Avert interruption or degradation of application services and communications.
  7. System safety and integrity: Block unapproved takeover of VM systems and services.
  8. Traffic validation, inspection and monitoring mechanisms: Detect abnormalities and malicious behaviours, and hamper attacks targeting VM workloads.
  9. Deployment options: Deploy on a wide range of virtualized and cloud platforms for varied private/public cloud security use cases.

As a significant trend, businesses are increasingly implementing virtualization to counter operational overheads, and enable business flexibility and scalability. New world IT bets big on virtual firewall solutions that are as stable as physical firewalls, and at the same time, accommodate the security needs and trials of the virtualized environment.

By Debasish Mukherjee, Country Director – India & SAARC, SonicWall

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