For enterprise network security, it’s important to know the different types of firewalls to ensure comprehensive security for various use cases
Firewalls have been the tried-and-true method for keeping a business’ data secure for years. Still, they have had to adapt to accommodate more application-specific and cloud-based technologies. Along with next-generation firewalls, cloud-delivered security solutions such as Firewall as a Service (FWaaS) and hybrid mesh firewalls have arisen to protect modern networking architectures. But how do the different types of firewalls differ from one another?
Let’s dig in and explore the evolution of firewalls — where they started, where they’re heading, and the benefits of having a unified solution in place for streamlined security across distributed sites.
The evolution of firewalls
Firewalls have evolved significantly over the past decade to keep up with changing demands of enterprise networks. With more interconnected systems, IoT devices, and remote workforces, these expanding attack surfaces make businesses especially vulnerable to attacks. The solution? A firewall that protects every part of the network, whether through the cloud or on-premises. Before we get into what that means, let’s rewind a few decades to when traditional firewall protection was first introduced.
What is a traditional firewall?
Think of a traditional firewall like a security guard at the entrance of a building that monitors the building and denies anyone without permission to enter. A conventional firewall is a device — or guard — that monitors and controls incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined policies.
It primarily focuses on inspecting traffic at the network and transport layers using criteria such as IP addresses, port numbers, and protocols to make these access decisions. While effective at basic traffic filtering, traditional firewalls lack advanced features for dealing with modern threats like application-layer attacks or sophisticated malware.
What is next-gen firewall?
NGFW builds upon the capabilities of a traditional firewall by incorporating more advanced features. At a high level, a next-generation firewall vs. a traditional firewall goes beyond the access control list by working at the application level using intelligent, context-aware security features.
NGFW typically includes application awareness and intrusion detection and prevention systems, where every packet passing through the firewall is monitored and either given or denied access depending on policies, making this type of solution much more customizable and precise.
How does FWaaS work?
FWaaS takes a different approach to network security by moving firewall functionality to the cloud as part of Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) security. Although it offers virtually the same protection as NGFW, instead of relying on physical firewall appliances or on-premises software, FWaaS leverages cloud infrastructure to deliver firewall capabilities as a service.
This means organizations can protect devices anywhere in the world using cloud firewall capabilities instead of requiring local firewalls in all locations. They can then manage and configure their firewall policies using a centralized cloud-based management tool, eliminating the need for physical hardware maintenance and reducing the complexity of managing distributed firewall deployments.
What is a hybrid mesh firewall?
As the name suggests, a hybrid mesh firewall takes a hybrid approach to security, supporting multiple types of firewalls, including on-premises firewalls, firewalls deployed in virtual machines and containers, firewalls for clouds, and more. Simply put, it’s a unified security platform that helps secure hybrid environments and can handle both distributed sites and on-premises protection. With a hybrid mesh solution in place, enterprises can deploy multiple types and locations of firewalls with centralized management through a single dashboard.
For example, say an enterprise already has its own data center with on-premises firewalls, but recently established FWaaS to protect its new remote sites. With a hybrid mesh solution, network administrators can manage multiple types of firewalls from a single platform for streamlined management and greater efficiency.
The benefits of FWaaS in a hybrid mesh solution
Growth is a natural part of business, but network security becomes an issue as more companies expand their physical presence. With FWaaS, enterprises can scale and easily adjust their security measures based on their needs. This not only reduces the complexity of managing individual firewalls at each branch but also provides a cohesive security strategy that ensures protection across the entire organization.
Why do enterprises need FWaaS?
Imagine a multinational enterprise with branch offices spread across different regions. Each office operates independently but must securely connect to the organization's main data center and cloud resources. In this case, traditional firewalls would require the IT team to deploy and manage separate firewalls at each branch, leading to high upfront costs, complex configurations, and potential delays in deploying new sites.
By deploying FWaaS, organizations can establish consistent security policies across all locations from a single management platform, reducing the risk of misconfigurations and ensuring uniform protection. FWaaS' centralized control and monitoring capabilities ensure IT teams maintain visibility into network traffic and security, even if they are geographically dispersed.
How does FWaaS fit into the overall framework of 5G SASE for modern enterprise networking?
Because of its cloud-based nature, FWaaS fits nicely within the SASE architecture. An integrated SASE solution combines essential security (Security Service Edge (SSE)) and intelligent networking capabilities, including SD-WAN — all seamlessly delivered through the cloud.
By leveraging security technologies, such as Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), Remote Browser Isolation (RBI), Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB), and FWaaS, a SASE solution ensures businesses have comprehensive protection that is easy to manage and monitor through a single-pane-of-glass.